My First Jobs - A Little Luck and a Lot of Chutzpah

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I've always believed in teaching by example. When I was about to graduate (more years ago than I care to admit), the economy was in a downturn. It was not quite as serious as this one, but still considered a recession. Interest rates were through the roof, inflation was more than 14%, unemployment was around 8%, and the country had just gone through a severe gasoline shortage that had caused gas lines and gas rationing.

Of course, being young and foolish, I ignored one of the biggest tips I now give out to college students when looking for a first job. I was focused on finding a job in only one place, Washington, DC. It was an exciting, vibrant city and I loved politics. Fortunately, I followed much of the rest of the advice I give students. I combed through job listings, talked to people I knew, or my parents knew, made phone calls, and played up the real world experience I had (two internships at newspapers) on my resume.

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I wound up with an amazing job, thanks largely to some chutzpah (the Yiddish term for ballsiness) and a little luck.

I heard of an opening for a press secretary for a U.S. Representative from southern Indiana. I was from northern Indiana. So, I contacted some people who worked in the office of the Congressman from my family's district and bugged them about the best way to get the job. They were impressed enough with my courage, questioning, and my resume to get me in for an interview. Fortunately for me, the job was fairly low paying and I was willing to scrape by to get the experience. Thanks to making sure I had some real work experience, combined with perseverance and resourcefulness, I had my first job.

It was the same story with my second job, when I decided after a couple of years that I wanted to actually work in the world of journalism. This time, I heeded my own advice and told myself I would go wherever the job would take me. I sent resumes out to TV stations across the country. But, the job I got came about all because of a magazine ad that had nothing to do with job openings. It was an ad in Time magazine, soliciting companies to buy advertising for some new, unheard of 24-hour cable news operation called the Cable News Network. When I saw it, I told myself that these guys must be hiring since they were starting from scratch. So, I sent a letter and a resume to the address in Atlanta that was in the magazine ad, and told them I was willing to do any job.

A couple of weeks later, I got a call from someone who said they worked at CNN. I was asking myself, "WCNN - where is that TV station located?", until I realized he was talking about the Cable News Network. He told me they were interested in hiring me as a writer. I asked when he wanted me to come in for an interview and he said "We're hiring hundreds of people, we aren't doing a lot of interviews. We're offering you a job. If you think you're good, take it and come down to Atlanta. If you stink, we'll fire you." And that's how I got my first job in broadcast news.

The moral of these stories - think outside the box, use every resource you can think of, and take some chances to get that first job.

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