Hoda Kotb faced a long road on her way to success — literally.

The Today Show anchor drove around the South searching for her first job after graduating from college with a journalism degree, she told colleague Savannah Guthrie during a SiriusXM Leading Ladies event Monday.

Kotb, 51, explained that she had one interview lined up at a TV station in Richmond, Virginia, an hour away from her home. So, she borrowed her mom’s car for the day and set off.

“I walk in the newsroom, and I’ll never forget it. I looked around and I was like, ‘This is awesome. I’m gonna sit there and I’m gonna date him.’ I planned my whole life!” she said, laughing. “And I remember the news director, he took my tape, he put it in the machine, he played it for a couple of minutes and he stopped it and he said, ‘Oh, Hoda, you are not ready for Richmond. I don’t know why somebody sent you here, but you’re too green, you’re not good.’ You know, ‘Buh-bye.’

But as she walked out, he suggested she try her luck at a station three hours away in Roanoke that night. That news director popped out her tape after 30 seconds and said she was “so not ready for Roanoke.” He recommended an opening in Memphis, Tennessee, and she drove all night only to be told, “You are so not ready for Memphis.”

“I was in that car driving around for 10 days. I got rejected everywhere. Anywhere you can think of in the Southeast, I got rejected. Birmingham, Alabama, three times, Dothan, all the way down. All the way down into the bottom of the panhandle. And finally my mom needed the car and I had to go home,” Kotb said. “And I started to drive home and I got lost. You know, the whole God gives you a sign — I literally got lost in Mississippi because I was listening to James Taylor and sad and driving aimlessly, and I saw a physical sign that said, ‘Greenville, Mississippi, Our eye is on you.’ It had like a CBS eye. News center 15, WXVT. I said, ‘I’m gonna go there and get rejected.'”

There, she met the late Stan Sandroni, a sports director who’d just been promoted.

“He puts the tape in the machine, he plays it, he watches this terrible, horrible 30 minutes. And my heart is pounding because I’m watching Stan watch it, because I can’t believe someone’s watching the whole tape,” she recalled. “When it was over he looked at me, and I’ll never forget it, he goes, ‘Hilda?’ And I said, ‘Yes?’ He said, ‘I like what I see.’ I said, ‘You do?!’ I was like crying, and the man hired me on the spot that day. And it just reminded me that you just need one person to love you. You don’t need everybody. Sometimes you think you need every single person to think you’re good, and you don’t. You need one, and Stan was my one.”

Guthrie and Kotb’s full Leading Ladies interview airs Monday and Wednesday at 2 pm ET on the Hoda Show on SiriusXM Today Show Radio (Ch. 108).

For a free 30-day trial, check out http://www.siriusxm.com/freeTrial.

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