Radio Jobs that Lead to On-Air Careers
by Hayli Morrison
For music lovers, few careers seem as ideal as radio broadcasting. However, as broadcasting consultant Valerie Geller, author of Creating Powerful Radio: Getting, Keeping and Growing Audiences
points out, the best radio professionals love people as much as music.
“If you understand what the radio really means to someone who is alone in a car or a room – the intimacy of the connection between that person and the person on air is magical,” Geller says. “You can really cut through the loneliness in people’s lives. It’s very powerful.”
It is not uncommon for radio listeners to recount the profound, life-changing impact of something said on-air. And at big league sporting events, fans often wear headsets to hear the radio broadcast while watching the on-field action.
“It’s because it’s better on radio!” Geller exclaims enthusiastically.
For those aspiring for radio jobs
in broadcasting, entry into the business is not difficult. Geller recommends a “just do it” approach, regardless of work experience, educational status or field of study. Most radio stations simply appreciate a persistent, hard worker who is willing to help out in many different areas.
Practically anyone at a radio station could get on the air eventually with a little persistence, according to Geller. For instance, entry into radio advertising sales might offer the opportunity to do commercial voice-overs, which might get noticed by station managers, which could lead to more air time. Those wanting to be radio show hosts or Disk Jockeys should focus first on getting their foot in the door, before expressing an interest, enthusiasm and dedication to getting their voice on the radio more. They can eventually reach their goal, even if – in typical radio industry style – they have to relocate to get it.
While broadcasting can be a very exciting career, it does have its drawbacks too. Radio jobs
can require frequent relocation and is not known for exceptional pay. Station management is often promoted through the sales arm of operations instead of the so-called “talent” arm. Thus, DJ work can become monotonous and the frequent relocation tiresome.
“There’s a saying that you can tell how well a broadcaster is doing by the size of the U-Haul attached to the back of their car, because we move so much,” Geller said.
Radio professionals, while certainly susceptible to career burn-out, should continually challenge themselves with things like additional responsibilities or new work shifts, she said. The change could even involve things like mentoring a college student, or going outside the station more often to interview community members or promote advertising partners.
“I think burnout is common in any industry. With creative people, if you do the same thing too long, you will burn out. You have to find ways to make it new and keep growing,” said Geller, who dedicated an entire chapter to the topic in her recent book.
Getting on the air is one thing – excelling
at it is an entirely different matter. Certain qualities help in this area: intelligence; passion; being a good listener and skilled communicator, and having a strong sense of humor. Teachers, lawyers, psychologists and members of clergy can typically cross over successfully into radio broadcasting because they know how to listen and relate to people, according to Geller. As for those taking a more traditional approach through collegiate studies, a solid background in journalism and writing provides a solid foundation for all communication fields. Beyond that, Geller advises students to find radio jobs
through internships and try to gain a broad range of experience.
“The best way is to show up at a radio station and say, ‘What do you need done? I’m ready to work.’” she says. “If you want to be on-air, but there’s an opening in sales,
try it for a year, learn it, meet people and see how it goes. You just want to get in there so people can get to know you.”
It’s how Geller entered the industry more than 30 years ago. She worked her way through markets large and small before finally landing in New York. There, she worked as programmer for WABC news and talk before going on to start her consulting company, Geller Media International. Along the way, Geller sampled each of the radio industry’s many career opportunities: music DJ; news, sports and traffic reporter; programming manager; sales and marketing professional, and the highly-interactive talk show host, which really requires a love of people more than any other niche.
One thing required in all radio jobs
, however, is dedication to the industry, which Geller refers to as “a business of gypsies” because of its penchant for relocating employees. It’s why she says it’s important to “choose broadcasting like you would a life partner. Choose it not because you can live with it, but because you can’t live without it.”