Managing your career early on: Networking and agents in TV news

April 17, 2019 01:30

Pursuing an on-air career can be tough.  Television news is a competitive, and selective business. When you’re just starting out, your lack of experience can leave you feeling intimidated.  When you begin to climb up in markets, you may become hungry for connections, career direction and industry insight.  Networking and/or hiring an agent can help.  Here are some things you should know.
Networking is crucial to success in this business.  The more people you know, the more opportunities you have to learn, to grow, and to get hired. But networking can be hard especially when you’re new to your career.  Here are some tips: 
Get more practical advice from hiring managers of what they actually look for, plus hear how THEY got their big breaks! Watch: Landing your first (or next) news job

Approach Networking Genuinely:  Seek out people who can help you advance in your career based on their merits.  Understand who they are professionally.  What is their brand? What have they achieved? What are they good at?  What stories do they cover? Approach them with questions and genuine interest.   
Attend Industry Conferences:  I met my first news director and my second news director at RTDNA conferences. Surrounding yourself with people in the industry and meeting people in management positions can really help you catch the break you need.
Registration is open now for the next RTDNA conference, Excellence in Journalism 2019, Sept. 5-7 in San Antonio.
Invest in Professional Development: Your degree is not enough! The best journalists are always learning. So, attend the Poynter Institute, register for an IRE workshop or look for other ways to invest in your professional development. Engaging with other journalists will help you build a list of contacts who share your passion, and earning the respect of your peers will pay off.  The industry is small. Someday someone you connect with may recommend you for a job or become a news manager in a position to hire you.
Find Honest Mentors: Dedicated journalists are constantly working on their craft.  Find and hold onto industry professionals who are willing to provide honest feedback and constructive criticism.  The best mentors do not just compliment you.  They focus on what you need to improve.  They are committed to helping you get better.  
An agent has the potential to help you advance your career.  However, the wrong agent can do the opposite.  Here are some questions that you may want to ask yourself before signing with an agent.
Is it Necessary?
An agent can be very helpful during complicated contract negotiations.  If there are certain things that you absolutely want in your professional life then an agent might be important.
Does it Make Financial Sense?
When you sign with an agent you have committed to paying the agent a percentage of your salary, and so you need to make a big enough salary for that commitment to make sense financially. For this reason, agents are not typically involved until a reporter’s second or third job search when bigger contracts are on the table.
Is This Agent a Good Fit for Me?
Do not make the mistake of signing with the first agent who approaches you or the first agent who calls you back.  Working with the wrong agent can be damaging to your career and your morale.  Choose wisely.  Make sure you communicate your needs and expectations.  Make sure you understand and are comfortable with how that agent works. 
Am I Willing To Invest To Do This Right?
You will have to sign a contract. You should have a lawyer look over that contract before you sign it.  Never sign anything with an agent unless you totally and absolutely understand it.
About to graduate and looking for your first news job? Download our complete guide to landing your first news job, incuding crafting your demo reel, how to write a strong resume and cover letter, finding a good fit and what to expect on day one. Let's get you hired!