Rookie Mistakes in Trying to Start a Media Career

A photo of an apprehensive woman talking on her cell phone
If you are apprehensive about accepting your first job in media, think about the alternative of having to wait months to get another offer. Photo © VisitBritain / Getty Images

Every year, thousands of college students graduate with various degrees in the media industry. Most of them know that landing that first media job is tough ​because there are way more applicants than there are openings.

Even with that knowledge, countless media rookies make mistakes that keep them from getting a job offer. Instead of being humble and appreciative, they make unrealistic demands when a potential boss shows interest.

Media Rookie Mistake: Wanting Too Much Money

College graduates should be told that entry-level media jobs come with low starting salaries. When the supply is much larger than the demand, media companies can get away with paying less. They know someone will take the job.

But when some rookies talk money during their media job interview, they can come across as arrogant. That's especially true when they have little to no real work experience beyond an internship or two.

The person doing the hiring can simply move on to another candidate. At the entry level, the differences between the top candidate for a job and the second or third pick are usually negligible. That makes it easier for the hiring manager to give up on the top pick and look for someone else. There's not much incentive to get into a drawn-out negotiation with a job candidate who doesn't have a track record.

An entry-level media candidate would be wise in taking that first job.

Getting experience is far better than turning down a job offer and spending the next six months hoping the phone will ring. You can always ask for a pay raise after you've proven your worth.

Media Rookie Mistake: Focusing on Your Dream Job

It's only natural that someone starting a career in radio wants to be a drive-time radio personality.

Someone who's been offered a job as a starting TV news reporter instead wants the cushy position as a TV news anchor.

Those dream jobs will come in time with hard work and by paying your dues in the trenches. Yet many new media graduates fixate themselves on the job that won't likely come without five to ten years of experience. If they can't get their dream job now, then they don't want any starting job in media.

That mentality can sink a media career before it even begins. A person who wants to be on camera at a TV station would be wise to take a behind-the-scenes job as a news producer or similar position. That way skills can be developed without the added pressure of performing on the air.

Any skill or talent you can develop is valuable. A reporter may begin work as a news photographer. But even so, that person still goes to the scene of news, finds out what's going on and produces something that becomes part of the story.

Media Rookie Mistake: Making Unreasonable Contract Demands

It can be an exhilarating experience to be offered your first real media contract. It sounds so Hollywood.

But some media rookies decide to act like someone from Hollywood in making demands while negotiating their contract.

It's one thing for a seasoned media pro to ask for a larger wardrobe allowance, but it can send the wrong signal when someone fresh out of college threatens to walk if the company doesn't give her free weekly manicures.

At most companies, the majority of a contract contains standard language that isn't easy to change. While it is critical to understand what's in a contract before signing it, some entry-level media workers who get their parents' lawyer to dispute every detail run the risk of sinking the deal.

Sure, a company will try to protect itself if you turn out to be a dud and need to be dismissed. But an entry-level worker who demands clauses in order to get more perks or to be able to get a job elsewhere will look like a difficult employee. Few media bosses want that kind of person around.

You won't be a media rookie forever. Once you've built your resume, then it's time to seek more money, your dream job or a more flexible contract. Patience is what is required until that time arrives.