10 things Sports Broadcasters look for in a fresh graduate

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How many people can claim to love their job? Not many. Don’t believe me, just try asking your friends.

The reason I’m posing that question to you (reading this article) is because – you can’t expect to find job satisfaction if you choose the wrong career. I know it sounds like a ‘no brainer’, but you’d be surprised how many people decide to embark on a career not based on their interest, but based on convenience. Yes, I understand that there are a lot of factors that go into selecting your career choice – what your parents want / will it pay well / location / benefits etc. But shouldn’t the main criteria be interest? Apart from family life and friends, most human beings spend 60% of their lives at work. Ok I made that stat up, but it sounds believable right? Imagine doing something you don’t particularly enjoy, every single day. Yes, it just doesn’t make sense.

My interest growing up was art and sports. I ended up studying fine arts and film. And now I work in a sports TV channel. Perfect marriage. Yes, I know not many people are as fortunate as I am, but my response to that: TRY.

If you love sports, try your level best to make it as an elite athlete – if that fails, take up coaching. Try sports journalism, reporting. But don’t expect to realize your dream (or edge closer to it) if you take up a job as a PR assistant at a hotel.

If you love singing, take up singing classes – enter singing contests, offer to sing in your school prom – do a degree in music. Teach young kids music lessons for pocket money. If you don’t make it as a singer or performer, don’t run away – stay close to what you enjoy doing – maybe learn how to produce tracks, be an audio engineer.

So, take that leap of faith. Don’t opt for the easy route – it will pay off. Literally and also emotionally. I promise.

I’ve been in the media industry for over 10 years now – sports TV for 8. So I’ll share with you what I know best, but rest assured this can apply to any industry you plan to jump into. Well, almost.

Here are 10 things sports broadcasters look for in a fresh grad.

1. “LOVE”

“Love” is a term I use a lot. What does it mean? It means, heart. It means, passion. You can’t teach someone to put love into their work. It comes naturally. These are the kinds of people I would hire in a heartbeat. Pun intended. Love is taking an hour to get the layout and images right for a full frame graphic that lasts 15 seconds on air. Love is saying no to shortcuts. Love is doing whatever it takes, to make your product shine. An old colleague once told me that he stayed in this industry for 16 years even though he studied Psychology in University, because there is nothing more rewarding to him than seeing his work appear on TV. The lines the presenter was reading was written by him. The manager’s post match interview clip was selected and edited by him. And sports fans all over Asia was consuming his ‘messages’. It was borderline ‘power trip’, but I realized that he was so proud to be ‘communicating’ to a few million people, every single day. And there was a strong sense of responsibility to give nothing but 100% every single time, because that product was essentially ‘created’ by you. If someone isn’t able to appreciate how powerful his or her role is in the entire scheme of things, then they do not belong in this sports TV ‘universe’.

2. “SPORTING”

Of course, if you want to do Sports TV, you have to love sports. Again, this is something you can’t train someone to do. You’re either sporty or not. But being interested in sports doesn’t cut it – you need to live sports, and be mad about it. Let me give you an example, when I joined a reputable sports network in Singapore, back in 2006, there was another guy who joined the team with me on the same day – he had 8 years experience producing films in New Zealand, spoke good English and looked the part. He joined as an Assistant Producer with a colorful CV but wasn’t much of a sports fan. Well, let me put it this way, he couldn’t tell Arsene Wenger from Sir Alex Ferguson. This was a problem. A big one. Needless to say, he was asked to leave after a month. To be brutally honest, if you have number 1 and number 2, you are pretty much hired in my eyes. The rest are just a bonus for the team. I always tell this to my team at Astro SuperSport, YOU are the target audience – make shows that you will enjoy watching. That’s the number 1 rule. Yes, and you can probably imagine, we have a lot of Mr Know-It-All(s) in our team. Great, and sometimes necessary, for a sports broadcasting team to click.

