Getting Hired in Sports Broadcasting: Four Things You Have To Do

Working in sports broadcasting is definitely an out-of-the-box career, you work odd hours and more than a few holidays. But to know that your work is being seen by thousands, sometimes millions, of people is more than just rewarding, it’s habit-forming.

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You could be doing just about anything, like wiring up an under basket camera, on an internship, the key is no matter what your assignment, take it seriously!

The hardest part of launching a successful TV career is getting that first chance to prove you are up to it. Whether you want to work in front of the camera or behind the scenes here are a few tips to help get your foot in the door:

1. Take Internships Seriously

I’ll be honest, my first internship was a total disaster. I was fearful and timid. I assumed all the other interns were smarter than me and if I dared speak up that someone was going to laugh at my question. I cruised through that internship, just happy to receive the credits and get back to my dorm room unscathed.

What a missed opportunity!

The greatest asset you can have to get hired in any realm of sports broadcasting is real life, hands-on experience. While in college do at least one internship at a local station and one at a regional (i.e. Fox Sports South, NESN) or national (i.e. ESPN, NFL Network) network. Local TV and regional/national networks run very differently, to have experience at each makes you a more valuable asset to a potential employer.

Also, consider interning at a sports website, most jobs are headed in the digital media direction, it is the future of broadcast, so having that experience along with traditional broadcasting makes you even more versatile.

If you are already out of school, consider volunteering at a local station or regional network. See if they need help logging tapes, running cables or assisting cameramen. Just like an internship, this is great experience and a way to build your network of industry contacts.

2. Be Observant

While on an internship or volunteering watch out for who is struggling to keep up and which departments are clearly under-staffed. Listen closely and you will become aware of inefficiencies in the workflow, inefficiencies you may be able to fill.

Windham Vance is currently a Graphics System Developer at ESPN and travels across the country running graphics for ESPN’s College GameDay, but his career wasn’t always that glamorous. “I started out at CNN as a Video Journalist and after 3-4 months of getting Leon Harris his morning Sobe I was frustrated and considered quitting” recalls Vance, “one day, I overheard the graphics operators complaining about how short-staffed they were so on my off-time I taught myself the Chyron Infinit. That skill led to a better job at CNN/Sports Illustrated and eventually ESPN – best eavesdropping I’ve ever done.”

Sports Reporter Adam Mikulich learned how to shoot video at a professional level and it helped him land his first on camera job

3. Develop a ‘Professional Level’ skill

When you graduate college it is assumed you know how to write, that you know the basic tenets of journalism and that you have some experience in the techniques of television production. Now you need to develop specific skills, outside of those basics, that will stand out to potential decision makers and hiring managers.

I was hired right out of college by CNN/Sports Illustrated and the main reason was because I had vast experience with non-linear editing systems and CNN was making a technological shift to non-linear editing. Having a professional level skill that CNN needed, stood out on my resume and got my foot in the door. After that, the rest was up to me to learn everything else and develop into a well-rounded employee.

People visit and only search for jobs that fit their current skills. What they should be doing is also looking for the skills that are needed and work on developing those. Use our sports broadcasting job board as a research tool to discover trends in the marketplace. Are networks looking for Final Cut Pro editors? Are they looking for experience on Grass Valley switchers? Are they looking for Pro Sounds audio equipment experience? Once you find out what is needed you can focus extra classwork, or continuing education, towards developing those skills.

4. Fertilize Your Network

Keep a record of all the feedback and tips received from industry professionals you’ve come in contact with. Not only is it a good practice to have a resource guide from industry veterans, but envision this powerful, and personal, follow-up:

“Just wanted to say thank you for teaching me so much during my recent internship. When you advised me on the proper way to edit a script, I learned something I can carry forward after I graduate in the spring. I really look forward to talking to you again in the near future.”

In one simple letter, you’ve:

  • shown you appreciated the opportunity and your supervisor’s time
  • proven that you paid attention
  • shown respect for their advice
  • told them when you are available for a full-time job

Deliver this style of message to anyone in the industry who has impacted you. And if you really want to stand out from the crowd, send it as a hand-written letter or card. Everyone sends emails; a card is much more memorable.

After those original cards, continue to provide value to your newly formed network. If you follow up by always asking “do you know of any jobs for me?” they will tire of you quickly. Try adding to what they already know about you, “I spent the summer learning Chyron and Final Cut Pro, so if you need any graphics ops or video editors I’m available to help” or provide them with something, “I’m going to be in the area next week, can I buy you lunch?”

Your professional network will be your eyes and ears for job opportunities, make sure they think of you first!

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Article by Brian Clapp

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2 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Eric says:

    I think the one thing that I keep seeing left out of these posts is the mention of ‘luck’. I interned with the Baltimore Ravens broadcast department, followed all the rules above and I continue to train myself in multiple software programs.

    The thing is, so many people are getting into this field that it’s difficult for people without 5+ years experience to get an interview, much less qualify for the position. Internships are easy to get, any company loves free/cheap labor. Where I’m finding the most difficult is making the jump from being an intern and soaking it all in to being a marketable professional who earns a self-sustaining salary.

    • Brian Clapp says:

      Eric you are absolutely right, luck plays a role in everything especially in this economy/job market. Back in the 90′s most internships were “just sit over there and watch kid…don’t touch anything”, now employers look at interns as valued free labor in order to keep their costs down. Interns are now doing the jobs that were reserved for entry level employees (I know this because as a News Director I started hiring interns to do more and more since my budget was getting pinched)

      With that said I still see 5-10 jobs per week that are great entry level positions across the nation. I don’t know your situation, but if you are flexible to move there are jobs out there. Also, be willing to accept jobs that might not be your ideal, just to get your foot in the door and grow from there. Trust me, the first job is the hardest to get…keep an eye on our job board, I’ll continue to focus on more entry level spots and if you have specific things you are looking for, shoot me an email and I’ll see if I can help. (even though I hate the Ravens) [email protected]

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