Most of my brainstorming for blogs comes when I am driving down the road, listening to some thought-provoking music (alright, it’s usually something in the hip-hop genre, since I’m usually driving home from work and looking to let loose). This afternoon, graduation was on my mind, because I have seen so many Facebook statuses and Tweets regarding friends of mine that graduated over the weekend and are now beginning to figure out what their next step will be.
Then I realized that it’s been almost two years to the date since I was that graduate, looking to start a career in sports but having no idea how I was going to go about doing that. I didn’t get hired for my first professional job until July 1, but I considered myself a professional as soon as I moved back to Atlanta to start job-hunting.
So here I am, 24 months later, looking back on the first two years of my career. Minute, minuscule and yet so crucial in the big picture.
So what went right and what could I do better in the next two years?
First of all, if you told me I wouldn’t be working in sports two years after I graduated, I would have assumed something went wrong with the sports world and it would have been a result of not being able to find employment there.
But if you told me I’d be working in weather, then … wow. Sports and weather, the two passions of mine.
And I’ve worked in both of them in my first two years. Talk about a dream come true.
I’ve gotten to write for Turner Sports, Lincoln Financial and now The Weather Channel/NBC Universal/Comcast. My writing has been viewed over a million times, a staggering number when I see it.
I’ve been lucky enough to cover the TOUR Championship, the Braves, the Falcons, the Hawks, Georgia Tech Football and Basketball, the SEC Basketball Tournament and the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
I’ve shot the you-know-what with Christian Ponder, TJ Yates and Joe Schad at ACC Media Days, gone toe-to-toe with Paul Johnson and had the chance to shake hands with Jimbo Fisher and give him words of encouragement from the entire FSU fanbase.
And later this month, I’ll be in the middle of nowhere, chasing tornadoes for The Weather Channel. It will be one of the coolest experiences of my life.
So if you’re a recent grad or someone looking for some words of advice — first of all, I’m only 24, so I’m not sure how much expertise I can lend. But if I could tell you one thing that you have to know, it’s this:
Too many people think they are paying their dues when they’re hardly doing anything above and beyond. For those of us who had to build their contacts from the ground up, it takes a lot extra.
I spent an entire season covering Georgia Tech Football for free. Free. I was an intern with 790 The Zone, and I wanted to hone my skills as a journalist and meet some good people while getting close to their football team.
I did all of the above. And even after all the trips downtown, working from 9 a.m. until long after the sun had gone down was a big deal to those who saw what I was doing. Then, I’d go home from Tech at night and watch our local teams’ games (updating our social media followers on scores and stats) while writing stories for the website on GT Football. It was all in the name of getting my career off on the right foot.
Accept social media as well. If you work for a company that has a decent social media plan, offer to help and make it better. You’re the youngster, so be what they expect you to be — ahead of the curve when it comes to technology. Social media is the easiest way to do that.
Bridges aren’t meant to be burned, and every time you do, you strike no fewer than one contact off your list. But strike the wrong contact from your list, and you may lose your chance to work in an entire industry.
When you get your first chance in the sports world, don’t take it for granted. Thousands of people are killing themselves to get into the business, and it should be fun. It really is fun, and I should extend this to any form of media, because it’s just as true in weather.
Take it seriously, because it’s your career. Be willing to work extra hours by the dozens, and if you don’t get paid, oh well. It will catch up in the end, and there’s nothing wrong with living at home while you build your career.
Here’s to another great two years, and I hope the first two years of everyone’s career can be just as memorable.