Twenty years ago today, I started my first full-time radio job at Rock 92.3 in Jackson, TN. I was twenty years old with hardly any life experience, and all I knew was that I wanted to be a Radio DJ. Like, since I was four years old, that was always a goal of mine. I would listen to the radio constantly, mimic the personalities- who I thought were the coolest EVER (Looking at you, Peggy Kirk at 107.7 in Henderson, TN!), and I would even make my own radio shows and interview my brother, cousins, etc. and tape them. Remember taping things on cassettes? Good times. So, when I got the opportunity to make my childhood dream come true, obviously I took it! I was terrible, and it took a while to make myself a half-decent personality, but twenty years in, I am SO glad I took the leap of faith and I learned some pretty important lessons along the way, which hopefully can help another aspiring radio personality, or anyone in business, really.
TAKE INITIATIVE! My first actual radio job (part-time) was when I was seventeen. I had just started my Freshman year of college, and I was majoring in Communications. Upon finding out that I would not get to do a radio internship until my SENIOR YEAR, which seemed an eternity, I decided to stop at a local group of stations on the way home from class. I walked in, and Roger Vestal and Jared Mims were in the lobby, and I asked them for a job. They let me do overnights, and I sucked, but it was a start! I often wonder what would have happened if I had done what Lambuth University had suggested and waited for an opportunity. Probably nothing. That job only lasted a Summer, but it got the ball rolling!
TAKE RISKS! When I accepted my job as Middays on Rock 92.3, I was an incoming Junior at Lambuth University, and I would go to class before and after work. Well, to graduate, you had to have an internship and Senior project. I figured my full-time job in radio would count? Nope. Because I was getting paid. Even though the Lambuth interns came to the station and I had to teach them production, it didn’t count. They wanted me to intern at a competitor’s station for free. No kidding. So, my Program Director Steve Burke (Damn, I owe him so much) sat me down and told me I would have to choose. He said that in radio, it’s experience and talent and coachability over an overpriced piece of paper. Thankfully, my parents agreed, and I left college to pursue the career that I was going to college for. So I have almost 4 years of college, and all I learned was how to make a press release and to do a stellar keg stand. #NoRegrets
NEVER STOP LEARNING! One thing I’ve noticed, at least in radio, is the amount of people who think they are good enough, and don’t need to learn any more. This always baffles me. Even in my twenties, I knew that the more I learned, the better and more valuable I would be. And I’m still learning. The moment you stop is when you just need to hang it up. And NEVER say “That’s not my job”. If someone needs help, or if there is an opportunity to learn, TAKE IT!
BE NICE! You would think it would be a given, but it’s totally not. I’ve worked with some jackwagons, and it always serves to remind me how not to be. I’ve never regretted being the nice one, ever. I think it’s because I was bullied pretty badly growing up, and I knew how that made me feel. It hurt, a lot, and I would never knowingly want to make someone feel that way.
ATTITUDE TRUMPS TALENT: Yes, you can be the most talented, funniest person alive. But if you are a dillweed, you most likely won’t get too far.
BE OPEN TO NEW IDEAS! “That’s the way we’ve always done it” is a death knell. What’s worked in the past doesn’t mean it will translate and be successful in the future. You have to be open to new things. In radio, this is ever prominent. I know so many who don’t utilize basic things like social media and it drives me bananas! You have to be a bit bendy in life, and be open to new things and ideas.
ADMIT YOU ARE WRONG! I’m wrong a lot, and I mess up a lot. That’s how you learn. And own it. A simple, “I screwed up, I’m sorry” is all you have to do. Don’t let your mistakes define you, either. Learn from them, and move on.
KNOW THAT NOT EVERYONE IS GOING TO LIKE YOU! This was a hard one for me. I’m a people pleaser by nature, and it’s one of my best and worst traits. It’s taken me a long time to realize that no matter what I do, not everyone will like me- be it listeners, co-workers, or idiots who make ridiculous comments on the internet. It’s ok. Not everyone likes extra-crunchy peanut butter and red wine. Does that make it any less awesome? Nope.
The sooner you realize this, and are truly ok with it, the sooner you will find happiness within yourself. I’m 40 now. I know these things.
TOOT YOUR OWN DAMN HORN! This one is major. If you wait for someone else to praise you or promote you, it will never happen. Or it will take a damn long time to. There is nothing wrong with promoting youself and being proud of yourself. Someone has to do it, and it might as well be you.
Those are my nuggets for today. Hopefully I’m still in radio in the coming decades and can dispense more gems upon you.
Anyway, a HUGE Thank you to everyone who supported me, hired me, and believed in me. And to everyone who listens to radio and keeps the dreams going. THANK YOU.