By Dave Foxx
So, here we are at the start of a new year, a time many people use to evaluate their lives, getting introspective about personal and professional goals, making plans to better achieve those goals and wondering what else they can do to make life better. We all have been encouraged to make resolutions to do this or that better and in the process, become more advanced human beings. Professionally, I’m sure many of you think about making a move to a bigger market or perhaps going “across the street” to a competitor, always seeking that upward momentum within the business. If that’s you, good luck! I sincerely hope you find what you’re looking for. In 2012 I met a LOT of people who are finding their own personal Nirvana in smaller markets, where joining the PTA, getting involved in the city council and attending Friday night High School football games makes you truly happy. I salute ALL of you. The fact that you’re reading this magazine says a lot. Whether you have aspirations of taking over my job one day, or are finding real happiness putting down roots wherever you are, you’re about making what you do better, growing your skills, expanding your understanding and being all you can be.
Aside from sounding like an Army recruiting promo, I sincerely hope I can inspire you to reach new heights this year. This business has been so very generous to me, I really want to pay it forward. That is the entire reason I write this column each month. To that end, I’d like to pass along some resolutions I think are worth considering.
Expand Your Network By 1 Every Month
As impressive as your skillset might be, if nobody knows who you are or what you can do, you will never make the next step. Even if you’re sitting in the perfect market, working at the best radio station, having a great network will vastly improve your resources. Consider a recent Z100 Jingle Ball Promo we aired here in New York. I got the idea from my friend Spanky at Kiss108/Boston. We chat two or three times every week and the ideas most definitely flow back and forth.
I have a friend who up until 7 months ago was struggling in a very small Southern market, trying desperately to move up in the business. She got her shot at a major market station, but immediately complained to me that it was too much; too much work, too many hours, too many responsibilities and too little money. As often happens, I got an inquiry from a medium market station a couple of weeks later, looking for someone with good skills in the production room. I called my friend and she practically lunged at the chance. She is extremely happy right now. The job better fits her skillset, she’s quickly made a lot of new friends and she feels like she’s growing again. She is there simply because we’re connected. She would never have known about her new job otherwise.
There are a number of social networks that cater to special interests like production and voiceover work. Facebook has a group for each, filled with people I know and respect. Linked In is another network that specializes in getting people with similar interests together. At this point, I must have literally thousands of contacts through these networks, but simply tagging someone as a friend is not nearly enough. Reach out and make them part of your personal network. I can’t tell you how much real work gets done on a personal level through my personal network. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Don’t be like the prettiest girl in school, sitting home on prom night because everyone was afraid to ask her to go. My “medium market” friend I just told you about? We chat on Facebook, a lot.
Learn Something Every Day
Elliot Segal and I have known each other for several years. Now the morning show host at DC101/Washington and WRXL/Richmond, he used to co-host mornings here at Z100. We had a lot in common, like being total Mac-aholics, but the biggest thing he and I agreed on the most was, “Any day that I don’t learn something new, is a day wasted.” Elliot is a voracious reader, like myself, mainly because that’s the fastest, easiest way to learn. Whether it’s a book, the internet or just a roadside sign, we read all the time; it doesn’t really matter what the subject matter is, it’s all information.
I’m currently reading a novel by Iris Johansen called The Search. It’s the third in her Eve Duncan series, and I am learning a lot about search and rescue dogs and how they function. That might not seem like a terribly important topic to further my career as the Creative Services Director at Z100, but it engages my mind. As indirect as it seems, keeping my mind sharp with new information DOES improve my overall functionality. One nice side benefit: I play a really mean game of Trivial Pursuit. It also deepens my Creative Well. I truly don’t know when I’ll need an obscure reference to search and rescue dogs in a promo, but I’m ready. If you’re not sure what my Creative Well is, you probably need to make a resolution to read my column every month.
Try Something New Every Day
I guess this is a kind of corollary to my last resolution, but it is subtly different. In speaking about my Creative Well, I cannot emphasize trying something new every day strongly enough. It’s really easy to do the same things day after day, after day. These are your strengths, right? They got you here just fine. I’m here to tell you that this is the surest way to dig yourself into a rut you will never leave.
A few years ago, in this very space, I explained how to make your VO sound PHAT. It involved cloning your track twice and offsetting the clones by 20ms in each direction. Since I wrote that column, I have discovered at least 5 different ways to accomplish that exact effect that are infinitely simpler. (NOTE TO SELF: update this topic in a future column.) What I originally wrote is still perfectly valid, but because I was willing to try to learn something new, I can now accomplish the same thing with almost zero effort.
Late last night, I was reading a political blog about the President using Twitter to speak to America about the current fiscal mess. There was a picture of his hands, poised over a MacBook Pro and a screen full of posts. One response on the blog was a snarky comment about the White House using a Mac; when one could do the same thing better on a PC for 1/3 the price. I literally laughed out loud. Clearly, this person was operating on a precept that has long since been disproved. Equip any PC with all the standard features you find on a Mac and the price is almost always higher. Had this person done just a minor bit of research, he would not have come off sounding like a troll who doesn’t know much.
I’ve been corrected from time to time on what I’ve written here. Some would be offended, but I am SO not. I look at it like it’s a learning opportunity for me. By taking a positive view of that email or phone call, I do two things: 1) I actually DO learn something new, and 2) I make a friend out of someone who is being critical, which brings up my final suggestion for a resolution:
Remember That Criticism Does NOT Mean Antagonism
Accept advice from any quarter, weigh it carefully with what you know to be true, and move on. Even if the person being critical is angry, there’s no need for you to be. You will feel much better about yourself and you might even make a new friend.
For my sound this month, I have the promo for Z100 Jingle Ball I spoke about in my first resolution. The woman is a dear friend whose voice I adore and is relatively new to the VO game named Loren Raye. She is also a producer for the Elvis Duran and The Morning Show. She is narrating Totally Clueless, a show on MTV, has a few radio station clients, and is the main VO on a demo for Dave Bethell’s just launched music service from the UK, www.PromoBeds.com. If you’re looking for a fresh new female voice, check her out at www.lorenraye.com. How’s that for networking?