by Alyssa Hanna ('12)- Guest Blogger
It’s been 2 years now since I walked through the deceivingly heavy doors of the National Geographic Channel to begin a journey with one of the world’s biggest television networks. Getting from Point A (The Senior Terrace at Westminster) to Point B (My little desk nook in the heart of Washington DC) was quite the process. But who said this was ever going to be easy?
People don’t just “stumble” into a great job. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this, you’re not one of them. I worked my butt off in college attempting to make a name for myself. I joined every possible group on campus, somehow convinced the school to give me money to travel the world for my capstone documentary, and applied to roughly 5 unattainable jobs a week throughout my senior year.
For some crazy reason, I was just shocked that CNN wasn’t offering to let me film their next feature documentary… At Westminster we are given SO many opportunities to succeed and stand out, which gives some of us (or maybe just me) an unrealistic expectation that employers will be falling over themselves to hand over a dream job with a fabulous salary. LOL, people. We are on the lowest end of the totem pole, and it’s important to realize where the real opportunities for us are, and have the wisdom to discover how we can work our way up.
Eventually, I began utilizing my resources. One thing that was stressed during my college career, but never implemented until I was a springtime Senior, was NETWORKING. Networking is my favorite. Networking is wonderful. Networking is my thing. I am constantly networking. On my family vacation at the Grand Canyon, I met someone who knew the CEO of a television network. I emailed him that week and interviewed with him the following month. He became my boss that spring. Networking is how I have my current job, and what will likely get me every future job for the next 30 years. And I owe the start of it all to one particular Westminster alum.
While at Westminster, I participated in a student/alumni program through SAA. I was able to connect with a former Westminster graduate named Mark Finkelpearl (’89). He has worked for big networks and companies all over the country. We emailed or spoke on the phone every few weeks, and he provided amazing advice for getting a head start in the business. My first job after graduation was with Pittsburgh’s WPXI, but when I was ready to leave the news world, Mark was there with a list of names that I could contact from networks like Discovery, History, National Geographic, and a slew of production companies. I tend to straddle the line between annoying and politely aggressive when it comes to following up with people. Fortunately, I’m in the right field for that.
Mark invited me to join him at one of the biggest non-fiction television conferences in the world where companies pitch show ideas, attend executive panels, and network schmooze with everyone in the business. While there, I schmoozed with the best of them. My business cards were flying from my fingers like parade candy. That weekend, I followed up with every single person I met. And before I knew it, I was interviewing for one of the jobs they told me about. That job happened to be with National Geographic. And I’ve been working here ever since. I haven’t stopped networking just because I have a job. To this day, I make it rain with my business cards everywhere I go. Anyone working in TV can tell you how essential it is to keep your connections alive.