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: Derek Kevra, meteorologist with Fox 2 News in Detroit.
The second semester of my senior year in college was my “crunch time” for preparing for my job search. I interned during the summer and after getting back in the flow of college, I finally turned my attention to reviewing my material from the internship and picking out the best stuff with four months to graduation.
Do you remember what you included on your first tape?
I had two sets of video that I was thinking of incorporating in my tape: my internship video and my student TV station video. I remember thinking it was important to include pieces from both because I wanted to show I’ve done different things, even though the video quality was so bad from the student TV station. In my opinion: just show the best stuff. Variety isn’t important, high quality material is.
How many rejections did you get?
I signed with an agency while I was still in college so I’m not sure how many tapes were sent out and never responded to, but I’m sure it was a lot. It’s always a lot. The annoying part is that you often don’t get a rejection email, you just don’t ever hear back.
Did you have to change anything about your approach to the job search?
I didn’t have to change anything about my search, but I did make sure to do all the appropriate homework before each interview. Find out what their top stories are, news directors/general manager names, anchors, reporters names, etc. It is always helpful to be able to say, “I noticed you grew up in northern Michigan. My family has a place up there! Have you heard of Houghton Lake?” Or something like that.
What happened in your first interview?
When I was applying for jobs there must have been something going on in Medford, Ore., because I had interest from competing stations in the market. I got phone calls from both stations and we had about 30 minute phone interviews. Usually for first jobs the stations won’t fly you out for the interview (in fact I hear more and more are doing Skype interviews) but I figured there was a pretty good chance I’d be working for one of these stations so I bucked up and flew out there myself to have in person interviews. While the questions were all pretty standard, the length was not. I found myself at each respective station for eight hours, meeting with the news director, producers, chief meteorologists and GM’s. They also wanted me to stick around for the 5 p.m. newscast. I have found this to be standard operating procedure at every other place I’ve ever interviewed.
Side note: one place I interviewed for had me take a timed test with questions like: “write the intro to this story” and “what is the important detail here”. This was interesting to me because I was clearly a meteorologist, not a reporter, but they were interested in how much I knew about everything. Kind of the way the business is working these days.
Did you ever turn down a job offer? Why?
I have turned down two jobs in the past for various reasons. The first time I was forced to because I my current station was exercising their ability to match during my “out year.” That was tough to swallow. The second time was a personal choice to stay at the station I was at because I really liked it and was enjoying the city and my life. It would have been a move up career wise, but sometimes the market number isn’t everything. I reflected on what was important to me at the time and decided to stay where I was. Two years later, the same station had a different opening and I took it. I was ready the second time around!
When did you get an offer? How did it happen?
Since I had an agent, they made the offer directly to him and he called me telling me the details. We would then talk it out, decide if we wanted to discuss anything else (professional dues, hair, makeup, etc.) and he would call them back. It was nice not having to play hardball directly.
One news director though told me he didn’t want to talk to an agent and instead spoke with me directly. I obliged, but would always take the info back to my agent, discuss with him, and then go back to talk with the ND.
Looking back, what would you have changed about the process?
I would stress less. Right after college ended I thought, “I have student loans! I need to make money now!” There will be plenty of stations that will be interested in you and plenty of opportunities in life. Work hard, be prepared and relax.