3. “A BEAUTIFUL MIND”

Ok that was just a nice title. What I really mean is: someone who has a mind of their own. I’m not kidding – 80% of the students/fresh grads/applicants I speak to, refuse to think. I’m looking for opinions – someone who is capable of generating thoughts and ideas, and who isn’t afraid to vocalize it. Yes, I know most of you are worried about sounding or looking silly – you don’t want to say the wrong things. I understand that. Let me tell you this – someone who is not afraid of looking silly with the hope of learning, will stand out from the crowd. Ask lots of questions, everything. Yes, including THAT one you think might sound lame. Ask. It shows me that you are thinking. And that you’re putting a piece of a puzzle up in your head. A lot of what you observe in the first month may or may not make any sense to you – but it will. Soon. It is also a confidence issue – I know. But you have to break the barrier or it will break you. Simple things like ‘what you like’, and ;what you don’t is a start. During production meetings, I always ask members of the team for their thoughts. Say it! Whatever is in your head. If you say, you don’t have anything to say, that to me – is a red flag.

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4. “STREET SMART”

Grades and degrees are very important. But being ‘street smart’ is MORE important. When I say ‘street smart’ I don’t mean, good sense of direction – I mean the ability to think outside of the box. Before you throw your shoe at your computer screen, I’m not saying that a fresh grad with straight As will not get a job in a Sports Television channel. And I’m not downplaying the value of education – getting good grades requires a lot of discipline, which to me says a lot about a person. I am a recipient of 3 scholarships in my tertiary education, so grades matter. BUT my point is this – being book smart has its limitations, especially in this line of work. Everyday, strange and unexplained things occur in the TV world – things your lecturers don’t teach in university. From my experience, 7 times out of 10, someone who is ‘street smart’ will trust their instincts and find a solution, because they are fearless. Often times, all the preparation in the world can’t prevent problems from occurring. It just does. That’s life. We once hired a producer who had a Masters Degree in Theatre and Media. During the interview, he said all the right things. It got him the job but he struggled to perform. A big part of why he simply couldn’t click was down to the fact that we didn’t work like how it was said in textbooks, written thesis and case studies. The real world works differently – a lot of things happen at the very last minute, things that were planned get thrown out the window, technology fails etc. Instead of complaining and whining about the flaws of the system, try and work towards being the solution. This attribute makes you very valuable to the team.

5. “JACK OF ALL TRADES”

Yes I can already see your eyebrows rising. The reason I say this is because – when you are a fresh grad, I want someone who can get their hands dirty, everywhere. In graphics, on the field, doing research, writing. The works. Let me give you an example – we have 4 production assistants in our team. Usually everyone gets a specific show to work on regularly. This gives them time to be very familiar with the style of the show, what is required, how much preparation is needed etc. It can be very specific at times. There was one week, when the PA assigned to a given show fell sick. The person next in line, was away on a break because it was a festive season. We had to scramble to find the best person to fill in – and that unlucky person had no experience working on that show. As expected, sh*t happened during recording. I’m not exaggerating, it was awful. There was a long delay, a lot of mistakes were made and it was a case of the blind leading the blind. To cut the story short, that PA who was on a break – is one of the most versatile we have on the team. He may not have been assigned to all shows but he made it a point to learn everything. He wasn’t picky on what his job scope covered. His versatility is priceless. He’s been with the team for 2 years+ now and in that short space of time, he’s been given field producing roles and is now actively producing one of our weekly shows. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great if you’re a ‘Master of One’ but not when you are a fresh grad. Another example, we’ve got a host in the team, Reuben,  who is also a very accomplished cameraman and director, his name is almost always first on the list when it comes to overseas travel shoots – because you can kill 2 birds with 1 stone.

