Not in a million years did I think I’d study journalism. Not in a million years did I think I’d go out in the world, search for stories and talk to strangers.
Not in a million years did I think that the introvert that I am would allow me to do what I do.
I’m only just starting out. I count to three and get myself to go out, talk to that person and get that story. Then, I breathe. But only for a moment—because then I must do it all over again.
I’m currently taking my first reporting class called Radio 1. Basically, I’m writing for the news station at the University of Florida, WUFT News. (It’s all very legit.) The semester is young and I still have so much to learn. However, I’ve learned quite a bit about reporting and myself these past few weeks.
This class quickly tested my fortitude and challenged my confidence.
The scariest part of it all is the thought of coming off as unprofessional. The thought of conducting an interview and someone realizing I only just started out terrified me…or disappointing my superiors…or embarrassing myself in front of my classmates. These thoughts alone kept me up every night before my weekly shift.
Fake it till you make it, right?
For my first shift in the newsroom, I pitched a story I felt strongly about—the story of the Catholic Church sexual abuse cases. It’s something controversial that hasn’t really been spoken about by many church leaders. As a Catholic woman, I have many questions.
Because of the Church’s adamancy in keeping hush, finding a priest that wanted to talk about the subject proved difficult.
This challenged the introvert in me. When email and a phone call didn’t suffice, I had to personally find a priest after Sunday mass. It wasn’t surprising when he rejected the interview offer. However, I couldn’t help feeling awkward and disappointed.
Boundaries. As a reporter, it’s hard to know where to draw the line. At one point you need to get that story. At another point, you don’t want to appear intrusive or insensitive.
Still, I persisted to get the story, and eventually, I did get a priest to talk with me—a small victory.
Some advice: over prepare. The more you know, the more confident you’ll feel. The more confident you feel, the better your performance.
Before any story, I overexaggerate the amount of research I do to make sure I am well versed on the subject. This not only allows me to create intellectual and thoughtful questions for the interview, but it also allows me to engage in an educated conversation with the interviewee. And you’ll look very professional, which is what you want.
When I finally held the interview with the priest, it went so smoothly because of all the research I allocated. This experience was crucial for me to see that I did, in fact, have what it takes to be a reporter.
This week has been particularly challenging because I need to conduct in-person interviews outside of campus. Approaching strangers isn’t the scary part. When it dawned on me how people really didn’t want to be spoken to or bothered, it became increasingly difficult. My nerves escalated and my confidence dwindled.
Nevertheless, I count to three and approach each person, one by one.
Although rejection can be uncomfortable, remember this: the worst someone can say when asking for an interview is no. Then, you say thank you and smile politely. Now move on to the next person.
Sometimes it takes me a few tries of stumbling through my words, but I always get it right even if it’s on the 15th try. It takes a lot of effort and thick skin.
If you’re also shy, introverted and pursuing a career in journalism, don’t doubt yourself or your talents because of your timid nature. Every shift, it gets easier. I grow more confidence the more I interact with my peers and watch them, learn from them.
I’ve learned to use my resources as much as possible and not be afraid to ask questions. From day one I’ve asked a myriad of questions to my supervisors and they willingly guide me. I also reached out to upperclassmen that have gone through the same process as me.
Only a few weeks deep into the semester, I’ve only had a few shifts in the newsroom. I’m still technically a newbie. But I hold my head up high and walk confidently into my shift every week. I go to my supervisors and discuss with them the story I have planned for the day.
Then, I make some phone calls and arrange for an interview. I conduct the interview, edit the soundbites and put the story together. While all of this happens, I sweat over the interview questions, stress about making the sound story perfect and push myself a significant amount outside my comfort zone.
I’ve learned to see my comfort zone as my own personal bubble that encircles me. It’s delicate, small and uninviting. I hate to say it to all the introverts out there, but it just doesn’t work. Sure, my bubble is comfy and protecting. But it doesn’t allow room for growth.
I had many doubts about pursuing a career in journalism. Nevertheless, I persisted. Why? I like to write and I’m determined to not let my timid nature hinder me from my goals.
Your insecurities are only as big as you let them be. Sitting up straight, being well informed on the subject and a good handshake all help me appear more confident in an interview.
The more confident I feel, the more comfortable the interviewee feels. It makes the process that much easier.
Don’t be fooled—I’m still struggling. I still sleep absolutely horrendous before every shift and over think every possible scenario going into it. But I show up.
That’s the first thing you must do to reach any goal: show up.
And when you show up and you’re sweating bullets, breathe, count to three and go get that story.