This weekend August 24-26, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) will partner with the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) at the annual Excellence in Journalism Conference in 2013 at the Marriott Hotel in Anaheim.
For Journalism students, those TV and radio professionals looking for career advancement or simply looking for career advice, this conference is the place to be.
I have been a member of NAHJ for several years now. But this year, the NAHJ board voted to merge their annual conference with SPJ and RTDNA.
For most attending these conferences, including myself, these conferences provide dozens of workshops and great seminars from leading Journalism professionals. With the many changes and challenges facing our industry, the chance to sit down with News Directors and other professionals is hard to find anywhere else.
So you're about to graduate college or looking for that next job? What is the best way to tackle the conference and make sure you walk away with plenty of new contacts or even a job offer?
Time now for a reality check. Don't expect to get hired at this conference. About the best you can hope for is to walk away with dozens of business cards and a few leads. Most of the hiring takes place after the fact. But remember a few leads is more than you started with.
I've been going to NAHJ conferences for years. Never once was I offered a job on the spot. But what I did come away with was plenty of leads, contacts that actually turned into a job offer. Not once, but twice. So it can be done if you approach the job fair with a take no prisoners attitude.
Remember, everyone attending is looking for that one big break. So determine how you will set yourself apart from the rest. Plan on spending most of your time at the job fair.
BEFORE YOU ARRIVE:
Have your audition tape (DVD) ready to go, along with a clearly written resume. Mark everything with you're name, email, web links & phone number. I'm talking about your paper material, your DVD and case cover. Make it impossible for them to have to scramble to find your information later on.
Clean up your social media sites before you go. Again, I can't tell you how many times - material posted on Facebook or Twitter is just totally inappropriate if you are looking for a professional position. I recently worked with someone and told them to lose the model shots!
What to wear? Since you will spend the majority of the conference in the job fair, bring more than one outfit, suit. Dress like you would if you were going to work at station XYZ. I can't tell you how many times I have noticed people dressed like they are about to go clubbing!. Really? This is a job interview - so look the part.
Do your research! All the recruiters are listed on the website. Get the floor plan on the job fair down. Research each and every company you plan to visit. Watch their newscast. Go to the station website to see if they have any open positions. Read up on TV Agent sites and other TV Journalism sites to see who has left what station and where they have gone. Finally, make sure to know something about the boss, GM and city you might end up in.
My advice is if you really want to do this job, be prepared to move anywhere. Guam or Alaska should not be off your radar. I can't tell you how many people I talk to who simply want to stay home in LA or near-by. Really? This is like the Military. You're going to move and probably more than once. If you're not prepared for this, congratulations. You or your parents have just wasted tens of thousands of dollars to attend a good J school. Time for Plan "B" to pay off that student loan.
ONCE YOUR ARRIVE:
Get your ID Tag, Maps and event tickets. Now it's time to hit the Job Fair. Get their early, get their first. Remember, employers will be looking at thousands of resume DVD's and after a while they will all look the same. It is simply a marathon for them as well. I'm always impressed by the News Directors who stay until the very end and give each potential employee the time they deserve.
I like to walk the floor first and come up with a game plan. Major companies like NBC will have the longest lines. Take advantage of those booths where the lines are short. You might get more personal time and you never know who they might know and can directly introduce you to at the convention.
So the dance begins. Not all that different from a real job interview, but remember dozens of others are breathing down your neck - so make those few moments count! Be focused, tell the person you are facing - exactly what kind of job you are looking for and why you want to work for them.
Once seated, the rush is on. The person sitting across from you will pop your DVD into a machine, grab a pair of headphones and watch what you hope is the work that will take his or her breath away. Dozens of others will be breathing down your neck, trying to catch a glimpse of your work.
Ask yourself, what is it about me, that will make me different than everyone else they will talk too. Remember, to put your best work at the front end of your audition reel. What kind of job are you looking for? Be open. Recent grads and even those moving on to Job#2 will find better success as presenting themselves as a Reporter first. Remember there are more Reporters in a newsroom than anyone else if you are looking for an on-air position.
Be sure to thank them for their time. A no-brainier right? Try to get direct contact information. If you have a choice, try to get the interview with the News Director instead of someone from HR. Remember, he or she is the one you are going to want to send a follow-up thank you card after the convention is over.
Did he say card? Yep, remember the boss gets hundreds of emails a day. I once had a boss tell me while reading a thank you card that he wished more people did this. I have never forgotten that small bit of advice. It shows extra effort on your part and something the person who might hire you can physically hold in his hand. Again, with all your contact information in clear view.
A number of TV agents will be walking the floor during the job fair. Many used to have a booth, but because of high cost they often just walk the floor looking for new talent. Most often they are the best dressed person in the room. I can't tell you if an agent will help you find that job - because ultimately it is going to be your work that speaks for itself.
THE REST OF THE CONVENTION:
When you're not at the job fair, make it a point to runoff to as many seminars and conferences as you can. There is something to learn and a good schedule of broad topics.
In Chicago, I actually went to a seminar on how to become a News Director. Of course, it is something I never want to be. But - I knew 6 important people would be leading that conference. It was my chance to ask questions, get noticed and hopefully a handshake at the end.
I still know one of those News Directors from that day. He has yet to hire me, probably never will. But each year we continue to see each other and one day you just never know when that call may will finally come.
All work and no play? Not at these conventions. You're going to need a break. NAHJ always has plenty of fun gatherings, parties and chances to network. Also, many of the companies will host private parties not listed in the schedule. Make it a point to find them and get an invite if need be.
Many of the new contacts you made at the job fair will be there too in a much less formal setting. This is a good time to cement new relationships. Not only with a future boss, but many others in your shoes. Make friends, contacts, people you can call about job leads. Many of these type of contacts occur after hours. So go for it.
WHEN YOU GET HOME:
Make it a point to email or send a card to everyone you met. I mean everyone. You never know who might be the next boss somewhere. Stay in touch on social network sites and hit them up before the next convention. Always fun to see who has progressed in the business in between conventions.
How did I get my first job? That's another story for another day.
So best of luck this year in Anaheim. Hope to meet you in person - so if you see me running around the floor be sure to come up and say hello.
For More information on the Excellence in Journalism Conference CLICK HERE