Having been a veteran hustler on Radio myself, nothing infuriates me now more than stories of newbies who want to start a career on Radio and spiral to the top almost immediately.
The fact that the Media with particular reference to Radio now is an industry that pays attention to process and growth cannot be over-emphasized. After sorting out the reasons why you think Radio is for you. It becomes more important for you to chart a career path for yourself.
This is an action plan of where you want to go with your career and how you want to go about it.
Career Path in the Media
I say that a career path is the composite sequence of jobs that make up a career plan. A career plan itself includes the short-term and long-term plans leading to an ideal career that you picture for yourself. While a career path specifically includes the kind of jobs that step you towards your goals and objectives.
A career path is informed by interest, flexibility and ability but one thing should be paramount while defining this. It all has to be tailored towards achieving the bigger dream. I’ve heard a couple of friends discussing how they want their career on Radio to progress.
One said that he wants to do Radio for just 25 years during which he’s going to build as much influence as he can. He will then venture into the civil service perhaps as a Special Adviser to someone in the Ministry of Information or thereabout.
He is looking at starting from being a Special Adviser to eventually becoming a Commissioner and from there, a federal Minister of Information. That’s cool.
The other said he wants to do Radio for a long time and perhaps a little bit of Television. He could then set up his media and communication agency afterwards to play consultant roles to start-up media firms. That’s pretty fine too.
More than anything, it is very important to have a structured career path because it guides the steps and the critical decisions that you take in-between starting a sustainable career and relishing in its actualization.
The truth is you can’t spend a lifetime on Radio neither can you be on Television for eternity. And in this age when new talents keep breaking out on Radio and TV every time, it is pretty difficult for the old guys to remain active and still be relevant on Radio or TV as the case may be. You need to evolve into something bigger and John Momoh is a practical example here.
Indian’s biggest TV Journo, Arnab Goswami started out as a reporter with News Telegraph in Kolkota, India before joining NDTV in 1995. 22 years later, he co-founded a TV station that is redefining what journalism is in India – Republic TV. This trend happens everywhere because we all are bound to evolve at one point or the other.
Don’t forget this point. Get a Career Path for yourself. For with that in mind, you will have a clear cut picture of where you are heading.
Now, let’s discuss how to get there. See, I can say that the most difficult part of building a sustainable career on Radio is the starting point. It is getting a platform that aligns with your career objectives. It is getting your abilities noticed and voice heard. This is why you need to consider the best approach that will not wear out your resolve before you get your chance on Radio.
Best Ways to Start a Career on Radio
Start Your Career on Radio as a Volunteer
I have friends, senior colleagues and contemporaries in the Radio industry. At one point or the other, I was opportune to engage a lot of them on how they started their career on Radio. Over the course of such conversations, one word that is always popping up was ‘volunteer.’
They all have admitted that a long-lasting career on Radio starts from you volunteering to work with a Radio station.
However, before you volunteer on Radio, conduct a personal assessment of yourself. Are you really ready for a volunteer job on Radio? Because it demands that you be highly motivated, work independently, be a team player, organized, efficient and most importantly work without being paid.
A prior experience on Radio might not be necessary as the Radio station will surely teach you the basics you need to know about the job. However, there are some factors to consider before volunteering at a Radio station.
Factors to Consider Before Volunteering at a Radio Station
1. The alignment between your career path and the broadcast theme of the Radio station. You can’t be a news person and be volunteering at The Beat 99.9 FM, it doesn’t add up. You can’t be an upwardly mobile folk and be volunteering at Bond 92.9 FM or Amuludun 100.1 FM.
2. The calibre of staff at the Radio station. You sure can presume how much is there to learn from someone by simply listening to them on the other side of the Radio. Choose Radio stations with qualified broadcast journalists.
Yes, it is always a difficult task to get such Radio Stations to accept your offer to volunteer. Nevertheless, the onus is still on you to show them that you are serious about volunteering for them. At the end of the day, the knowledge and experience you’ll be picking up from there will be worth the stress. Write to the station and let it reflect in your letter that you are passionate about the job. Learn everything you can about the Radio station, how up for the internship interview dressing well and presentable. Show them what you’ve got and get your space.
My personal worry is just the fact that even your favourite OAPs are engaged in a lot of things but true broadcast journalism on Radio. However, there are still a handful of folks who are staying true to the dictates of the job and will sure be willing to help you find your feet around.
3. The proximity between your area of residence and the location of radio station. Some will argue that nowhere is too far for the value that you seek to get. Well, I’ll rather say let’s be realistic here.
A volunteer job on Radio is drenching in itself; so don’t add the stress of finances in transporting yourself to the radio station to this. Choose the Radio station that is much closer to where you reside so as to cut down the expenses. Remember that no one is paying you for this.
Start Your Career on Radio as an Intern
Internship is another cool way to kick-start a sustainable career on Radio. Radio internships are offered to students either during or after a Degree or Diploma in Mass Communication. Professional training centres also do the same; I sure know of National Broadcast Academy.
As an intern with a Radio station, you’ll have a first-hand experience of how a Radio station works. You will have the opportunity to work with so many departments and units in the Radio station including Programmes, Production, News Room, Marketing etc.
