“Successful careers don’t just happen. It’s a combination of working incredibly hard, surrounding yourself with the right people, seizing opportunities when you see them, and knowing what you want and going after it!” – Amy Davies, A Spark in the Dark
One of the lies you start to believe after working in television for many years is that you can’t do anything else. You convince yourself you have a specific skill set which doesn’t translate to any other business, except maybe public relations or real estate. I’m not sure where this idea came from, but I think it’s likely true in other fields, too.
In college and in the early years of a career, the options seem endless and the opportunities limitless, which can make it difficult to decide exactly which direction you want to take. But then, after spending years honing specific expertise on a certain path, it’s hard to see there is anything else out there. And that is when you start to feel “stuck.”
There are plenty of meteorology jobs outside of television, in the private sector, and for the government, but most are focused on research or education rather than operational. When you enjoy communicating weather and breaking down complex ideas into simple terms in an educational way, there aren’t a lot of other weather jobs that do that besides TV (and maybe teaching).
After years of waking up at 2:00 A.M. and realizing I was missing out on some prime time with my family, I started feeling restless in my career. I began to wonder if there was more out there for me. I started compiling a list of my skills which helped me gain confidence and I realized working in television news created proficiency in areas I had overlooked:
- Time Management: Balancing forecasting, graphic building, radio, social media, meetings, web updates, and severe storm coverage, takes planning and organization.
- Meeting Deadlines: The news starts at 4:30 AM sharp, every single day, whether the graphics are built or the forecast is ready or your hair is combed or not.
- Speaking: It might look effortless, but speaking clearly and concisely every single day for hours at a time, live, to an audience of thousands, is not as easy as it seems.
- Writing: Although the weather forecast is ad-libbed and not read from a script, many other things we do involve writing succinctly and intelligently.
- Communication: Most people think communicating simply means talking or writing, but communicating also involves making sure your message is received in the way it was intended. It involves both sending and receiving information.
- Multi-tasking in high-stress environments: It’s one thing to multi-task when the weather is sunny and pleasant; it’s an entirely different animal to do it when a Category 5 hurricane is barrelling toward your state (and family and home).
- Social Media Management: It seems that everyone today claims to be a social media “influencer” but there is a big difference between quantity and quality when it comes to social media presence and interaction. I have watched the TV weather community lead the way in social media adoption and use. If you have a business struggling with social media, hire a former TV meteorologist to give you some pointers. I would argue that at almost every television station across the country, the weather team is leading the charge in social media reach and interaction.
- Creativity: Just think of all the different ways I have learned to say “sunny and 70” during 40+ weathercasts each morning.
- Graphic design: Some larger TV stations have art departments to help build the weather graphics. Smaller stations have no one and the meteorologists are required to make every graphic you see during their weathercast.
There were other skills that translated as well:
- making boring/mundane topics interesting and engaging
- website content creation and editing
- crisis management
- administrative duties like typing, filing, and answering emails
I am thankful I have found freelance jobs after leaving full-time television weather that allow me to use my strengths to do something I enjoy while also paying my bills. I recognize this is not always the case for everyone. It was scary to think about leaving a career that provided so much fulfillment over the years.
If you’re an employer looking for employees, perhaps give consideration to former TV newsies. Their skillset might be just what you need.
If you are feeling stagnant or stuck in your job and you don’t feel like you can do anything else besides “this,” remember what my friend Amy Davies said in her book, A Spark in the Dark, “Well-networked professionals with years of experience and a positive professional reputation can work for themselves with more stability than any large organization can provide.” She goes on to say, “If your life is not as you imagined, make changes and take control. You only have one chance at this life. Make the most of it, and develop the skills you need to excel.”
Don’t be afraid to take the leap!