When it comes to working in TV journalism, CNBC Anchor Becky Quick believes you need to take the job nobody else wants to get an “in” and make your mark.
“The media business is hyper-competitive, and you have to be willing to sacrifice almost all your creature comforts to get your foot in the door,” she says.
Becky’s career is proof that her sound no-nonsense advice works – and in a big way. As the co-anchor of CNBC’s signature morning show, Squawk Box, and anchor of the nationally syndicated On the Money, Becky is the network’s go-to for big interviews with business tycoons, three U.S. Presidents, world leaders, athletes and celebrities. And beyond that, Becky balances her career with being the mom of a toddler.
Previous to her current role, Becky covered the Wall Street beat for CNBC as part of the network’s partnership with Dow Jones. Before joining the CNBC staff in 2001, Becky worked for The Wall Street Journal and helped with the launch of WSJ.com.
What was your first job out of college?
I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life, so I went home and worked for my dad in his office supporting his work as an environmental geologist. I love Dad, but it wasn’t long before I knew I better get my career going fast!
How did your work at The Wall Street Journal prepare you for your current role at CNBC?
Oh, let me count the ways! But seriously, one of the most important skills The Journal taught me was how to really write and develop stories. That skill translates across all different formats of journalism, whether it be print, TV, digital or social media.
How do you organize your day – especially with such an early-morning schedule (and a toddler to boot!)?
“Organize” may be a strong word to describe my schedule. But it helps that my husband is on the same crazy morning schedule that I am on, and that my father is now my live-in manny during the work week.
How much time do you spend prepping for your role on Squawk Box?
It’s hard to add it up because it’s catch-as-catch-can. Between the meetings and lunches after the show, to the school basketball and volleyball games, it’s never “regular”. I live off of my Blackberry, and I have the staff send me all the notes for the next day’s show via email. Then I study whenever and wherever I can. I have a desk at the office, but my real desk is my 10-year-old Jeep. I study and write many notes while in that car! (It’s often the only time I am alone and can think.)
What tips do you have for our readers on how to best connect with others during an interview?
Don’t ever try to be someone you are not. Just be yourself. Remember, most of the time, the guest you are interviewing is nervous. So, be yourself and relax. That vibe will help you connect with your subject. Then, you can have a more open and honest conversation.
What advice do you have for handling a curveball during an interview? Any quick-recovery tips?
Good question! But usually it’s my job to throw the curveball rather than hit it. One piece of advice I would give: If you don’t know the answer, don’t try to make it up. That formula always leads down a road to trouble. It’s perfectly acceptable in life to say, “I don’t know.”
What is your favorite interview to date? Why?
I don’t know if I have a favorite interview, but I do have some favorite people. Warren Buffett is so much fun because he is one of the richest people in the world, yet he is as down to earth as your uncle or longtime neighbor. He’s just so easy to talk to, and he makes the most complex subject matter so easy to understand.
Jack Welch also comes to mind. The former General Electric CEO and management guru wrote a book called Straight from the Gut, and when you talk to him on camera that’s always what you get. Honest, forward and real life.
Those are just a few of my favorites, but there are so many others! That’s the best part of my job; I get to talk to incredibly interesting people every day.
What tips can you share for breaking into such a competitive industry?
The media business is hyper-competitive, and you have to be willing to sacrifice almost all your creature comforts to get your foot in the door. One thing I can guarantee you is that your way into the business will involve multiple sacrifices to almost every aspect of your life. Also, take jobs that no one else really wants.
Early on at The Wall Street Journal, I left the overseas copy desk to help launch WSJ.com. It was before people really thought the Internet was such a great place to be, and not a lot of people wanted to leave the print side for digital. But the experience gave me a leg up and helped me get a job as a print reporter covering the Internet, and that was a job I really wanted.
What is an accomplishment on your resume that you’re most proud of?
Being named anchor of CNBC’s Squawk Box. It’s the longest running and most storied cable business news show on TV. Everybody on Wall Street and in the business and investing community knows the name Squawk Box. The show has been running for more than 20 years now.
What does “work/life balance” mean to you?
I don’t know if there is such a thing. Honestly, both work and life are full-time jobs in their own rights. Finding a true “balance” is next to impossible. I view it more like a work/life daily survival guide. Each day brings challenges on both sides. Survive the best you can, push on to the next day, and enjoy the ride for as long as you can. My grandpa always used to say he’d sleep when he was dead, and I guess I subscribe to that view of life.
What are three pieces of career advice you’re willing to share with our readers?
1. Be open to new ideas.
2. Be flexible and willing to keep at it if you don’t get the job you want the first time around.
3. Stay in your job at least six months past the time you think you can’t take it another day. Every time I’ve done that, it’s paid off and the next job has come along.
What advice do you have for our readers who want your job?
Don’t wait for “the perfect opportunity.” Think of the media world as a club. It’s way easier to navigate once you are inside the club. So, don’t miss opportunities waiting for the perfect way in. I think the phrase was popularized by Voltaire, but the advice still stands: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”