If you’re looking to work in television or broadcast journalism, stiff competition is a given. While this might be seen as a deterrent by most, Natalia Verdina made the decision to see it as a mission. Working as a TV reporter for Univision, which has one of the largest Spanish-language television viewerships in the world, she’s learned how to make moves in the aggressive world of modern journalism. Though the hours are long and deadlines loom large, her passion for her job and her tenacious go-getter attitude carry her through, and can provide a major dose of inspiration and motivation to people in any field. Here’s the story of how she pushed through numerous hardships and rejections and claimed her spot behind the news desk.
Name: Natalia Verdina
Twitter handle: @nataliaverdina
Occupation: News Reporter, Univision
Secretly Obsessed With: Gossip Girl
On My Nightstand: A Thousand Splendid Suns
Last Thing You Read: The Kite Runner
How did you get started?
I decided to pursue broadcast journalism the day a news reporter came to discuss her career with my freshman mass communications class. It seemed exciting, colorful and had the added perk of being on TV (if I’m being honest). Nevertheless, I found out quickly it was a competitive field, and from that moment on, I’ve never stopped working to make it happen.
When I was in college, I didn’t have a car, so my internship opportunities were limited. It was not until the end of my junior year that I was able to start working as a news desk assistant at a local news station. While everyone else was enjoying their college student lifestyle, I worked part-time at the station, served as a residential assistant, and [was] a full-time student. I don’t think I stopped to breathe that whole year because I juggled a massive workload.
As graduation neared, I began applying for reporting positions in small markets. Not one response. I even tried hand-writing personalized letters to news directors asking for pointers. That didn’t work either. One day, during a night shift at the station, a producer encouraged me into considering Spanish-language media. That was the game changer. It wasn’t easy, but after re-working my demo reel, and numerous emails and phone calls back and forth, I finally got my first news-reporting job at Univision.
What key elements played into your success?
Persistence. I learned nothing you really want will ever be handed to you. I knew I wanted to be a TV news reporter, and no matter how difficult it seemed to achieve at time,s I would always think to myself, “If others can do it, then I can do it. Period.”
It was incredibly discouraging to hear nothing after sending my demo reel to a handful of stations, but I knew that just meant I had to work harder. If it meant shadowing reporters the year after graduation and making another demo reel (or three), then I was prepared to do that. All I knew was that if I wanted to stay in the game, I had to continue working as a news desk assistant. I always made sure my current job was a stepping-stone to the next job.
What’s the best piece of advice you received?
Know your skills, and play the cards you have. I am 100 percent bilingual. I had to use that to my advantage. If I had not realized that was my key to getting my first on-air job, I would have been waiting much longer. Everyone has a talent they can spotlight and use to get their foot in the door. It’s all about making that first opportunity happen.
What struggles did you face getting to this point?
Where do I begin?! The moment I took a part-time position at a local TV station while I was still in college, I pretty much said goodbye to my social life. While everyone was grabbing their picnic gear and a six-pack Friday afternoons, I was heading for a night shift at the station. And when I got off, many times I had to run back to the dorm and begin my weekend duty shift as a residential assistant, which lasted 24 hours. I also never had a summer or Christmas vacation, either. That’s right – news doesn’t stop on the holidays.
There were definitely times when I was not seeing the light at the end of this long tunnel, but I continued to do it because I knew my experience in a newsroom was far more valuable than a diploma.
Who was the biggest influence in your professional life?
If I’m being honest, I’ve never had someone take me under their wing and show me the ropes of the game. I’ve just always tried to be observant and sociable. During my time as an intern, I had the opportunity to talk to professionals and watch them do what they do best. If I hadn’t had that exposure, I would not have understood the business.
What accomplishment are you most proud of? When do you feel most successful?
My proudest accomplishment was the first time one of my reports aired on national television. It was the beginning of this year and I remember every bit of that day. Reporting can be stressful, the deadlines are unforgiving and network news has high expectations. But I pulled it off and all the doubts I once had vanished. I realized hard work eventually pays off, which is a great feeling.
What advice would you give to girls looking to enter your industry/space?
Get a job at one of your local news stations. Learn the inner workings, and don’t stop working there until you have another job lined up. If you really want it, you’ll get it. Just keep going.