I thought at 28 years old, I’d have it all figured out. I’d be reporting in a decent sized market, living on my own and possibly engaged to the man of my dreams.
In reality, it’s entirely the opposite.
I first got into journalism because a professor told me it was a miserable career choice.
His name was Bob. He was known to mark up your papers as if someone bled all over them. If he asked you a question and you got it wrong, he would make a noise like a game show buzzer. My friends warned me about Bob. And I was scared.
Some said Bob looked like Rerun from Good Times, I personally thought he looked like Uncle Phil from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He was tough, yet had every reason to be. I respected that and took a couple of classes with him during my junior year. Still, the way he would talk about professional journalism did scare me,
“If you want a family, forget about it!”
“Say good-bye to holidays off and weekends off!”
“If you want to be a reporter, you’re going to have to start off in a small market and they pay pennies!”
After all of the negative talk about my major, I decided to take an internship with a local news radio station to see if I would even like a career in journalism. Accepting that summer internship was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I was setting up interviews to be used by our anchors on air, I got to shadow reporters out in the field and basically play reporter myself. I also wrote stories that our talent actually used! It was great. My colleagues were nice and you know what? Most of them were married, had kids and had holidays off!
I realized all of that talk from Bob was nonsense! At the end, the station hired me as a production assistant. I was a 20-year-old college student working in the field I was studying.
The following summer I decided to apply for another internship, but this time in television news. I wanted to intern at the television station located in the same building as my radio job. When I went in for my interview, the internship coordinator was so impressed by my resume she offered me a job as an assignment desk assistant at the station’s San Jose bureau, which was just blocks away from my college campus.
I was feeling on-top-of-the-world. At 21, I was working in a top 5 market in both television and radio. I was also working part-time as a receptionist at a local hair salon. I graduated from college in December of 2007. About a month or two after, I began the tough process of sending out resumes and reporter reels to small markets all over the country. My thinking was to report in a small market and work my way up to the E! Network. My only fear was moving away from my life in the Bay Area to begin in some tiny town in the middle of nowhere. I had a life here. Friends, family and a boyfriend. It scared me to leave, even though I knew I had to.
From February 2008 on, I received one disappointing email / letter after another. “Thank you for applying but we’ve already filled the position” and things along those lines. Don’t get me started on those awkward phone calls to news directors asking if they received my DVD. How could someone who had gotten every previous job she’d applied for, not get ANYBODY to hire her? I had an accumulative GPA of 3.66 and was a Dean’s Scholar for most of my college career. I was even a member of the academic fraternity Kappa Tau Alpha because I was that great at school. I had professional newsroom experience! And yet, NOBODY would hire me!
My boyfriend was also having a hard time finding a job. His major was finance and his grades…well, let’s just say he didn’t take college seriously. I felt he deserved to not find a job because he didn’t work as hard as I did. Of course, I let him know that. Boy, am I eating my words now.
I went to countless journalism conferences around the country, shopping my tape. Everyone said it was “good” I just needed to find experience, which would be hard as the nature of the news business was changing because of the economy.
I finally got a bite from a station in Midland-Odessa, Texas. This was the only news director to get back to me. I immediately got scared. “Here it is. I’m going to have to move.” After a couple of email exchanges, things got quiet on his end. It turns out, he was fired from the station and the station was under a hiring freeze. I was relieved and disappointed at the same time. Luckily, I was still employed at my radio, television and hair salon jobs.
However, nothing was more humiliating than when the reporters I worked with would ask, “What are you still doing here? You need to get out of California and get your first job already!” Or when clients at the salon would gasp and give me a look of shame when I’d explain to them that I was a college graduate still working there.
Years went by of sending out my reporter reel and nothing ever became of it. I got a few bites here and there, but nothing solid. I landed a job as a celebrity gossip reporter in 2009 at a small entertainment show in Sacramento, only for the show to lose funding a month later.
