Bend but don’t break

Vic ‘The Brick’ Jacobs is not a normal guy.

Just one look is proof of that. With his massive fur hats and long beard, spouting eastern philosophy with a New York accent, Vic is – to put it lightly – a unique presence in Los Angeles sports talk radio. “The Lakers must come out of the darkness and into the light,” he intones. “And Kobe will be the vessel that carries them there. Like the bamboo he must bend but not break. FEELING YOU!”

He’s not exactly your typical sportscaster.

But the great thing about Vic is that he has always been true to himself. The whole schtick, it’s all real. He’s genuine. And the inexplicable truth of his career is that he took that schtick and became one of the top personalities in one of the top media markets in the world. It’s because he never took no for an answer.

In a great profile in Vice Sports, Vic shares his bizarre path to becoming a sports anchor, and later, a sports talk icon in Los Angeles. After bumming around Asia, doing drugs and taking odd jobs, he finally ended up in Guam, where he developed a wacky style covering sports – using props and unique catchphrases. He wanted to be an entertainer on TV, and he wanted to do it through his love of sports.

When he returned to America, he put in the hard work, and sent demo tapes to every market in the country. The response from news directors was predictably harsh.

They called him a circus act and told him to go back to Guam. In their view, Vic didn’t fit the cookie cutter mold of the typical sports anchor. He wasn’t a haircut, he wasn’t a good-looking guy in a suit. He was … different. And different doesn’t fly in TV news.

This is the point in the story where anyone would have given up. Receiving rejection letters is hard, especially pointed ones.

Instead, Vic wrote back. “I suck? You’re a freaking news director in Minot, North Dakota, look at you. Look at you.”

If only we all had that confidence in our job searches.

I know from experience how hard job searches can be in the news business. I experienced it straight out of college, and again at various points in my career. The process tends to be the same for everyone: put together a reel of your best work, send it off to dozens if not hundreds of markets around the country, and anxiously wait for your hard work to be judged by strangers.

Most of the time, you receive silence, which is disappointing enough. But that radio silence only magnifies the pain of those rejection letters you do receive.

“You do not meet the requirements we are looking for.”

“You were not selected to move forward in the application process.”

“I don’t have any openings at the moment.”

“We’re in a hiring freeze right now” (Editor’s note: then why post the freaking job??)

One of the parts that makes you feel the most helpless is when you are rejected and never given a reason, or not given anything to work on. In 2012 I had made it through two rounds of phone interviews with a TV station’s news director and assistant news director before I was completely given the cold shoulder. It wasn’t until I called to inquire on the status that I was told I didn’t get it.

“You just weren’t the right fit,” the told me.

Weren’t the right fit? What does that even mean? I asked him if there was any main reason that I didn’t get the job, or if there was anything I could to to improve.

“You know, it just…” he stuttered. “It just wasn’t the right fit.”

Gee, thanks for the honest feedback.

The main thing – and the hardest thing – to remember in your first job searches is not to let this rejection get to you. It’s a hard road, but you are putting in the right work to land a job.

Keep in mind that sometimes you just aren’t what they are looking for. Maybe they need someone with more experience, or someone who’s a little more polished on-air. It doesn’t mean you should stop trying, it means that your perfect job is somewhere else.

And don’t let the silence get to you, either. News directors get hundreds of applicants for a single news job, and they honestly don’t have time to reply to every single applicant and tell then all the ways they can improve. Keep getting feedback from your peers and mentors and turn it into a reel that they can’t ignore next time.

But when news directors have the gall to tell you that you suck – and a few will – don’t listen. Personal attacks or unconstructive criticism don’t help anyone. Take the good critiques and improve on them, but don’t listen to anyone who can’t offer anything worthwhile for you. Like Vic the Brick told them, there are reasons some of these people are working in Minot, North Dakota or toiling away in market 150. They could be just starting off like you and not know better, or they’re not finding their own ways to improve. Good news directors will use their communication with you to challenge you to do better and push you out of your comfort zone. Bad news directors will just try to tear you down.

Now, I’d not advocating writing back to news directors and telling them off like Vic did. Instead, I’m telling you to keep your chest puffed out.

Like the bamboo you must bend and not break.

Take the silence or the rejection and focus it into ways to improve. If you’re a wacky, zen-spouting host like Vic the Brick, find the best ways to tailor that for your job. Or if you are just looking for your first news reporting gig, find out what you can offer a station that they need.

Because it will happen. You’ll find that job. Whether it’s two weeks or two months from now, you’ll find the spot that best lets you use your talents to make a difference. If Vic could do it, you can too.


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