Careers

Lester Holt shares the rejection letter NBC sent him in 1977

NBC Nightly News and Dateline NBC anchor Lester Holt
NBC Nightly News and Dateline NBC anchor Lester Holt

Before he became the successful journalist that he is today, NBC anchor Lester Holt faced rejection.

The NBC Nightly News and Dateline NBC anchor tells Seth Meyers that he actually received a rejection letter when he first applied to work for an NBC radio station in 1977. "I'm still just a little bitter," Holt jokes.

Holt received the letter, dated August, 11, 1977, just two months after he graduated from high school. Though young, the 59-year-old says he had applied to multiple companies in hopes of getting his first shot.

Eventually, Holt landed a job as a weekend disk jockey at a radio station in Sacramento, California. He continued to work there until college, when he was offered a full-time position — if he agreed to cover news.

"They put me in a Jeep Cherokee with police scanners and two-way radios and I hit the streets and started covering news and I never looked back," he tells Meyers.

In 1981, Holt landed a job at a CBS television station in New York. He went on to work at local CBS stations in Los Angeles and Chicago. In 2000, he was demoted from his anchor position in Chicago, despite having worked at the station since 1986.

"It knocked me back on my heels more than I think most people knew. People joke about Iron Pants and my work ethic," Holt told The Hollywood Reporter in 2016. "I've always had a strong work ethic, but I think it was hyper after that. It lasted for a number of years, where I felt, 'You're not good enough, you've got to be better.' It really rocked me."

After his demotion, Holt tried again to land a job at NBC. This time, with more experience, he secured an anchor position at MSNBC. Since then, he's held roles that include anchoring the weekend edition of TODAY, working on the weekend edition of Nightly News and anchoring Dateline NBC. In 2015, Holt was tapped to replace departing Nightly News anchor Brian Williams.

Looking back on his professional experiences, Holt told The Hollywood Reporter, he's learned to never take anything for granted. "For a long time, except for weekends," he says of his current role at Nightly News, "I didn't anchor this broadcast, I watched it."

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