Try to imagine what your life has in store for you three, five or 10 years from now. What career will you have? Or, more importantly, what career do you want? The answers to these questions constantly change and that becomes a part of life. Successful reporters, like previous College Magazine writer Shannon Longworth, channeled the motivation to secure their dream job, even if that changes a time or two on your journey.
Check out Shannon’s journey from College Magazine writer to morning news host on KION News and how you can do the same thing.
Before you can jump into any job, you need some kind of education. For Longworth, she originally double-majored in law and communications at Boston College. Longworth followed this path originally because she found that she had a talent for this work in high school. While signing up to take the LSAT her senior year of high school, Longworth came across the opportunity to intern with two TV news stations–one at FOX5 in New York.
“This was my wake up call,” Longworth said. “I talked to my parents and decided that journalism is what I enjoy although it is not a thriving market right now.” She ultimately decided to follow her dream and it paid off in the end. Longworth stresses the importance of making connections in grad school when it comes to landing a job. She accomplished this while achieving her masters from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.
But there is not just one path to get to this point. Whether you major in journalism or not, you will have opportunities coming your way to get the job of your dreams. Majoring in English, political science, media studies or rhetoric leads students to careers as successful journalists or media reporters.
I Have my Degree, Now What?
For Longworth, getting her job at KION News came after an abundance of obstacles. She thought she found her dream job — a news anchor position in the tri-state area, close to home. “I found out that they were interested in offering a job on Friday then next night I found out the whole station was closing, and I had to go through the job process all over again. I even turned down other jobs because thought this [job] was secured,” Longworth said. Though she didn’t get the initial job she wanted, things still worked out.
Longworth offers this advice: “You have to start out in a small market. Find a job that fits you best, whether that is in an area with heavy shopping, near the ocean, or with a lot of farmland, it’s important to find your niche.” It might take some searching to find the right fit, but it will all work out in the end when you’ve secured a job you look forward to going to each day.
Getting experience looks difficult but will always pay off in the end. Search for different internships you can apply for whether you found out about them from your school or through job hunting sites like Handshake. Longworth eventually found and chose a job in California at KION News, somewhere she had never been prior. “I had two phone interviews, signed a contract, and I was ready to move out there,” Longworth said. Crazy how a phone call can change your whole life.
A Day in the Life
A typical day for Longworth begins with her arriving at the station around 1-1:15 a.m. And we think getting up for an 8 a.m. lecture is early. “What happens is the day before I’ll shoot my story, so I have the materials I need so I just have to edit it together and meet with my producer. I go live eight times in the morning compared to afternoon and evening hosts who only go live one to two times,” Longworth said.
Once her show is over for that day, Longworth begins to shoot the one for the next day and her workday ends around 10 A.M. “It’s been a really good experience except I was painfully awkward on camera when I first started,” Longworth said. So, if you begin a job you don’t feel totally comfortable in, don’t worry, it gets easier. Now that you know everything that goes into being a morning reporter, does it seem like something you’d enjoy? Reach out to your own local news crew not only to search for potential internships and jobs but to get their inside scoop on what they love (or hate) about their jobs.
Every Job has its Obstacles
Every journalist has their ups and downs and for Longworth, she faced some big challenges but also reaped some huge rewards. If a big event happens overnight that the morning news would cover, Longworth’s responsibilities include digging up the information about what happened. “I have to go out and collect information before the show, but the police are sleeping and trying to find information to report on is difficult and makes it hard to form a story,” Longworth said. In order to have something to report she takes in her surroundings, talks to neighbors and tries to talk to the police every hour on the hour. Having good observation tactics is a crucial skill for reporters. You always have to have your eye on the prize and gather as much information about your topic as you can in order to produce a clear and informative story to the public.
Every challenge leads to success
When it comes to rewards, Longworth has one that stands out the most. “I got to interview Michael Bloomberg when he came to town. I’m not that into politics but his campaign strategy was very different and interesting. And it was cool to say I interviewed a presidential candidate,” Longworth said. Every job gives you opportunities to prove what you know. As a reporter, you are responsible for informing the public of important matters like politics and community events. Getting to tell cool stories on top of that? Definitely a plus.
Put yourself out there
Going from college to getting a career can be a long, bumpy road and everyone looks back at things they wished they did differently. “I would tell myself to relax! I would have ended up in a similar place if I hadn’t stressed myself out over an A versus an A-, especially in journalism courses,” Longworth said. Experience is key. Even if you don’t think you’ll get that internship–apply anyway. You are more than you think.
Longworth advises students to put themselves out there and gain as much experience as they can, as she did with College Magazine. “When I was at College Magazine, my biggest struggle was finding sources. Learning to cold call people as a sophomore and you’re young and nervous was a challenge,” Longworth said. This did help her in the long run though. “It was a good intro to what I have to do every day in this industry. I have to call people, be assertive and direct,” Longworth said. Everyone reaches roadblocks in their search for a career, but it comes down to how you overcome those obstacles. Find your passion, seek out a job and make it happen.