If landing work in television is your dream, you should know that it’s a lot tougher than it looks. Without the necessary technical knowledge, dedication to your craft, and a positive attitude, your TV job search may be destined for disappointment.
If you’re interested in learning about how to get into broadcasting, read on for some guidance, tips, and advice to help you launch your career in television.
Get an Education (and Complete an Internship)
For creative positions such as writers, art directors, and graphic artists as well as leadership roles like directors, engineering managers, producers, programming managers/directors, general managers, and station managers, among others, a college degree is often mandatory. Although these are examples of more senior television jobs, for someone starting a career in television, it’s important to note the training that will be necessary to advance. Formal education is not required to be an on-camera personality, and it’s not quite as important for operations/engineering roles such as camera operators, editors, lighting technicians, engineering technicians, master control operators, audio board operators/switchers, etc. However, training is still vital to thrive in these positions whether it’s gained in a classroom setting or on the job.
While an undergraduate degree is important for many who work in television, often it’s the internship that provides the biggest boost to an entry-level candidate’s TV job search. Stations in larger markets simply will not hire applicants without prior experience, and internships are the best way to gain hands-on, practical knowledge of day-to-day operations in the television industry. Furthermore, an internship can often serve as a launching board for your career in television; if you impress management during your stint as an intern, odds are they’ll keep you in mind for future full-time TV job openings.
Start at the Bottom, Stay Humble, and Work Hard
Regardless of your professional path and educational background, it’s not realistic to think your first job will be in management. This is especially true for individuals who work in television. Many directors and executive producers started as production assistants, fetching coffee, arranging parking, coordinating extras, and doing any number of thankless jobs that keep a television or film operation humming along. No matter what your first television job ends up being, you must never act as if your duties are beneath you or treat the position as merely a stepping stone to the next chapter of your career in television.
Aside from displaying the proper attitude, you must establish a reputation as someone who can be relied upon. The professionals who work in television are a close-knit group, so if you want to get recommended for better opportunities on more prestigious projects or in larger markets, you need to demonstrate that you’re a capable team member who can be trusted. Knowing how to get into broadcasting is one thing; building a career in television is a different proposition. If you’re enthusiastic, dedicated, talented, and willing to take on unglamorous responsibilities, you’ll find success.
Network and Make Connections
Whether you’re just starting out or have progressed through a number of television jobs, networking is key. As mentioned above, when producers and directors need to fill TV job openings they’re looking for employees they can depend on. Recommendations and references will be imperative to your career advancement. If you want peers to vouch for you, you need to get out there and meet people, display your skills and expertise, and prove yourself as a qualified crew member.
Beyond making a positive impression on your peers and superiors, you’ll need to make an effort to meet other creative professionals. Not only will this expose you to new ideas you can incorporate in your day-to-day work, you may also be drawn into other exciting projects or introduced to talented individuals who might need your skills in the future. You should also consider joining one of the many organizations for individuals who work in television such as the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Society of Camera Operators (SOC), and other similar professional groups. As you make contacts inside and outside of your field, always remember it’s difficult to predict whose star will rise, so don’t alienate anyone you meet in your TV career.
Make Your Big Break Happen
The best way to answer “how to get into broadcasting” is almost too simple. Just go out there and do it! If you want to create engaging or entertaining television programs, then don’t wait for a news director or station manager to give you a chance. Create an opportunity for yourself, manage your own projects, volunteer to help others with their experimental videos or student films, and/or find side gigs to gain additional exposure and meet new contacts. Not only will this give you an outlet for your creativity (which may be especially important if you’re stuck getting coffee all day long), it will also enable you to practice techniques and approaches that will be critical to taking your career in television to the next level.
Embrace every opportunity to display your talent and/or gain more experience. Anyone can say that they’re a great director or writer—you have to show your bosses why they should give you the opportunities you think you deserve. One way to do this is by going the extra mile no matter the task. If you’re asked to pick up the lead anchor’s dry cleaning, do it to the best of your ability. If you’re told to get coffee and donuts for the whole crew, make sure you get everyone’s order right. Another way to get ahead is by showing initiative. Volunteer for assignments, do things without being asked, find better ways to get a task done, and do it all with a smile on your face.
If you want to work in television, there are a number of simple things you can do to make your dream come true. However, before you start applying to competitive TV job openings, be sure you’re willing to put in the time and effort needed to succeed. Always remember that talent will only take you so far without the right attitude and proper commitment.
Are you interested in pursuing a career in television? Start your TV job search today, and check out some of the current opportunities available on iHireBroadcasting!
Dave Owen – How to Get a Job in Television
Alan McKee – The Seven Steps to Getting a Job in Television
Liz Chuday – NAB’s Guide to Careers in Television, Second Edition