As a person who is often made very anxious when thinking more than a few weeks in advance, I admit I was intimidated when speaking to a lot of the recruiters at the Buffalo Broadcasters Association job fair. Despite that, I am really glad I went, because in stepping out of my comfort zone, I learned a lot of valuable information about what I need to do going forward.

The Buffalo Broadcaster’s Association Job Fair was held this past Saturday, April 23rd. It was held downtown at the WNED TV studios, and began with a panel discussion with some industry professionals. Following the panel discussion, they opened the floor for questions, and after the question period ended everybody was allowed to get up and move around the room to the many tables. There were somewhere around 15 different organizations/businesses to speak to, including Audacy (KISS 98.5, WGR550), Comcast (97ROCK), Spectrum, WKBW, and more. The event began at 9 am, and ended at 2 pm.

The panel discussion was very helpful to hear about the experiences of current working journalists and media industry professionals. They discussed at length how they got into the industry, some of their advice, and then answered questions about how to make a portfolio, when to record a standup and how to appropriately do that, and other important facets of the job.

I raised my hand to ask a question that I thought I knew the answer to, but I have to admit I was taken aback by the bluntness of the panel’s answer. I asked, “What would be your thoughts or advice to a student considering graduate school? Do you recommend it, would you recommend against it, and what do you think are the benefits or drawbacks of doing that before getting a job.”

The panel chuckled actually, before handing the microphone around and each member essentially boiled it down. “Don’t go to grad school. It’s a waste of time and money.” They did add that if I was seriously considering it, try to work for a company like Spectrum, who has programs where they pay for their employees to attend grad school.

I, a person who you may have guessed because I asked the question, was like 80% sure my next step was going to be grad school, was very surprised to hear how definitive that answer was. I followed it up quickly with “If there was a graduate assistantship opportunity, how would that change your advice, if it changes it at all.” I asked this because it seemed like financial reasons were sort of the driving force behind their reasoning.

It did not change their opinion.

So the question/answer period ended, and I had to take a moment to re-assess my future plans. I had allowed myself to decide on grad school so quickly because I knew it was the safe option. I’d been waking up in the morning and going to school for basically 18 years of my life, if you count preschool through senior year of college, so just continuing to do the school thing seemed like it would only require a minor adjustment.

After I walked some of the tables and the recruiters shared the same sentiment, that grad school would probably not help me that much, I was very much feeling anxious in an already pretty tense environment. However, I needed to network, so I forged on hoping one of the companies might have some information that could lift my confidence.

I had dilly-dallied to start talking to recruiters at the tables, so I began at the only empty table, the table for the Buffalo Broadcaster’s Association. I asked about some of their events, they gave me an application, and I relented to filling it out at home, as I felt bad enough for clearly wasting their time. My mind was thinking about way too many other things.

I had a polite conversation with Kevin Carr from Audacy, but it did not really lead anywhere, except for me awkwardly handing him one of my newly printed business cards and sort of hoping he doesn’t recycle it on his way out. I appreciated his honesty, and he actually remembered my name from his previous internship applications. Long story short, WGR cannot take interns because Audacy requires them to be paid, and WGR just doesn’t have the budget. So the internship I had really thought would lead directly to a job sort of fell through before it even got started. I was impressed he remembered my name from the throng of applications he certainly always gets for jobs and internships alike.

I then visited the Spectrum table, where I received the temporary confidence boost I had been hoping for. I spoke with their talent acquisition program manager, Meghan Abraham, who is based out of Albany. She and another gentleman, who I did not get a business card from and unfortunately do not remember his name, quite flatteringly complimented my appearance, and said I “look the part” of someone who could be a sports reporter. After they asked for a resume, which I did not have because my printer at home was out of ink, I handed them a business card to which the man replied, “You’ve just really impressed me. This shows me you’re a guy who has his stuff together.”

Meghan then echoed everyone else’s advice: “don’t do grad school. If you really want to, Spectrum has a program where they’ll pay to send you to grad school, but it shouldn’t be your plan A.” Towards the end of our very productive conversation, said I most likely had two options.

Option 1: Relocate, and probably get a job in sports right away, for example, in Syracuse, where Spectrum has an open sports multimedia journalist position.

Option 2: Stay in Buffalo, or the immediate surrounding area, and try to get a job in news, and then after a few years try to work my way into the sports department.

I left their table feeling pretty interesting, and then had to leave the event to go to work. The conversation we had inspired a lot of critical thinking on my part, and I have been mulling over my future plans ever since. The future is a scary place, and hopefully I can gather the confidence to eventually make a decision about it.