Reprogramming My Career
Growing up, I had a pretty good idea about what I wanted to do for a career. Where most kids would go into a department store and head directly to the toys section, my mom always knew she could find me in the electronics area.
I was fascinated by these machines called “computers,” and I would routinely stand in front of a demo area in the store and poke around on a Commodore 64 or Commodore 128. I would program them in BASIC and amaze the adults who would watch me make the screen scroll my name.
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So, it’s obvious that I would want to be a computer programmer, right? Not so fast. Yes, I could mess around on these computers for hours at a time (once I got my own), and yes, I became an expert on most things computers. However, I didn’t really have the drive to pursue something so complicated as programming.
I can safely say I went through my first two years of high school without even an idea of what I wanted to study in college. By 11th grade, I knew I wanted to work in television. I had moved to a school with a TV in every classroom, and the school had its own production facility that was generally run by the students. I took classes in television production, and I always watched intently as Channel One came on the classroom TV each day. I ended up studying radio and television production at the University of Houston. Here’s a link to a show I produced and directed in 1997 (28 minutes).
After college, I took a job at a couple of Houston-area television stations. Although the jobs were in my industry, they didn’t exactly cater to my talents. I specialized in studio production and field production, but I was stuck doing something called master control. In an nutshell, I was the guy who would switch between programs and commercials for these stations. There was really no production element involved in this at all.
I got a little discouraged, I guess, and started looking for another job that would get me into a control room and away from master control. I interviewed for and accepted a job at CNN here in Atlanta as a videojournalist. As a VJ, you’re entry level, but you can use that as a stepping stone to anything you wanted within the company. Still adamant to get myself into a control room, I advanced myself to another master control position, which is the natural progression to a control room job. I even lucked into a schedule where I could do the job I loved most.
I was technical directing a show called “World Report,” which was taped and not live. This particular slot on the master control schedule was unique because it allowed me the training to be a TD without actually being promoted into the position. This was a huge advantage when it came to testing for that next level to be a true technical director punching live news shows. I had taken a couple of TD tests, but there were certainly people who had waited longer than me for that job.
Then… 9/11 happened. Instantly, I lost the off-the-books technical director position I had in favor of programming changes at the network (Thanks, Osama). Over the next several months, I lost my knack for punching a show, and I just couldn’t seem to move up when testing for promotion. I thoroughly believed I had plateaued, and I started looking for other work.
My love of working in television had waned, and I needed to change course.
After two years of struggle, I joined the Air Force in 2004 and learned to become a public affairs officer. That’s essentially a government term for “public relations.” They trained me as both a PR pro and a journalist. My dad had served in the Air Force, and it really was a terrific fit for me.
My television background and experience with a major news organization gave me an advantage when it came to writing stories and developing new ways to communicate messages to the public.
I even managed to parlay my knowledge of film production into a couple of gigs as the base liaison to some Hollywood productions. I worked with “Monk,” “24,” “Transformers,” and “Iron Man.” Not all of it was fun and games, of course.
I spent most of 2009 in Baghdad serving as the media operations chief for all detainee operations in Iraq. It was a terrific experience, but spending all that time apart from my family was just a bit too much to bear. When I returned, I already had a tasking on my desk to go to Afghanistan in 2010. I said, “thanks, but no thanks” and put in my paperwork to leave the Air Force.
I got a federal job in DC, which was good, but ultimately I left the position as my wife’s job transferred her to Atlanta.
Since July, I’ve been out of work. I’ve applied to practically everything I can find in public relations, but nothing seems to be panning out. I’m apparently in the sweet spot where I’m overqualified for junior positions and under-qualified for more senior positions. Take a look at my resume for yourself.
I read an article that said if you wanted to get a job where writing is a key component, you better get blogging. In PR, communicating effectively through articles, social media, electronic media and any number of other techniques is critical.
I honestly don’t know if this blog will make a difference when it comes to an employer considering me for a job, but I know for a fact that this is a positive experience for me personally. I’m thrilled that so many of you have talked to me about these recent posts and said you learned something about me you hadn’t ever known.
Thank you! I’m not giving up.