My name is Dan, and I’m a producer for NBC Olympics.
I won’t lie: I’m proud whenever someone asks me what I do. NBC is one of the world’s leading media companies, and the Olympics are arguably the most renowned sporting event on the planet.
But more than just my title, I genuinely love my job: The work is exciting, my boss – also an NYU alumnus - is great, and I’m part of an extremely dedicated and unified team.
Plus, we have free pinball machines and a ping pong table in our building’s game room. Since I cover table tennis (it’s been an Olympic sport since 1988), I can technically say I’m doing research when I play.
But my professional life wasn’t always this good. When I graduated college, I was unemployed – and terrified.
For the first time, my days were without structure: I had no classes to attend, no job related to my field of study, and I moved back home to live with my parents. I sent out dozens of cover letters and resumes into online portals and got few, if any, responses.
Then one night in October 2012, I randomly met someone in a bar who gave me his card. I saw him for coffee – a more appropriate business drink – the next week. He forwarded my resume to someone and, after several interviews, I started as an East Coast Page for NBCUniversal a few months later.
My point is: It took a little while (and a good deal of luck), but things eventually got much, much better.
The hardest thing about giving general graduation advice is that it’s not specific to you as a reader. I don’t know you, your ambitions, or your current job situation. But chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re an intelligent, determined and creative person. You wouldn’t have been admitted to – let alone graduated from – America’s dream school if you didn’t possess those qualities. And those are great features to have when looking for employment in any industry.
So I’m going to rattle off a few things I’ve learned that have helped me both professionally and personally. I hope something resonates with you.
· Reach out to anyone with a job title that interests you. Worst-case scenario: You won’t hear back from that person, and you’ll be no worse off than when you started. Best-case scenario: You make a connection within the industry, get insights into a cool position, or even land some sort of related gig. Alumni databases and LinkedIn are your best friends.
· Be persistent with your connections. As an introvert, I always worried whether I was bothering someone. Was I sending too many emails? Was what I wrote too forceful? Now that I’m in the working world, I understand how busy the average employee is. Just stick to your common sense: Most people are not bothered by an email every other week, especially because it often serves as a reminder to respond to someone.
On a related note, it’s much harder to keep in touch with former employers when you’re no longer in the building. Occasional contact with internship supervisors after you leave a position will serve you well in the future.
· In the beginning, be willing to compromise. Very few people get the chance to, say, write and direct a feature film straight out of college. But if you have an end goal in mind, take a position that you think will eventually lead you to where you want to go – even if the hours aren’t great, or the pay is low. You might even take a gig you’d never heard of before – what exactly is a “digital marketing consultant”, anyway? Well, it could be your dream job – but you won’t know unless you give it a shot.
· Be grateful and enthusiastic. Whenever I come into New York from Connecticut, I pass by a large sign that says “Grattitude”. It took someone much smarter than myself to point out that the misspelling is intentional. People notice when you maintain a grateful attitude. And in a popular industry where many suitable candidates are available for a given position, positivity can make all the difference in getting hired and staying employed.
· Consider travel. Think Los Angeles might work for you? Do your research, make some contacts, and go for it. It’s a large world with so many different people and opportunities. Contrary to popular belief, there is life outside New York.
· Listen. When you listen to someone (especially a boss or co-worker), you’re basically getting a verbal map that illustrates to how to do your job well.
· Most importantly: Don’t give up, especially on yourself. I’ve been guilty of this far too many times. If something is professionally significant to you, then you simply cannot give up on it. Of course, you need to incorporate logic: Sorry, but it’s objectively unrealistic you’ll become the first astronaut to pet a puppy on Saturn.
So make a plan, learn as many related skills as possible (in general, software is a huge plus), and try to come up with a creative way to get (positive) attention from the people who are hiring. Keep in touch with the Tisch Office of Career Development or anyone else who you think might help. Success won’t always come easily, but if you work hard and are confident and resilient, you will get closer to achieving your goals.
If I can ever be of any assistance, please don’t hesitate to email, text, call, or carrier pigeon me. (Is “carrier pigeon” a verb? Let’s pretend it is.)
All the best,
Dan Levinsohn, Class of 2012