Check out a few suggestions based on my personal experience and shared with students throughout the years. Each station is different. All options may not be available at all stations. These are some ideas for starters:
- VISIT A TV STATION– Get the tour and see how the process works. Reach out to your favorite station, find out how/if a visit can be accommodated and follow procedures for setting something up. You can do this before you come to college or even start your freshman year.
- JOB SHADOW—If you want a closer look at how the news gathering process works, try job shadowing a reporter and/or producer for a day. It gives you the opportunity to observe the day-to-day news operations and see first-hand how decisions are made, stories are told and newscasts are put together.
- INTERN – Internships don’t have to start your senior year of college. If you’re headed home for any summer, check in with your local television station after the holidays. Find out how their internship process works and what you’ll need to do to be considered. The summer after my sophomore year of college, I returned to my hometown and did an unpaid internship with the local television station and a paid internship with the local newspaper. Though my time was split, the experience was invaluable.
- MAINTAIN CONTACTS AND/OR SEEK OUT A MENTOR – During the job shadowing or internship process, always try to get business cards for the people you meet. If you connect with someone, always follow up with a thank you note. By checking in from time to time, you can develop a resource with whom you can ask your questions.
- JOIN A PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATION – This is a great way to interact with professionals in the field you are pursuing. You don’t have to be a seasoned pro, many times you can join as a student. I joined one such organization my freshman year of college for 25 bucks. It provided access to professional tools, paid internship opportunities and forums to connect with the pros. Examples include The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) and Radio Television News Directors Association (RTNDA).
- ATTEND CAREER CONFERENCES – There are many professional organizations that host national conferences. This is an opportunity to interact face-to-face with recruiters, talent and news management. Even if you are not looking for a job, this is one way to learn what employers are looking for. You can get your own business card made (if a student, you would want to include your name, email, a phone number, school and graduation date) for networking. Though employment may not be your goal, you could score an internship if you’re lucky!