|Calvin Gwinner '13 at work at WETM-TV|
As a May 2013 graduate of Buffalo State College, I was worried. I had no idea HOW I was going to find a job in an industry that is highly competitive, has been under stress from recent technological shifts, and that is located, for the most part, in cities. Somehow, I beat the odds and found a job. An entry-level job, in a small market, but a job nonetheless. As somebody who has entered the real world, and has come out (relatively) victorious, this is my field guide for all you Buff-State Comm. majors.
Before we begin... a brief little run-down of my job.
I work at WETM-TV in Elmira. WETM is an NBC affiliate in a small market, which covers a few small cities in the Twin Tiers area of New York and Pennsylvania. We share the market with an ABC/CBS affiliate, a FOX affiliate, and the local PBS station. WETM is the local news leader in the market, as evidenced by our new "Your Local News Leader" slogan. Although the station itself has been in HD for a while, the news has recently switched over to HD as well, resulting in a new logo, new graphics, and tons of the promo spots. That is where I come in.
Although I was hired as a "production assistant," I am, in practice, a full-fledged member of creative services at the station. My job consists of performing all video-shooting duties for commercials, shooting non-studio video for promotions, and editing about a third of said promos/spots. In addition, I shoot and edit a weekly show, entitled "Friends & Neighbors," where a well-off magazine owner goes around the area interviewing businesses. Sometimes the job is very boring, sometimes it is very hectic, and the pay is not that great.... but it is a real job. It's a full-time, unionized, big-boy job, and I love it.
Now for the guide itself.
1. WHILE YOU ARE STILL IN COLLEGE, DO SOMETHING
Seriously. Anything. Most people get an internship, which is excellent. Others sign up for clubs, which is great too, though you really should join one that is relevant to your career. Playing inter-collegiate sports is an okay option too, as it shows that you can dedicate yourself to something. What you should NOT do is nothing. I know college is fun. I like to party as much as the next guy, but you have to show potential employers that you CARE about your career. How do you show them that? Extra-curricular activity.
Personally, I joined BSC-TV. As many of you know, BSC-TV has its share of drawbacks... but it has its benefits too. The BEST benefit is that it is easy to rise through the ranks. It is always nice for your resume to have some leadership skills, in your career path, on it. I went from Secretary to President within one semester, and actually DID something while I was there. Getting the station through a transitional period like I did can be a pretty useful skill in an industry where stations are always changing. If anything, joining the station and becoming President shows employers that I CARE about my career, and that is what they really want. They need caring people, not some slouch who goes through the motions. Whether you join BSC-TV (please do, they always need members,) intern at WBEN, or play men's hockey (go Bengals,) just make sure you do SOMETHING while you still have a chance.
2. PRACTICE YOUR CRAFT
This is something that I wish I could change about myself. I honestly went into the job hunt with little practical experience. I am competent with shooting video, and audio production, and basic editing, but I fell far short in effects work. If you can't take the actual After Effects class at Buff State, do your best to familiarize yourself with the program. The same goes for Photoshop. I lucked out and found a job that allowed me to come in with zero AE experience, and I have been learning every day, but it pays to know about this stuff from the get-go. Maybe you know how to use AE, but you have barely touched a camera. Learn about cameras. Practice. Any skills you gain before you look for your first job will help a TON.
3. MAKE THAT RESUME LOOK GOOD
I think some people are intimidated by creating a resume, but it really isn't hard. If you have trouble, go to the CDC, but it really is not as complicated as it looks. Make it simple, to the point, and make it promote you with hard facts. List any accomplishments that make you seem more employable in your field. My resume includes my time at BSC-TV, my "Most Outstanding Student in Media Production" award, and any and all skills I learned in class (audio mixer, Final Cut 7, studio cameras, etc. etc. etc..) Good things to stress are technical skills and leadership skills. I think those are very helpful in this career path. Also, make the resume look nice, but don't get too crazy. You can add some lines to divide sections, but leave the emojis and flowers off.
4. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR COVER LETTERS
When I write a cover letter, I basically write my resume, but with a lot more eloquence. First and foremost, get the information out there. From there I think it is good to put a little emotion and pride in the cover letter. You want to show that you care about your career. Make sure, however, that you do not sound desperate. You do not want it to sound like you NEED this job, even if you do.
5. GET SOME REFERENCES
By get references, I mean get references that matter. Your art professor and frat bro are not good references. Every student should try to cultivate relationships with your professors. Believe it or not, they do care about you. I am thankful to have had the now retired Paul Dewald as a mini-mentor at BSC, as well as having the help of Meg Knowles in preparing for my job search. Not only did they give me help as non-official advisors, but having them as references goes a long way as well. Even if your potential employer doesn't call, just having good references can certainly help.
6. APPLY ALL OVER
As someone who happened to get a job within driving distance of where I have lived for 15 years, it is weird to say this, but apply all over. I did. I applied to news stations as far south as Virginia and as far west as Ohio. I also tried to apply to ESPN in Vermont, and to Fox Sports in LA. Although I happened to get a job close by, do not expect to. Being open to where you live will raise your ability to find a job exponentially.
7. DO NOT EXPECT TO MAKE BANK IMMEDIATLY
I don't make a ton of money. I'm entry-level, in a small market. I'm okay with it though, and you should be to. Expect to "pay some dues." It's normal to be in the trenches for a while before you can be the top dog. It's better that way too. Those people who pay their dues always get more respect than those who somehow go right to the top. I have seen it myself. In the end, I make a livable wage. I'm fine with that. I have fun, I have a second job at Best Buy that I work a couple of 4-hour shifts a week, and I do my best to improve myself so that I can raise my pay-grade. The one thing I do NOT do, is dwell on how much I make.
8. BE PATIENT
This is a big one. Do not think you will get a job a week after graduating. You MIGHT, but you probably won't. It took me almost exactly a year to find my job. I submitted an easy 50 applications, and made inquiries for dozens more. Finding a job in this market is honestly tough. You have to bring something to the table, at the right time, to the right place. I think it takes luck. I happened to see my station was hiring at a time when they needed someone THEN. They had an HD conversion on the way, an employee leaving that week, and the need for someone that could step in immediately. I lucked out. I fit the bill. Sometimes, you just need to be in the right place at the right time.
9. BE PROFESSIONAL
This is simple. In your emails, on the phone, during your interview, you need to act professional. Have some gravitas. Dress nice, in a suit that fits. Go to the thrift store if you have too. You should look the part of a GQ cover model, and have the professionalism of a GQ editor in chief, to the best of your ability. If you look like you don't care about the interview, then you look like you don't care about the job. This is an OBVIOUS for those of you who want to be a reporter, or anchor. You have to look and act the part, whether you are mentally ready or not.
10. BE ENTHUSIASTIC
You spent at least two years of your life learning about this career, so act like you enjoy it! Television is a lot of fun, even when it is boring. I would not want to be in any other career in the world. Whether you prefer radio, newspaper journalism, film making, or television, enjoy it. Love it. It really is rewarding, fun, exciting, and it makes me proud every day.
There it is. Everything I could think of from my experiences that could help YOU get a job. I really hope it helps, and maybe I will see your spot, or story, or segment someday soon.
Calvin Gwinner- WETM-TV