6. “CONTROL FREAK”

The term control freak almost always carriers a negative connotation. Yes, it can be a bad thing – sometimes. But more often than not, I would definitely hire someone who is obsessed with their work, especially as a fresh grad. Because to me, that shows that the person cares for their work, and takes pride in everything they do. The challenge is this – normally when a fresh grad breaks into the team, they will work on graphics; that is the starting point. And while it can be very technical in the beginning, if you’re a fast learner, by 6-8 months, you will be pretty smooth on the software – they can do it with their eyes closed, figuratively. The phase after that is what I refer to as the ‘9 month itch’ – the period when they start feeling restless and feel they can contribute more. There are 2 possible outcomes here: 1 – they start pushing for more say in shows, contribute more ideas and bug their supervisors until they get an opportunity or 2 – they get bored, complain about the lack of advancement, and leave. That hunger to do more is great! Some excel at it, but strangely, some reject it. One person comes to mind, Edmond. His job title may be Assistant Producer but he does pretty much everything. Generally, he assists the producers for the live broadcast of BPL, but every now and then he gets assigned to produce one match – this is when he shines. He goes over and beyond to do things HIS WAY. I love that. Hosts love that. The audience loves that.

7. “THICK SKINNED”

Criticism will come from your peers, your supervisors – and with social media, the viewers too. While it is good to be affected by it (because it shows that you care), it can drive you insane trying to please everyone. You have to take in the feedback, evaluate it and see how you can improve your product. Working in this line, you see all kinds of characters – some who constantly defend themselves by making excuses, some who get upset and start b*tching about you to others, some who cry. Nobody likes making mistakes but the best way to learn is to accept criticism and challenge yourself to never be in that position ever again. It is very hard to work with people who keep a grudge – because it’s vital to draw a line between work and fun. When it’s work related, everyone should take things seriously, but when you’re done with your respective shows, you can do anything you like.

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8. “HAS FRIENDS”

Sure, everyone has friends. Right? So why is this important? The nature of our work is such that communication is key – like with many jobs, to be fair. The most skilful worker at work who cannot communicate his or her idea to a team, is useless in the world of TV. There are a million levels of communication during the process of filming a show. Some of you may question – what if I can perform without being sociable? My response to that: it’s possible, but you won’t enjoy work. Of course, the reverse is also true – you could have someone who is very sociable, but not a great worker. Yes, that happens too BUT I will definitely have my doubts. What you will find is that, because the team works together for such long hours day in, day out, you end up spending a lot of time with your colleagues. So if you struggle to get along with other people, this will become a problem.

9. “WEARS MAGNIFYING GLASSES”

It’s not fair to expect fresh grads to have a long term view of their careers. I was once a fresh grad, I know. But for the select few who do have this gift, it’s a joy to work with. Yes, I am referring to the dreaded S word: salary. In no way am I suggesting that people should sell themselves short, what I want to emphasise is perspective. Salary should not be your motivation, it is your reward. If you keep changing jobs when another company offers you a higher salary, your progress will be very limited and disrupted. It’s like almost changing cars but always reverting back to gear 1. Yes, odd analogy but true. I always tell this to my subordinates, focus on being the best at what you do – the best editor, the best scriptwriter, the best reporter, the best studio director, anything. Respect your career and give it your best shot. Because, I honestly believe that if you make that your motivation, money will find you. Let’s face it, companies look for the best candidates, and if you’re the BEST out there, they will hire you. Don’t worry about that part. You should just give 101% on being the best at what you do. Trust me. So if your first question in the interview is, how much are you offering me? I know I won’t be hiring you. Of course, different employers think differently but – in general, you get paid for what you’re worth. Look at the bigger picture. Try.

10. “OWNS A THUMBDRIVE”

As trivial as it sounds, owning a thumbdrive is very important. In terms of functionality, of course, you need it all the time. But I mean more that – I’m talking about being resourceful. I have a colleague – his name is Keith. He carries this little bag around with him all the time – it has everything you need. I mean everything. Pens, phone chargers, paper. Everything. A fork, string, water colour. Everything. He is Mr Resourceful. The most useful person to have around, anytime. Aim to be that person. Of course there are times when you need to be ‘rescued’, it happens to everyone – but do not allow yourself to be the person who doesn’t have anything. Because not only will you come across as annoying, you become a liability. So start shopping – make it a habit to always be prepared. There is no such thing as being ‘over-prepared’.