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: Scott Perry, photojournalist with KDRV in Medford, Ore.
I started after graduation. I didn’t know where I wanted to go. I knew I wanted to do something in video production. I applied for photographers, editors, production assistants, and directors. I didn’t know anyone in broadcast. It was all up to me to figure it out and I had to work in retail part-time to pay off student loan debt.
Do you remember what you included on your first tape/work sample?
I was very limited in samples as a new graduate and I didn’t have any internship samples. I included two outdoor family event commercials and a college news package. I felt as though these work samples showed off my composition and editing.
How many rejections did you get?
Just one, but I hardly had any call backs. The single rejection I did get was for a position at a money management firm.
I applied to television jobs for more than a year with no progress and was desperate for a full-time position. I had a phone interview. Quickly realized I was making a mistake and after that I changed my whole job search. I didn’t want to be stuck in a job I would regret.
Did you have to change anything about your approach to the job search?
I had to look beyond where I was currently living and move. I had the support of my fiancée at the time to move together wherever I could get a job.
I printed a map of the United States. Circled all the states I was willing to relocate. Searched for all of the stations within the nearest state first. Found their websites. Sent resumes to any open positions to stations below market 100.
I felt any station above market 100 wasn’t going to call me back because I lacked newsroom experience.
Days after the management firm interview, I landed my first interview with a news station.
What happened in your first interview?
My first interview was over the phone. The news director asked me tough questions and I was sensing he didn’t like my answers. I probably came across rehearsed. He asked if I was planning to work at the station and then leave to a higher market? At the time, I hadn’t thought that far. I just wanted a job in broadcast.
At the end of the interview, I took full advantage of asking the news director why people like working at the station and if I could advance in the company? I think that last question put him at ease that I wasn’t thinking about station-hopping. I found out later the photogs before me kept leaving after a few months.
When did you get an offer? How did it happen?
I had a second interview on a Friday through Skype with one of the executive producers and the head photographer. It felt more relaxed than my first. I remember being asked if I can be first to a breaking news scene before a reporter? I said, “Yes! I’ll be first on scene.”
On Monday, the news director called me. He asked how I felt about the Skype interview and he offered me the job.
Then I said, “I’m getting married in three weeks!”
I left that part out on the first phone interview just so I wasn’t immediately disqualified.
The news director laughed and pushed down my start date a week later.
(A good note for Skype interviews, I placed two table lamps near my laptop as a key and fill light and found a non-distracting background to place myself. I had earphones plugged in to eliminate the microphone echo.)
Looking back, what would you have changed about the process?
I wished I reached out to companies before graduation. Then again, I felt I’ve gained so much from this journey. Naturally I’m shy and quiet. Working as a photog has brought me out of my comfort zone. Still, I wish I was fearless. I guess that’s something you don’t learn until you knock on people’s doors asking for an interview.