According to Wikipedia, “An NBC page is a person usually in his or her early twenties working in various departments of the NBC television network during a one-year period as a training ground for careers in television broadcasting and entertainment. In addition, pages work as tour guides and studio audience ushers at NBC Radio City Studios in New York City or NBC Universal studios in Burbank, California.”
My friends, the Page Program is so much more than that. And it’s so much more than “Kenneth from 30 Rock.” I’m about to tell you how I got in.
1. Late Night with Conan O’Brien
In 2007 I was a sophomore going into my junior year of college, and landed my first internship at Late Night with Conan O’Brien at NBC in the summer. There, I became familiar with the Page Program, always knowing what it was, but never hearing first-hand information about it before. I befriended the members of the staff who were able to tell me tidbits about their Page glory days, but it wasn’t until I actually started meeting the at-the-time current Pages, that I drank the Kool-Aid and wanted in.
The Conan Interns, as we were called, were the clowns of the NBC summer interns. That became clear during our internship orientation, when we all sat in the back and snickered at the over-corporatized human resources business that we were forced to sit through. We were the kids in sneakers and jeans, plaid button down shirts and hoodies, and trendy summertime dresses adorned with thick-rimmed glasses and trendy hair styles. No slacks, ties, or blazers. Typical.
One of our assignments every Monday morning was to roll up XL t-shirts to later hand out to the audience members as they entered the studio floor. It was a nice bonding moment for the interns that arrived on time to work; sipping our iced coffees, watching the final hour of the TODAY Show as the staff trickled in. It was the quiet calm before a day of fun.
Around 5:30pm, two or three of us would run downstairs with two giant boxes of rolled up shirts, and would hand each one to an audience member. I began to meet more Pages personally when on shirt duty, because one of the “positions” of a Page while loading an audience, was to stand in the elevator bank and direct the audience traffic into the studio around the corner of the hallway. We’d stand with them and chat between the waves of people.
I asked questions about the program, like what they do, what it’s about, how they got in. I became friends with them, and said hello when I saw them in the commissary and hallways. I even was invited to some page parties and outings, all of which I was too nervous to attend. I became determined to get into the Page Program, and learned that in order to have a remote shot of being accepted, I’d need as much information about it as possible.
I genuinely enjoyed my summer at Late Night. The staff was absolutely wonderful, and I never knew how precious the relationships I made with my fellow interns would ever be until years later. With only the fondest of memories made, I was affirmed that I needed to pursue the NBC Page Program.
2. Saturday Night Live
Two years after I interned at Late Night, I found myself in an interview for an internship at Saturday Night Live. It was an all-business, no funny stuff interview. My interviewer (who later became one of my supervisors when I was hired there full time) was a very approachable, mild-mannered Associate Producer. He took me into one of the green rooms and asked me the most basic interview questions. It was straightforward and simple. No mind games or fluff – my kind of interview.
A week later, that producer called me and offered me a position as an SNL intern. Naturally, I played it cool but when I hung up the phone, this happened:
The internship was great, and definitely an “it is what you make of it” experience. It was all on me to force myself to make connections, or just be my normal introverted self. Sometimes I networked, and sometimes I was the latter. There was no spoon-feeding or pampering at SNL. No one had time to teach you anything, so as an intern you were on your own if you wanted to learn something. It was also much more cut-throat. The moment you got an assignment or were sent on a run, every other intern breathed down your neck to get information about who entrusted you with a duty. It was certainly competitive there. But being immersed in the competitive environment was very good for me, too. I saw that I handled it quite well.
My intern supervisor was a former Page. And so was the Associate Producer who interviewed me. Then I found out that one of the editors was a Page, and another coordinator, and some assistants, and a talent producer. It became clear to me that it would be foolish to try to directly land a job at SNL after my internship ended. Instead, I knew I had to get these former Pages to help me find my way into the Page Program, the very “fraternity” that bonded them all together.
3. A good business woman knows “Apply” and Demand
While at SNL, in November of my senior year, I applied to the Page Program and never heard anything back. I knew that it was a competitive application process so I figured I’d have to get on their radar in a more tactful way than just applying online.
One of my friends who interned with me at Late Night two years prior had just become a Page. She was two years older than I was, so she had already graduated school and had been in the program for a few months.
In April, I asked her if she would forward my resume to the hiring managers, explaining that I applied but never heard from them, and that I could easily make myself available for an interview because I was in the building already at SNL. She agreed to help me out, and also gave me the email address of the Page Program manager. I immediately wrote to her, and didn’t hear back.
I never gave up. I wrote to the manager again in the summer after I graduated school, and the cosmos must have aligned that day, because she forwarded my email to her colleague, who set up my first interview.
Stay tuned for part two!