In this case, I'm going to put you in the News Director's shoes. Shopping for a reporter or anchor is a lot like shopping for a car. Plenty of vehicles can get you from point A to point B. Lots of cars offer good gas mileage. But very often the difference between one car and another are the little things. The heated seats in a cold climate, the built-in GPS for men who don't ask for directions, the glove compartment that keeps your beverages cold. Little stuff, sure. But all other things being equal, little things can make the decision a no-brainer.
With that in mind, you all have the standard engine, transmission, radio and heater. Time to focus on those options to make yourself seem like a top-of-the-line model.
(Okay, I'm done with the car analogy. I know, it took awhile, but hope you got the point.)
So here are some intangibles that can give you an edge:
1. Read as much as you possibly can. News Directors love smart reporters, but they really love smart reporters who know a little about everything. If you can discuss the debt ceiling, how to collect frequent flyer miles with a credit card and why the show Terra Nova will bomb this fall, you'll impress someone. Know as much as you can about the important stories, and be able to have a conversation on just about any topic.
2. Dress for success, especially on an interview. Just because you might be working in a small market or Palookaville and everyone else gets dressed in the dark doesn't mean you have to. The latest trend, even among network reporters, is casual. You'll stand out if you're impeccably dressed.
3. Have a ton of energy on the phone. Lots of stations are doing phone interviews instead of flying people in, and many do preliminary phone interviews before buying someone a plane ticket. Let a News Director hear your smile and enthusiasm.
4. Don't rip your current company or boss to a prospective employer. You may work in a newsroom run by Lord Voldemort on steroids, but you still have to appear grateful for the opportunity to work there. You're just ready to move on, if anyone asks.
5. Be nice to everyone and don't gossip. This business is incredibly small, and people who are drama queens or toxic to a newsroom get a reputation. Create an impeccable work reputation. Never phone it in, always volunteer to pitch in, help your co-workers when you can. Managers love employees they don't have to worry about. And one of those people you help might be in a position to help you down the road.
6. If you're young, don't act your age. Act older. Immaturity is a major problem in many newsrooms. News Directors love people who are mature. You may have been a wild child in college, but those days are over. Welcome to the real world.
7. Keep your Internet footprint clean. No pictures of you getting hammered at a party or in various stages of undress. No tales of drug use, wild times in college or very personal information available to the public. News Directors routinely Google people they're considering, and many stations do background checks. Do an Internet search on yourself and make sure there's nothing that makes you look bad out there. If you've got a social networking page, keep things basic and professional.
8. Keep a Rolodex of people who are nice to you, who offer a helping hand, or who show an interest in your talents. The business is an incredibly small world, and you often run into the same people more than once. Networking existed long before Facebook and Twitter.
9. Send a hand-written thank you note after every interview. Old school but classy, and makes the impression that you were not raised by wolves.
10. Be ethical and unbiased. Doesn't cost you a thing to keep your opinions to yourself, but it's Journalism 101 and in short supply these days.
TVNEWSGRAPEVINE, copyright 2011 © Randy Tatano