This month we present the rest of the responses to last month's question.
Q It Up: No doubt, the last ten years have been full of changes, particularly when it comes to job security. Did you quit or get fired at some point in the past ten years? How did you deal with losing your job or the fear of losing your job? Perhaps you quit without a new job to go to. How did you handle the stress and fear of wondering where your next paycheck was going to come from? What advice would you give to someone concerned about their job security or someone desperately wanting to leave a bad situation but afraid to?
Rich VanSlyke [richvs[at]bellsouth.net] Rich VanSlyke Productions: I responded to the fear of losing my job by building a home studio and a list of freelance clients. This was hard, but after careful consideration, I thought it was my only option. It has been my experience that most changes occur after a change in management. If you make it your priority to please your new boss, you will. But if you have other options, such as going to work for your old boss, or getting a new job, or going independent, you will find it very challenging to devote 100% of your time to pleasing your new boss. If you are concerned about job security, and you want to stay where you are, I suggest you arrive before your boss, stay until after he leaves, and respond to every single one of his suggestions. Kissing ass is a lot like going to the gym...it produces great results but few are willing to do it. If you are concerned about job security and want to leave, get off your lazy butt, put together a demo and start sending it out. If you get calls, you’ve got a good demo. If you don’t, make another demo. Stay or quit, the only thing that will make you FEEL better is taking action. That is how the human mind works. Just do it.
Ron Harper [ronharper[at]fuse.net], The New 96.5/ESPN 1160 BOB: After almost ten years, I was blown out and replaced by someone making about $15k less. There was no explanation given other than “we’re making some changes.” Fortunately, a former co-worker was programming another station in town, and I did some part-time for him as well as the freelance that I had. But I knew it was just going to be a stopgap measure. Four months later, I accepted a position on the fringe of radio, but not with a broadcast group, in order to move closer to my family. That job turned into a nightmare when the job no longer matched the job description. I walked, but again handled some part-time around town until I was moved to another station in my part-time employer’s chain. I went with the PD, and our mandate was to turn that station around, which we did. BUT, due to internal politics, the PD was forced out nine months later, and because I came with him, I too was let go within 45 days of his departure, on the beach again for a month until I landed here—a stable group, nice people to work for, AND they appreciate my work.
How have I handled all this? Belief in myself and hope has gotten me thru it. Otherwise I was scared s***less, and projected myself into all sorts of bad situations. It’s better now, but I’m still dealing with having had to deplete my savings, including a 401K in order to live. It’s tight, but so far so good. My advice would be: network, network, network. . . build a list of as many people as you can who know you and are familiar with you, Do whatever it takes to put together the most professional, and high-end package you can manage, and LOSE THE EGO. There are too many people who don’t know you and don’t give a pig’s patoot. Find creative ways to present yourself and what you do. I discovered a unique sales tool that worked in landing this job for me. It’s also worked for getting my wife a job as well. Now, I’m looking for a way to offer it for others to be able to use. It’s been two years since I was blown out of that ten year job. Looking back, I know this was a good move, I just regret that the industry has evolved to such a state that most operators only pay lip service to the product, and too many of them are looking for the easy way out without thinking long-term about their audience or their clients.
[ToddWMPI[at]aol.com]: I must admit I’ve been incredibly fortunate in this business because, with the exception of three days in 1994, I have held at least one full-time job in radio since October of 1990 (I landed a radio job the day the Cincinnati Reds won their last World Series. They haven’t won since...maybe I shouldn’t admit this lest my compadres up I-71 blame me for the Big Red Machine’s lack of post-season success). Even those 3 days in 1994 weren’t so stressful because I had another opportunity waiting. I had worked for WMPI in Scottsburg, IN, 30 miles north of Louisville, KY up to late 1993 when I was offered a position for WKJK-FM in Louisville. It was a great opportunity to get in deep with a station just starting out with new owners and new management. Plus there was more money and less responsibility, which always catches my immediate attention. So I thanked the fine people from WMPI and off I went to the big city (notice...no “burning bridges”).
