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: Wiley Post, executive producer at KGW in Portland.
I seriously began looking for work in TV News during my junior year at Gonzaga University – I chased several production jobs at the local affiliates – my thought process being it would be a great door into a newsroom and you never know where you can go from there once you get to know people. At that point I still figured I would be working as a newscast producer or technical director, so I applied for and got a part-time production job at KHQ during the summer between Junior/Senior year. This was in the last days before automation and before producers began to be expected to make their own graphics, so I was assigned as the graphics/chyron operator for the morning show. I essentially built full screens and other special graphics on an old graphics machine that was separate from the switcher/graphics system. I’d work with the show’s producer and fill his graphics needs every day. That work, and my exposure to actual real-world newsroom operations (and a shift helping out plug numbers into races on election night) totally changed my outlook for what I wanted to do. I figured out that producing was where the real journalist action was and that summer was really responsible for shifting me away from the technical/production side of things and into the news side of things.
Do you remember what you included on your first tape?
I think I included a couple of finished segments from Sit Down (a student-produced interview show), a package that I shot/edited/produced and an A-Block from our newscast, GU This Week. but my first job didn’t really hinge on a resume reel … as you’ll see.
How many rejections did you get?
Zero. I applied for only one job and I got it.
Did you have to change anything about your approach to the job search?
My pre-graduation plan to get into a newsroom paid off – I became a known quantity (and a solid employee prospect) for KHQ through my summer and fill-in work and I turned that into an internship there during my Spring Semester.
What happened in your first interview?
I laid out my experience at KHQ – how it had already shaped my understanding of TV News, and I explained how I felt like I was already a valuable contributing member of the team. I sold the hiring manager on my great desire to continue learning from the veterans in the newsroom and how I valued their knowledge as a way to further my professional education. And I basically laid out how I was already comfortable with the demands of a producer in the newsroom based on my internship – because during many of my days at work I was writing 1/2 to 3/4 of a newscast under the guidance of the show producer (in hindsight – way more than they probably should have let me do — but I took all that I could get experience wise)
What was your experience like during your in-person interview?
I was lucky because I was already familiar with all of the people involved in the hiring process. My 2nd job hiring interview was a much more traditional experience where I was flown out to meet my prospective employers and spent an entire day on the ground with other employees/managers, etc. For the prospective employee – I think it’s very important to spend as much time as possible with other people in your prospective job when given the opportunity. You’ll obviously have lots of questions for the hiring managers, but you should have just as many if not more questions for the other producers/reporters/etc. that you get to speak with. Find out what the daily life of the newsroom is like. Find out how stories are assigned. Is it a producer-driven newsroom? A desk-driven shop? How much creative control/input do the line producer/reporter level staff actually have? Is it a micro-managed newsroom? Are people happy? This learning experience can and should go a long way toward your decision if you’re offered a job. To me it comes down to quality of life and happiness. I love TV News, but a toxic environment can ruin that fast no matter the money/title/etc you’ve got in a new job.
When did you get an offer? How did it happen?
1st job: I was given an offer letter on the spot.
2nd job: I was mailed a contract offer letter and contract paperwork in the mail after my return from my interview along with a phone call explaining that the station would like to offer me the job and instructions about how to reply to the offer. I was also given a timeline – essentially, “we need to know in XX-amount of time” which was expected. Having now been on the other side of the hiring process, hiring managers can’t afford to wait on a prospective employee to think things over to excess. If you get to the point where you’re getting an offer, you should have already done that thinking and be ready to either accept or decline the offer in short order. The hiring manager is under his own deadlines to find a new employee, make a hire, move to the next candidate if no hire happens, etc.
Looking back, what would you have changed about the process?
I don’t think I would change anything about my hiring process the first time around. I made a pretty dedicated play to get hired on with the place I wanted to work and it paid off. However, I will say it made the 2nd job process a little more daunting because I hadn’t been through it before.