By Bill Griffeth
Co-anchor of CNBC’s “Closing Bell”
Alumnus of CSU Northridge
Watching Tom Snyder on NBC News and The Tomorrow Show was a daily (or more accurately nightly) rite during my teen and young adult years. The way he conducted interviews was compelling – striking at the core of the story each person had to tell. The breadth of knowledge and ease that Tom demonstrated switching between topics spoke to both his intelligence and curiosity.
I was at that time in my life when I needed to choose a career path. With laser focus, I set out to be a television journalist modeled after my idol: Tom Snyder.
This focus brought me to CSU Northridge as a student of Journalism. Enrolling at CSUN was the best decision of my life. My career started at CSUN and I met my idol because of CSUN. My wife, Cindy, and I also met as students – laying the foundation for our marriage and family. In the interest of full disclosure, while I recall meeting Cindy for the first time when we were students, she does not remember meeting me until shortly after we graduated.
I knew that CSUN was the right choice for me at the beginning of the first session of my Speech 101 class. I knew because the lecturer walked into the class and identified herself as Maryanne Snyder. That’s right, the wife of the person who inspired me to a career in journalism was teaching my class. Maryanne and Tom became part of my life after that class. Not only did I get to meet Tom, but after graduating and becoming involved in financial journalism I had a chance to be a guest on his show and later serve as a fill-in when needed.
My CSUN experience prepared me for a journalism career in many other ways. I was mentored by a film professor, worked at the bookstore and hosted a campus radio show. Perhaps my highlight as a young journalist was a visit, with two of my radio peers, to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. As we stood in the control room, everything came to life. Almost entirely by accident, our crew witnessed the Viking Mars Lander reaching its destination. I still recall a man jumping up and down with excitement – that man was Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek’s legendary creator.
It would be easy to fill pages with more fond memories of CSUN and my early career. Yet, given what students are facing today, it is probably more appropriate to share a slightly less glorious chapter. When I graduated, it was the height of stagflation – a period of high inflation and high unemployment in the late 1970s. I was not able to get my dream job right away. In fact, I could not find a job in journalism at all. What I found was a job editing martial arts books – and I had never practiced martial arts.
Eventually things did recover, and I was able to launch a career that has now landed me in the anchor’s chair at CNBC. I think what this pause taught me is to not be so rigid as to ignore unforeseen opportunities. There are jobs even in this economy. They just may not be the jobs you expect, want or believe you deserve. If you are still a student, there are also countless opportunities through campus activities, internships and faculty projects.
Success does not come from finding the one true career path. Success comes from taking every experience for all it’s worth and being prepared to seize opportunity when it comes along.