by John Pellegrini
Last March, my new wife and I were doing one of those typical family things, visiting my brother and his wife. He's a doctor, and his wife manages their office. My wife is a retail manager, and I'm the low end of the employment food chain. However, I do get to see and observe a lot of people who are trying to get work with 'KLQ. The conversation revolved around the amazing lack of professionalism in today's job seekers.
One person who recently applied at my brother's office actually said the following to my sister-in-law: "My old boss called me a bimbo, and I know I ain't no bimbo." She also tried to light up a cigarette three different times during the interview, even though she had been informed that the office was a non-smoking office.
My wife told a story of a recent trainee who, upon being hired, immediately began ordering all the other employees to work harder. The reason was that the new trainee was hired as an assistant management prospect and thought that assuming instant authority would get her promoted faster. She also began taking on much of the management responsibilities that were for the store manager exclusively, much to the surprise of my wife, the actual manager.
The really amazing aspect of both of these people is that they are both college graduates. Both had taken some business classes, yet both had absolutely no sense of professionalism whatsoever. Both thought that what they were doing was perfectly acceptable, even though they had been given guidelines to the contrary.
Now I'm not about to start debating whether or not our colleges are educating students correctly for the business world. That's their problem. But since looking for work is one of those many wonderful experiences that we get so much of here in the swinging world of show biz, I think that perhaps we might all want to hold the mirror to ourselves and ask, "Do we come across as professionals when we are applying for jobs?"
From my standpoint, and it's a pretty accurate one as far as observational values are concerned, I'd have to say that radio people present some of the worst looking, unprofessional resume and tape packages there are. How do I know this? Because ninety percent of all the tapes that come in for jobs at 'KLQ end up coming to me for "storage." And I pretty much end up throwing all of them out.
Why? The tape is so cheap it would probably damage the heads on my cassette decks were I to reuse them. I cannot believe how many radio people think nothing of sending out air-checks and production samples on cassettes that I can see are at least five years old or more and show clear signs of having been erased and reused numerous times. We get hundreds of air-checks from people whose resumes claim digital workstation experience, but their demos are on tape that dates back to the '70s.
Of course, I hear all the excuses. "Hey, I can't afford to send out expensive tapes for aircheck samples." Well, guess what? That cheap tape you use is very likely the reason you haven't landed that big time gig yet. I can nail down the reasons why most deejays and Production Directors don't get considered for jobs to just two words: sound and looks.
If your aircheck tape is on a poor quality cassette, it's going to sound like crap. Why should a Program Director be interested in hiring you if your aircheck's audio is horrible? No matter where you work, a quality aircheck is not difficult to achieve. If the aircheck equipment at your station sucks, record your audio on your home VCR or home cassette deck. Poor sounding air-checks are a sign of laziness on the part of the air talent. Who wants a disk jockey who isn't interested in how he or she sounds? If you really can't find a way to get a decent sounding aircheck, then it's time to go back to broadcasting school. There just is not an excuse.
The second reason is also vitally important -- looks. How professional looking is your resume and, just as importantly, your aircheck tape? Several Program Directors whom I know divide all the air-checks and resumes they get into two piles: the ones that look like they were thrown together at the last second (the resume appears to have been typed on an old manual typewriter and the cassette is very old with a file folder label for identification) and those that look like they were done professionally. The ones that go into the first pile are immediately sent an EOE standard rejection letter. I know also that most PDs don't want to admit that they do this because they want to come across as fair guys, so I'm doing it for them.
This may sound brutal to you. You may cry, "That's not fair!" But ask yourself this vital question: If you're not willing to present yourself in the best possible way for employment consideration, then why should a station Program Director bother taking any interest in you. If you think that all there is to getting and keeping a hot gig in radio is to be a wacky air personality, then do us all a favor and get out now. Even Howard Stern has a professional sense about his job. In a recent interview Howard said that whenever a client, be they prospective or current advertisers on his show, has a problem with his show's content and is considering dropping the show, he will personally go meet with that client and do his best to straighten out the situation and win that client back. That is professionalism. That's one of the many reasons why Howard has lasted so long and does so well.
Do you have the ability to meet with clients like that? Do you care enough about your career and your future to take the professional attitude of meeting with your station's clients when there's a problem? I would hope so. But, more importantly, do you care enough about your career and future to present yourself in the most professional way? I'm not saying you should run out and buy six brand new suits, but do you have enough business acumen to know where your paycheck comes from and how to keep it coming? Because, as the cliche goes, this is a business. Howard Stern's example is by no means unique. All the successful pros do what they need to do to keep their careers moving. If you want to be taken seriously, then present yourself seriously. It's called "Investing in your Future."
Have your resume done by a professional printer who specializes in resumes. Have your cassette labels printed professionally too! Why stop there? Go so far as to get plastic, hard-shell Norelco cases with printed J-cards. You can get all of that done for under a hundred bucks if you look. If you can't afford to invest one hundred or two hundred dollars in your career, then don't expect to have much of a career. As the promotional guy once said, you have to spend money to make money. Spend some money on your career. If you have to sacrifice a couple of nights at your favorite bar or club to afford it, then what's the terrible loss? What is more important to you?
We who write the ad copy know this to be true: Image Is Everything. You can think to yourself that the reason people succeed is because they are brown-nosers, but the fact is the ones who succeed know what it takes to play the game. If you have any thoughts of a career or if you want some of the common acquisitions of life such as a house, a new car or two and, perhaps, that secret little hideaway vacation place with a boat and maybe a motorcycle, then you've got to make money. To make money you either have to have a Treasury Department issue printer, or a career. The latter is a little easier to obtain.
So, until the revolution comes and all capitalistic functionaries become so much cannon fodder, I'll meet you at the tie rack in the Men's Department of your local department store. I hear there's a half off sale next week!