We all know by now that landing your first job in TV news isn’t easy. But sometimes an even more difficult decision is figuring out whether to LEAVE the TV news business.
This week, we speak to Bryan Navarro, Director of Creative Video at St. Mary’s College of California. Bryan previously worked as a reporter and multimedia journalist in Medford, Ore., and Tucson, Ariz. In this edition of “How I Got the Job,” Bryan explains how he first got into TV news, and why he ultimately decided to leave the news business to put his talents to use elsewhere. For any aspiring broadcasters, this is a must-read.
I didn’t start looking until about a week before graduation. I also didn’t know I wanted to work in TV News until about two months before Graduation. I knew I’d be looking in some sort of video production field – TV, films, documentaries – but I didn’t know exactly which industry. I set up my first TVJobs.com account just before getting my diploma.
Do you remember what you included on your first tape?
Most of my work up to that point had been sports, so it was as much high energy work from that as possible. I went out and shot a package specifically for it. I didn’t do much news work in college. Boy, am I going to regret this but some searching of my old email account turned up the link to my first reel.
How many rejections did you get?
None. Also, I only applied to one place. Super rare that this happened. A friend who graduated a year ahead of me had starting working at a station. He called me at the end of senior year saying there was an opening and he could recommend me. I put my reel and resume together and he put it on the Asst. News Director’s desk. That friend was Steven Sandberg. To whom I am eternally indebted. But not financially.
Did you have to change anything about your approach to the job search?
No, but I was insanely lucky. Apply to a variety of places or jobs. Give yourself options so you don’t HAVE to take a job somewhere you don’t want to.
What happened in your first interview?
The station’s General Manager called me cold. I didn’t know he’d be calling. I happened to be at an airport at the time and I tried to find the quietest corner of the terminal so I could think. We spoke for only about 10 minutes. He asked what I was good at and what I needed to improve at- shooting, editing, writing or being on-camera. He asked if I had good news sense. I don’t remember much else. But it was only ten minutes of over the phone before he offered.
What was your experience like during your in-person interview?
I had in-person interviews in San Diego and in Tucson. You meet a lot of people and they just try to get a feel for who you are. Do you know what you’re talking about, can you think critically on your feet, are you a good person, can you get along with your potential coworkers. Also, there are a lot of meals. I had four meals in my two-day interview in Tucson and one dinner (at an Indian place) in my evening interview in SD.
When did you get an offer? How did it happen?
The first job timeline went like this:
June 1: Applied
June 14: Phone Interview
June 16: Phone Tag Game
June 18: Offer/Phone Tag Ended
June 21: Accepted Offer
I played phone tag for a while with the General Manager who conducted the phone interview. We finally caught up on Friday and he said something like “We like you and we’d like to have you join our team. We ask for a two-year commitment. And we’d pay you $20,000 for your first year and $22,000 for your second year.” I asked for the weekend to decide, but I pretty much knew right then and there that I wanted to take it. It was only a six-hour drive from home, I knew someone who was working there, and didn’t want to risk saying no, then getting rejection after rejection from places across the country.
Did you ever turn down a job offer? Why?
I did later in my career. I was working in Tucson and had an interview with a station in San Diego, which was always my dream market. Who wouldn’t want to live there? The in-person interview went great and I liked the News Director and the station. He offered, but I turned it down because, in my heart of hearts, it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I knew that I didn’t have the passion for news that the rest of the station did. I just wasn’t as fired up about the work as I should have been in that job. That, plus I wanted to try a different line of work. But it was almost impossibly difficult to convince myself not to take a job in the city I’d dreamed of working in.
It was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make. I had to choose between trying to break into a new industry that interested me or taking a job that appeared to be the logical next step in my career. I decided to pursue producing videos at a college. I didn’t know the industry or what it took to be good at it, but something about colleges and universities always fascinated me. There’s something magical about the youth, energy, optimism, and commitment to learning and growing at a college. I wanted to be part of that. That thought had always been tucked away in the back of my mind.
I had also become a bit disillusioned with TV news. Because of the particular role and timeslot I worked (morning MMJ) I was setting up and shooting my own liveshots. I had fewer opportunities to do interactive live hits, didn’t get to enterprise my own stories, and was often covering breaking news. Looking back on it, I think, management and my coworkers were upfront with me about that aspect of my position, so I knew what I was signing up for. But I wanted to try something more.
It seems like an easy decision to simply follow your heart and go after what you want. But it’s daunting to leave an industry you understand and are good at for complete unknowns. Ultimately, I made the change because I wanted to try to conquer something new, sooner was better than later and I would never know if I liked it if I didn’t try it.
My position is a brand new one and I love figuring out how this job should work. The College and the Athletics Department (which are two separate entities) have never had a full-time videographer position before. I work 80 percent with Athletics and 20 percent for the College. I’m blazing new trails everyday, figuring out the best ways to complete a project and what to emphasize. I love growing and getting better at as many aspects of this job as possible. I’m trying to learn more about marketing, cinematography, storytelling, and reaching a varied audience (high school students to 70-year-old alums). Most of all, I love working with students. I had some great mentors and I want to be able to be that kind of mentor to others. I think I’d eventually like to be a professor. But that’s another career-change away still…