If I can speak personally for a moment, I have been involved in television for several decades -- as an announcer and so-called TV personality, as a producer-director of thousands of hours of TV programming (most of it live), and as a university professor.
In the latter capacity I watched some of my students work up through the ranks to become producers of TV series and feature-length films. Others found the going too rough, abandoned their dream, and found employment elsewhere.
What made the difference? Probably eight things.
1. Motivation In any competitive field you must really want to make it. This type of motivation does not waver from week-to-week or month-to-month, but is consistent and single-minded. In short, you must stay focused on your goal.
2. Personality Although admittedly a vague term, it encompasses several things. First, since television is a collaborative effort, it requires an ability to work with others to accomplish professional goals.
Included in this category is attitude. In this context we're definitely not talking about someone who "has an attitude." Quite the opposite. We're talking about the general demeanor of individuals, how they accept assignments, whether they are pleasant to work with, and how they take suggestions or criticism.
There is often considerable pressure in TV production and thin-skinned individuals who can't detach themselves from their work and take constructive criticism are in for a bumpy ride.
3. Knowledge and skills Producers and directors look for individuals who know how to solve problems on their own, how to use the technology to its best advantage, and who can be relied upon to "make it work."
Excuses for not getting the job done right and on time are generally viewed as an admission of failure. Keep in mind that TV is a competitive business and employers know they can rather easily replace people who don't meet their expectations.
4. Creativity Although we've been trying to define this for centuries, it involves so-called thinking "outside the box," and looking at things in new ways and getting your audience to see and experience things from a fresh, engaging perspective.
The more thoroughly you understand the television medium the better chance you will have of using it in interesting, creative ways.
5. Willingness to sacrifice for your goals In highly competitive fields the supply of job applicants exceeds the number of job openings. For starting positions this means that employers may offer low starting salaries.
Those who stick it out and "pay their dues" can end up working in a field that is exciting and satisfying. For many people, doing something they enjoy throughout their lives is more important than making more money in a job that they dread to face each morning.
For those whose honed skills are in demand, the financial rewards can eventually be very great.
But, if your main goal is to have a predictable, 9-to-5 job with optimum stability, the field of broadcast television will probably not be a good choice. There is much uncertainty in the field, and the hours you may have to put in can take a toll on a social life and marriage.
In doing documentary work you may be away from home for days or weeks at a time. In news, you may be called out on a story at any hour of the day or night. Some areas of news, such as being a foreign correspondent, can even be dangerous.
6. An aptitude for working with words and pictures Successful television writers, directors, and artists have an aptitude for images and an ability to visualize their ideas.
Although television is largely visual, it's still word-based. We have to be able to clearly communicate ideas to sponsors, cast, and crew in the form of proposals, scripts, and instructions. The ability to effectively write and communicate is directly related to success.
7. Reliability and an ability to meet deadlines If you can't be relied upon to get the job done within the assigned time, your chances of getting future assignments will rapidly diminish -- and eventually disappear.
8. Lifelong learning If you assume that when you get out of school you will know all you need to for lifelong success, here's a news flash: That's not the way it works.
Although formal education is useful and it may enable you to "get in the door," most students say that it's only when they come face-to-face with on-the-job experiences that they really start learning about their profession.
And, it doesn't even end there.
The electronic media change very rapidly. It's the people who keep up with developments as reported by newspapers and "the trades" (professional magazines and journals; see below) that are in the best position to take advantage of the latest developments.
Knowing how to make best use the latest computer technology can give you an important competitive advantage.
Successful news people, for example, tend to be "news addicts" -- constantly reading about current events. If reading newspapers and newsmagazine and "being in the know" doesn't interest you, you should examine your interest in broadcast news.