In the middle of my search for jobs, a friend from college was getting married in Houston. I took that opportunity to stop in Midland-Odessa to see if I really had missed out on a good opportunity there. In the spring of 2010, I paid a visit to the three stations in the area. The first station I visited was in a mall and the news director asked me if English was my second language and if I had a lot of Mexican friends back home because it sounded like I was slurring in my stories. For the record- I’m 3rd generation East-Indian, I only have one Mexican friend and English is not my second language. I speak perfect English. I would like point out the news director was Mexican himself.
The second station I visited was in a trailer in the middle of nowhere and the third station – the one I got the offer from- well, their power went out in the middle of my meeting with the new news director. After leaving Midland-Odessa, I realized it was for the best that I didn’t get the job there. I was relieved to know everything had ended up for the best.
Later in 2010, the San Jose television bureau closed. But my boss kept me on, transferring me to the station in San Francisco. In the Spring 2011, my knowledge of the beauty industry from my salon job helped me land a reporting job with the Oakland Examiner online. It’s a freelance gig that allows me to write about new beauty products.
Later that same year, I left my production assistant job to anchor / produce traffic for the radio station. Things were starting to pick up. Sure, I was anchoring from Midnight- 6am and the only people listening were my parents and my friends on their way home from the club...but at least it was in the direction I wanted to go.
In the spring of 2012 I got a laid-off from my traffic job. Later that same year I won an Associated Press Mark Twain award for my work at my television job. Things just weren’t making sense and the universe was confusing me. At that point, I felt as if I was doing something wrong. No matter how hard I tried, whenever I felt like I’d finally made it, the job wouldn’t pan out. At the same time, the steady television job that I had lukewarm feelings for, kept its loyalty to me. How did I tell it I just wanted to be friends?
In early 2013 I finally quit my receptionist job at the salon. Sure, I loved my coworkers and I got a great discount on expensive products, but the job wasn’t serving me anymore. Instead of helping me get some extra cash, it was beginning to interfere with my career. I had always believed I needed to be there for financial reasons. However, I realized later on that was just fear talking. I had spent almost 7 years at the salon and had finally come to terms that my time there had run its course.
Even though it felt right, I was scared that I no longer had that safety net. I was only going to be working at my television job. That’s it.
Interestingly enough, the day after I quit, an old colleague emailed asking me to help her on a pilot project that needed someone with reporting skills. If I hadn’t quit, I would have had to bypass that opportunity.
Currently, I’m working at my television job, but it’s not full-time. I still write for the Oakland examiner and have a celebrity gossip blog of my own. However, as I get older, the only thing I want is a full-time job with health benefits
Don’t get me wrong; working the assignment desk is exciting. You’re the heart of the newsroom. People working the assignment desk are the first to know when breaking news is happening. Something about being the first one to know the latest information is exciting! But do I see myself keeping this position for the long haul? No.
Is it full-time and am I getting benefits? Nope. Yes, sometimes I do work weekends and holidays but that isn’t even an issue anymore. Neither is moving away from my family and friends.
Since being laid off, it seems like everyone around me has gotten his or her dream job. Everyone except for me.
Friends, family and coworkers have all landed the job they had been waiting for. Even my father who is in his early 60’s got a new job. He wasn’t even looking!
It was hard not be green with envy for everyone’s new venture, including my own dad’s.
For a while I’d honestly felt like I’d failed at life, but then I realized all of these trials and tribulations are pointing me in the direction I am destined to go.
Yes, it is hard to remind myself of this while perusing Facebook and other social media and seeing everyone’s highlight reel of their life.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t want to be a television news reporter, my passion is in entertainment news and over the years I’ve come to really enjoy social media. A career in one of the two or a combination of the two would be my ideal career choice.
Late last year I had the opportunity to work with a well-known entertainment show and help their crews get information on Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s engagement. It was weird because I happened to have the day off. It seemed like the stars-aligned perfectly.
No, I’m not working with that show right now and no, they haven’t returned any of my calls since.
But, after that experience I realized one thing. You never know what tomorrow will bring. Tomorrow I could land the job of my dreams with an awesome benefits package, or still be struggling to find said job.
I guess this is what being an adult is. Right?