It took WKJK six months to realize that “more money, less responsibility” thing I was talking about and, on April 1st no less, I was let go because I was costing them too much money. I honestly thought it was an April Fools joke all the way out to the car, but I was sitting there all by itself with no streamers, no big signs screaming, “April Fool!!!”, nobody there to tell me about the look on my face or anything. Nope, they were quite serious, and to be honest with you, I was relieved! As good as the money was and as easy as the job was, I still had not adjusted to the hours and driving all the way to the city and putting up with some of the headaches associated with new radio station owners and managers.
Now it was time to put that “burning bridges” thing to the test. The guy who took my spot at WMPI had just moved on and they were looking. It all sounds kind of Amazing Kreskin-ish in a cosmic sort of way, but here was the opening, and here I was looking for an opening, and we’ve been putting up with each other since.
Since then, I’ve taken a few extra part-time and full-time jobs back in Louisville, but I still work at WMPI, the only commercial FM station in the Louisville market that is still live and local 24/7 — not one stinking piece of automation in the whole building with the exception of the two hours of my show I have on MiniDisc for when I want to leave early... JUST KIDDING, BOSS!
Johnny George [jg[at]johnnygeorge .com] Susquehanna Indianapolis: In 1993 I got fired from my best job, Production Director at WZPL. After 8 years of loyal dedication, I was stunned that they would fire me. But I found later that I was but one of 22 over the next few weeks that would go to make way for a station sale. At the time, I felt devastated. However, since I had a decent VO career already going outside of the station I was more upset about servicing my clients and having no studio to use. This is when I built my home studio. Took out a loan for 25K and paid it back within 10 months — 14 months quicker than I had projected.
I was hired by an oldies station (WKLR Oldies 93) that had been offering me a job for over 6 months. Took the job several weeks later. Stayed with them through the format flip to WNAP, which I had been a part of in the late 70’s. Was fired from there in 1997 when the PD and I “agreed to disagree.” Once again found that another “window of opportunity” opened for me because I had my eyes open and didn’t get overly caught up in self-pity. This was the best move - Imaging Director for Susquehanna Indianapolis. What a great gig. Great people, great company and the tools I needed to get the job done.
I’m happily still here and once again have no plans to move on. In fact, after 4 years, I’ve been promoted to Creative Services Director. My responsibilities include the imaging and commercial production of all three stations with a great staff of folks to work with and a great on-air crew. It’s the best of both worlds. There are 4 of us that maintain the day to day management of the department and work with the air-staff.
I’m a big believer in fate where things happen for a reason. You just have to be wise enough to see the other opportunities that arise and have the wisdom to make the right choices. This all comes from experience and confidence. You really haven’t worked in radio until you’ve been fired from a gig you love. It is then, and only then, that you truly see the forest through the trees (sorry for the cliché‘).
Randy Ricci [production[at]rmr media.com]: My radio philosophy has always been: “I was lookin’ for a job when I found this one” In the earlier days (back when we played 45s), I had no family to support, and it was “just me.” Some radio pros who worked with and for me always told me to have a T&R (tape & resume) ready at all times. Be ready when opportunity knocks or boots you out. I think the old saying is really still true today: you ain’t nothin’ till you’ve been fired.
The hardest thing to handle, I think is...all of a sudden your routine is gone, the day after day of doing 3p-7p is no longer. Wow! I’ve been fired! Now that I have mouths to feed, it’s a little different, but the key in this business is “networking,” always have contacts and never let relationships die, because someday they may be able to pull you from the depths of saying, “Hi, welcome to McDonalds!” Steady the course mate, the light at the end of the tunnel is not a train; it’s the next off ramp sign to your new gig. And always have T&R ready along with excellent working cans.
Anonymous: I found out this year that it’s hard to quit a job. After being with a company for about 6 years, in three different cities, I decided that it was time for a change. I got an offer from the company across town to come and work for them. I accepted. I had every reason to, and to this day it was the best career choice I ever made. My original employer reminded me that I had a contract, which contained a no-compete section. I showed them that the contract was flawed on many areas and I thought it to be un-enforceable. After months and many dollars, a judge found the contract to be un-enforceable. It seems that several of my co-workers at the original employer’s place of business had the same contract, and they needed a test case to see if they had written illegal contracts for most of their staff. I was made an example of to show the rest on the employees that “disloyalty” as the GM called it, would not be tolerated.
At the end, I got the job I wanted and my old company had to pay the court cost. They should have just let me walk out, instead of proving to the rest of their employees that their contracts aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. Be careful what you sign.