Published April 19, 2012
I emailed back and forth with my contact at MSU for a couple of weeks trying to determine if the program really was going to be a good fit. The information he gave me was very helpful, but eventually I felt like he’d told me all he could. I needed someone else to turn to find answers to my remaining questions. But who? Then I had the most brilliant idea. Why not ask if he could put me in touch with an alumnus of the program… a recent graduate who had a successful start to his or her career? A fresh perspective on the program and the job was exactly what I needed. So I asked, and he responded with contact info for two recent grads, both of whom he was sure would be more than happy to help. That was easy!
Since the field I am interested in is broadcast meteorology, it wasn’t hard to Google both of the contacts he recommended. I found their bios and a few video reels on their respective news station’s websites. I felt more of a connection with the woman working in South Carolina (maybe because she coincidentally works at the same station as one of my journalism friends from UMD), so I decided to go ahead and get in touch with her.
I started with a short and sweet email to introduce myself. I complimented her work on screen, to emphasize the fact that I’d done my research and was interested in talking to her personally. I ended by asking if she wouldn’t mind answering a few of my questions about broadcast meteorology and MSU. Personally, I prefer to stick to email, but it can also be a good idea to offer to speak over the phone (or in person). For instance, a few months prior I had gotten in touch with my old 8th grade earth science teacher (he does the weather part time for our local station) – and he preferred to meet up and have a conversation in person. Everyone has a different style, but when someone is doing a favor for you, it’s a good idea to follow their lead.
Lucky for me, since South Carolina is a bit too far from my then-home in Pennsylvania, the woman was fine communicating via email. I sent her a long list of questions all in one shot and anxiously awaited her response. I asked things like:
· Do you believe MSU prepared you well for a career in the field?
· Did the program find a good balance between Broadcast and Meteorology coursework?
· Was campus an enjoyable and comfortable place to live/study?
· Does any of your work in the station draw from a more creative skill set? For example, do you create any of the weather maps, or are you involved with any writing?
· What is an average day of work like?
· In our current economy, would you recommend pursuing a career in Broadcast Meteorology, or is can it be difficult to find a steady position?
Of course, if you want to get in touch with an alumnus from the program you’re considering, you will have to tailor your questions accordingly. In this case, however, I cannot tell you how unbelievably helpful her responses were. In respect to the university, she had only good things to say. She loved the campus, the town and the people. She said the courses gave her all the skills she needed to forecast, and the program did a great job of preparing her for her first job. She also said that if I want to go into broadcast meteorology, “MSU is the place to go.” After talking with her, I was finally starting to agree! In respect to a career after school, everything she said sounded exciting. There was nothing about her day-to-day job that I wouldn’t enjoy myself. From forecasting to presenting weather as a “story” to creating my own graphics, I knew I would love it all. Combining both science and communications, it was exactly the type of work environment I was looking for.
On top of all that, she was friendly and passionate about her work. It was encouraging to hear her words of praise about the program – but more than anything, it was a relief to know that I might get to go to school and work with people like her. She made me feel like I would be joining a great community... and when you’re leaving home for something new, that makes taking the first step much easier.
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Rachael has a B.S. in Geography from the University of Maryland and is currently applying to graduate school for broadcast meteorology.
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