Last week I attended the Generation WOW, mentoring event for young women in my community. It was fantastic and I was asked so many great questions by fabulous girls about college and how I got started in the broadcasting business, that I thought I’d share a few bits of advice for other young men & women considering pursuing broadcasting in college.
1. Look for programs that allow you to be hands-on
One of my biggest selling points for attending the University of Missouri’s Journalism School was the school-owned newspaper, magazine and television station. And I don’t just mean your typical school newspaper or campus TV station — I mean a community newspaper and a NBC affiliate local news station.
By the time I graduated college, I had several years as an anchor, reporter, producer and videographer/editor on my resume. Real-world experience can’t be taught, it has to be earned. Entering the job market with hands-on experience under your belt is priceless.
2. Find a school with a well-established alumni network
Another selling point for me? The Mizzou Mafia. Those that have graduated from the Mizzou Journalism School take pride in paying it forward and helping anyone that went through the rigorous program and learned from the best of the best. If you need any information or help with a job anywhere around the world, there’s always a Mizzou J-School alum willing to help you out or walk in your resume — even if you’ve never even met each other before.
Networking in this business is huge, and having a loyal alumni base to tap into is gold.
3. Don’t feel like you are making a career decision you have to live with the rest of your life
So many girls asked me that day how I decided what to do with my life. It’s simple: I didn’t. I went to the Journalism School because I knew I was bad at math and science and enjoyed reading and writing. I didn’t know going in that I wanted to be a sports broadcaster — in fact, I went into the school as a convergence student (a degree where you study all the different areas of journalism from newspaper, magazine, advertising and broadcasting). I eventually switched to specifically broadcast journalism, where I naturally gravitated to the sports department.
So many people change their emphasis area or even their major after they begin college. That’s what college is for and where you’ll figure out what you’d really like to do.
4. Go somewhere that you know you’ll enjoy
College isn’t just about learning about your chosen degree (although, that’s important) it’s also about learning about yourself, the world around you and figuring out life-skills — like how to live on your own. I knew I wanted to go to school in a college town, at a big/diverse university that had competitive sports programs that’d I enjoy attending their games.
Make sure you find a vibe, town and campus that fits your personality and what you are looking for in a place to live for the next four years. I.e.: go somewhere you’ll have fun, but not too much fun 😉
5. Don’t stress, you are about to have the time of your life
The college application and decision process can be scary, stressful and overwhelming. But if you follow your heart, life changing experiences will follow suit. A fellow mentor at the event told me one of the young women in her group knew where she wanted to go to school but was torn because her grandmother didn’t want her to go away for school.
Growing up in Southern Illinois on the Metro East of the St. Louis area, I was the only one of my friends and family to attend Mizzou. Although that was scary, it was also exciting. When I first stepped on the Missouri campus during my college visit, I knew that was the place I wanted to be. Your heart will tell you where you belong. Although you should listen to the wisdom and advice of your elders, your gut should always carry the most weight in your decision.
Once you’re there, take advantage of the opportunities you sought and have fun!
When you make your decision and arrive on campus for your freshman year, set goals to take advantage of all those opportunities that drew you to that school. Pursue the opportunity to work for your school’s television station like I did, don’t be afraid to take that art class you’ve always wanted to and, above all, have the time of your life.