Everyone takes a different path to their first media job. Some people land their first choice right out of college. Others need to apply to dozens of places before landing an interview. There’s not a perfect way to get the job you want, but it can help to learn from the experience of others. In our feature “How I Got the Job,” we talk to some of the best people working professionally in media about what they did to get a foot in the door, and what it took to finally sign the contract. This week: Ryan Pfeil, reporter for the Mail Tribune newspaper in Medford, Ore.
2007. I had gone to school for journalism but worked in a rental car company for a year after graduating in 2006. My wife-to-be then got accepted into nursing school over in Klamath Falls. I quit my job cold turkey, followed her over there, and called the Herald & News on a whim.
Do you remember what you included in your work samples?
Stuff I had done from my college internships at the Medford Mail Tribune and Ashland Daily Tidings. I also did a few stories for a weekly independent publication back in Colorado called the Woodmen Edition and included one or two of those.
How many rejections did you get?
None. I got hired. I was very fortunate.
What happened in your first interview?
I remember it was at a Thai restaurant. They informed me my job would be reporting and to help design a website for student-produced content. I remember saying I lacked experience. The editor said, “That’s not necessarily a bad thing” or something to that effect.
Did you ever turn down a job offer? Why?
Yes. I was recently the front runner for a producing job in another state but withdrew my name from consideration. My wife and I had just bought a house and had our first child. Moving away at this juncture would not have been wise.
What was your experience like during your in-person interview?
It was nerve-racking. I kept having to purposely slow down my speech because I talk fast when I get nervous or excited.
When did you get an offer? How did it happen?
I got an offer two weeks later. It came after taking their copy-editing and writing tests and another in-office interview. The writing tests, I think, were my saving grace. The writing itself was pretty bad, but how I packaged stories made me stand out, per the editor.
Looking back, what would you have changed about the process?
Not much. I suppose I should have gotten the ball rolling sooner than waiting a year. I wanted to have a good job lined up before I graduated, and it didn’t matter to me if it was in my field of study. I wish I had the confidence back then that I possess now.