You will be introduced to the world of programmes production and presentation and this sort of practical knowledge coupled with a degree or diploma in related fields will make you a better candidate for subsequent radio jobs.
As an intern showing creative potential, you can be asked to develop segments on a show. Alongside the producer, you might be needed to brainstorm new ideas, write and execute materials on air. Radio station sometimes plan humorous and light segments involving the interns which necessitates you as an intern to be outgoing, fun and engaging enough to banter with the hosts. And if you are good, that can encourage the management of the radio station to retain you after your internship with them.
This also comes with the need to showcase that you are fit for the job during your internship. Some of the common duties you will be expected to perform as an Intern in a Radio station are but not limited to;
- Helping Producers and Presenters run a smooth show
- Setting up the studio for broadcast
- Scripting for advertisements and endorsements
- Supplying Radio hosts with reading and research materials
- Recording specified segment for future use
- Maintaining a station’s website
- Preparing Transcript for Guest Interviews
- Compiling News for the Station’s Bulletin
- Reporting for the Station at Events
- Loading Up Song Requests
- Help to Develop Segments
N:B These duties and more also apply for a Volunteer
Start Your Career on Radio as an Understudy
Understudying is another cool approach of starting a sustainable career on Radio. Co-opted from the Film and Theatre Industry, an understudy is someone who learns another man’s role in order to be able to act at short notice in their absence.
Being an understudy is not limited to Radio beginners. You can be the host of a show and be an understudy for another show. In the book, ‘The Radio Producer’s Handbook’, Rick Kaempfer and John Swanson noted that ‘Often a station will have a Producer host the show when the personality is ill or on vacation. There are scores of producers who become full-time hosts after getting their big break as an Understudy.’
Being an understudy on Radio brings you closer to that point where you can take over the show from the regular Host. In the next tutorial on How to Present an Engaging Newscast which drops on Friday as a sequel to Monday’s Tutorial on How to Produce an Engaging Newscast, I’ll explain what being an understudy did to my Radio career.
Now, asides the ‘accidental OAPs’ that we have around now who only got lucky to be on Radio all thanks to either the frenzy of British accent over impacting content or because they know someone that knows someone that knows someone; a lot of the established Radio anchors out there started from either volunteering, interning, being a side-kick or simply understudying another Radio Host.
Whatever the approach you intend to adopt, you have to understand that the baseline is to get your abilities noticed by people who can help you to further hone your craft or land you a job eventually.
It takes time though…
I mentioned earlier that getting started is the most difficult part of building a sustainable career on Radio, right? The difficulty is not in these approaches themselves. It is in the waiting period that comes before the Radio station decides to actively engage you in their schedule, hence putting your voice on Radio.
I have at some point tested out each of these approaches. I volunteered with a particular Radio station for 8 months, was once an intern for a long time and was a side-kick at some point. And I had the cause to understudy someone at another point.
During these moments, none of these approaches guaranteed me a space on the microphone except when I was a side-kick and eventually when I was an understudy. And that was even possible because I had a previous experience about Radio.
More often than not, I was always working as a Reporter – which I enjoy doing so much by the way – but I had my eyes on the Mic. I would go out to cover events, write the news report and submit it as part of the bulletin. I had to start providing the content for broadcast on the morning show for one of the stations at some point. All of these I did in good faith while hoping that the time will come for me to dazzle the radio ramp.
This chance didn’t come for a very long time and I got frustrated. I would complain to some of the staffs at these Radio stations especially those I work with directly. They would counsel me to just chill and wait for the right opportunity. While leaving the station after the day’s work, I would feel greatly embittered but not enough to stop me from coming the following day. I kept at it and things started playing out for the better eventually.
You’ve just got to keep at it. It takes time for the talented to manifest and much longer time for those who do not have some immediately striking talents. I have a finely textured voice but not exceptionally serenading enough to mark an instant impression on your mind. No British accent – whether original or pseudo – I had none! But I could create content. Now, how many people will give you the chance of creating content before evaluating your abilities?
I tell people I was a veteran hustler on Radio but perhaps, if I had any of those coupled with the shrewdness of broadcast content production; it would have taken shorter time than it actually did for me to get the packs together on Radio. Either ways, just stay true to the job, keep developing yourself and that time will come.
Never Make Money a Priority Now
For whatever reason, one of the mistakes people commit is expecting the radio station to pay you something while you are interning or volunteering. I don’t know how it works in other industries but it never works like that in the Radio system. I mean you are there at that point to learn and fine-tune your skills not to work. Fine, in between you help with some assignments but those are for your personal development.
So, not all Radio stations can guarantee you of getting paid for interning or volunteering for them. Not when they owe even their regular staffs backlogs of salary. You might be lucky to be attached to a Radio station or an OAP that cares for your welfare but it seldom happens.
So Guys, let’s stop here for now. Design a career path for yourself and start while adopting any of the approaches here.
This Is Me Wishing You All The Very Best
I feel that a lot about me reflected in this opinion piece so you deserve you know a bit about who this guy is. I am Sultan Grey, the Creative Director at The Royale Media Afrique; operators of Learn Radio Online NG. Every Sunday by 11:30 AM on Noble 107.1 FM, I host what has become a lot of people’s favorite tech show on Radio – Tech Today. You can contact me via +23490552373 or catch up with me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Get in touch if you have to, let’s talk!
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