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: Pat Stumbaugh, director for KATU in Portland.
I started looking for my first job when I was still at Gonzaga University, February (before graduating in May) to be specific. My goal was to have something lined up and ready by the time I graduated.
Do you remember what you included on your first tape/work sample?
It was a little bit of everything. I had some reporter stories filed, some weather segments, VOSOT’s I shot and edited, segment blocks I produced or directed. I was applying to mostly producer and director positions, so I would tailor each resume tape specifically for that position, but would also add some extra segments to show that I had other abilities outside of the position I was applying for.
How many rejections did you get?
I applied to tons of jobs all over the west coast and beyond. I listed each market I was interested in working and living in, then found each of the local stations in those markets and bookmarked their jobs opening page. I probably had a list of over 100 stations. I applied to at least more than half, and heard back from less than ten from what I remember. Of the stations I received preliminary interviews with, I was further pursued by two.
Did you have to change anything about your approach to the job search?
I found that trying to contact the actual person hiring, rather than just the HR office representative who posted the position, worked better in receiving a call for an interview. With each job I applied, I would also mail the news director a copy of my resume and a DVD of my work personalized for that station and position.
What happened in your first interview?
I had an initial interview over the phone with a station in Palm Springs, Calif. We talked a good deal about my experience at Gonzaga, more specifically what I learned from producing a live newscast (it was for a producer job). They asked me everything from how I stack a show to how I would deal with live reporters who couldn’t get their stories in on time. A week later, they flew me out for an in-person interview. I was nervous beyond belief, but tried to stay calm and confident in my abilities. I thought it would be a day of questioning, but it was quite the opposite. They clearly already knew all they needed about my experience and what I could offer them, they were just seeing how I interacted with their staff, from fellow producers to production techs, to see if I would be a good fit.
Did you ever turn down a job offer? Why?
I was offered a producing position in Palm Springs at about the same time I had a final interview for a position at a local Spokane station. Spokane wasn’t able to make a decision quite yet before I had to notify and sign paperwork for Palm Springs, so I ended up withdrawing my application to the Spokane station. Since then, when applying to other jobs, I have turned down offers from stations I personally didn’t think I would be a good match with.
When did you get an offer? How did it happen?
After flying out for my interview in Palm Springs, they called me back three days later and offered. After some negotiating, I decided upon working with them, which happened to time out well with graduating Gonzaga.
Looking back, what would you have changed about the process?
I honestly don’t think I would have changed much. I still apply to positions very similarly now as I did back then. I’ve worked several positions in broadcasting, including producer, master control operator, web editor, desk editor, and now director. When graduating Gonzaga, I was interested in several different aspects of the industry, so I applied to a plethora of positions. Having worked so many different positions since college, I have been able to narrow down my passion in directing.