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: Megan Parry, meteorologist with KGTV 10 News in San Diego.
I have to first start with what I wish I had learned before I went to college. Maybe it was the generation I grew up with but I had the mentality that “you go to college and get any job you want. Your major just needed to be close to what you wanted to do.” So I wanted to be a weather girl, no, I didn’t even know that what I really wanted to be was a meteorologist! I received my undergrad in Earth and Environmental Science and got an internship at KABC in Los Angeles and thought ok, I’ll get a job here and be golden. Nope!
So I went back to school, spent more money, dropped my life and moved from sunny southern California to the middle of nowhere Mississippi to get my Master’s in broadcast meteorology. I learned from my mistake and worked hard to get that first job.
I didn’t want to stay in Mississippi longer than I had to so while most students waited until their second year to get an internship, I got two internships in my first year, so I could get a paid job in my second year.
I started looking as soon as I started my Masters. I heard of 3 stations within 2.5 hours that hired weekend meteorologists from the school I attended and I knew I wanted one of those jobs my second year.
Do you remember what you included on your first tape?
I didn’t have a first reel…I never even made a second reel to get my second job, but I didn’t go to school with many people, if any, that had that same experience.
I had one student broadcast I sent to the Mississippi station that had an opening. I never heard back. A month later I sent the same clip…no response. School got out for the summer and when I came back a few months later I heard the position hadn’t been filled! I sent a new broadcast, still only a one 2 to 3 minute weather hit from school. They contacted me the next day and I went down for an interview. They told me they had made plans to hire someone else that week but liked me so much they told me I had the job right then and there!
When I made my first reel years later I had about a 1 to 1:15 montage of my best clips then 2 long weathers about 3:30 to 4 minutes each.
How many rejections did you get?
My second job in Oregon reached out to me before I was even applying and I took that.
When I applied for my current job I was turned down for one job for an Orange County station located in Los Angeles.
Did you have to change anything about your approach to the job search?
YES! My first job after college didn’t include a job search! My job search was a process I started WHILE I was at my second job in Oregon. I reached out to meteorologists in EVERY city I was willing to move to when my contract was up. I sent them broadcasts (not a reel) and asked for critiques and advice to work on being someone THEY would hire in the future while I was at my current job. I wanted to the best person for the job WHEN that job opened up rather than hearing critiques when it was too late! Not everyone wrote back, but the people that did, including the chief at my current job, have been valuable connections since then.
Then eight months before my contract was up I sent reels to the news director at the station I REALLY wanted to work at in San Diego and said the same thing, “here’s my reel, how can I improve now to be someone you would hire in the future.” He gave me some good tips that I worked on so I could put together the best reel when the time came.
Then a couple months later I contacted more news directors in San Diego, because that’s where I wanted to go! Every one of them contacted me back and most said they liked me but didn’t have a position and to contact them closer to when my contract was up; but one asked if I had time to talk on Friday! I about flipped! I had a mini interview over the phone and he said they don’t have a position now but may by the end of the year.
A few weeks later he contacted me and said they may have a position opening up sooner rather than later, and they flew me down for an interview.
What happened in your first interview?
The station I was at in Oregon required women to wear blazers, so when I came down for my interview they told me to not bring any blazers. In fact they asked me to bring down a few outfits for an on-air run-through I ended up doing with one of the morning anchors. I was at the station for hours and interviewed with just about EVERYONE! The news director, executive producer, assignment managers, general manager and was supposed to meet the assistant news director but he was unable to be there that day. I had been at the station years before when I applied for an internship, but it had changed since then so it was nice to see what I was stepping into.
Since I was from San Diego the interviews couldn’t have gone better because I had a connection somehow to almost every person I spoke with! There was a lot of repetition with people asking the same questions but it was more like having conversations with these people then an interview, which made me want to work here even more! I got along with everyone and it felt like a good fit.
Did you ever turn down a job offer? Why?
The day I was going to take the Oregon job a station in California reached out to me that I ended up turning down. When I was working in Oregon a station in Portland asked if I could fill in while in Oregon, but I had already accepted the job in San Diego and would be leaving before they needed me. I wish I had gotten that opportunity earlier and been able to do a few shifts up there! A Cincinnati station was very interested in me and was going to fly me out for an interview, but I took the San Diego job and had to turn them down.
I had applied to a Sacramento job awhile back and never heard anything. While I was waiting to hear back from San Diego I decided to reach out to Sacramento again and I’m glad I did because the news director contact info on TVJobs.com was incorrect! So they never even got my application and reel! I made up for this my going on their website and getting contact information and emailed five people at their station, surely one of them would be right! The news director called and laughed because everyone had forwarded my application to him! I told him, “hey, it got me a call didn’t it?” He told me they had already narrowed their list down to three but saw me and wanted to fly me out, I also had to tell them I was talking to San Diego and eventually had to turn them down. After I had already started in San Diego a station in Phoenix I had applied to contacted me and I told them it was too late!
When did you get an offer? How did it happen?
It took a while before I got the offer. They were figuring stuff out internally so it took longer than expected. I spoke to them first in December, got the call about an opening in late January or early February. I had to send them three consecutive weathercasts in addition to the reel I had already sent. Then they wanted to fly me out but I couldn’t get time off until the first week in March. They emailed me almost every week after that but it was a waiting game while they figured stuff out. I got the call at the end of March or early April that they wanted me!
The biggest piece of advice I can give you when you get the offer, DON’T TAKE THE FIRST OFFER. They expect you to counter-offer, and if they turn you down if you do, then it wasn’t going to be a good job any way. If they want you, they are going to fight for you. I got everything I asked for, including more money. It was stressful, but I’m glad I did it.
Looking back, what would you have changed about the process?
I’ll finish with what I started with; I wish I had gone to college for broadcast meteorology instead of having to go back to school for my Master’s. While I’m glad I have that degree, I wasted valuable time working my way up in the industry. Maybe I’d be in LA by now! I made up for that by taking the extra steps to get back to San Diego as soon as possible.
Biggest advice I would give to a college student: get internships, make connections, make a great reel and be persistent. Don’t wait for the job you want to open up, contact them before there is a job and be the first person that comes to mind when there is a position.