Guys, i am very proud to share a post with you written by my buddy Adam Schneider. Adam is a great Imaging Guy and a VO PRO, a connector and the brand new Creative Services Director of All News 106.7 in Atlanta, where he works with and for a NT legend, Jim Mahany.
This post should be an inspiration for all of you guys to a) never give up and b) learn how you make an opportunity out of a lay-off and other not satisfying situations. Thanks Adam! How does one go from losing their radio job to getting a better one in a down economy? Twice..? With talent, luck, and a little bit of science….
I’m sure many of you have been in a similar situation, especially in the current state of radio. Everything is going great at your job. You’re performing well and then one day the company decides to downsize. Next thing you know, your position has been eliminated through no fault of your own. What do you do? How do you turn that surprise punch to the gut into a better career step? Sure, you could get out of radio completely and jump head first into fulltime voiceover or some other profession (as many have done). But what if you want to stay in radio? Here’s my story…
After going to college and doing my fair share of interning, I landed my first Imaging Director gig in Columbus, OH. This was a great situation to learn and hone my skills. It was a 3 station cluster that had an active rock station as its cash cow. I was in charge of the entire cluster so this was the perfect environment to grow. That job also had a successive line of very talented people before me – Brian “Sludge” Hadaad, Brian Rhodes, and Forrest Martin – all of which went on to major market gigs, so I knew I was in a good spot.
Sure enough, after 3 ½ years I was off to Atlanta, GA on my next big career step imaging an active rock station (Project 9-6-1) and a country station (94-9 The Bull). These were Clear Channel stations and sure enough, on the day Barack Obama was being inaugurated as President Of The United States, I (along with nearly 3000 other Clear Channel employees) was being shown the door due to Clear Channel’s reduction in force.
So what now? How was I going to separate myself from the other talented people out there in the exact same position as me? The number of people out of work in the industry was huge while the number of jobs was small. The 1st thing I did was to take some time off and clear my head. This was the 1st time I had ever lost my job, so I took a few weeks to do a self-evaluation and figure out exactly what I wanted to do. I looked at this as an opportunity, not a death sentence. I was given the chance to do whatever it was I wanted to do with my newfound free time. I didn’t want to waste it.
Voiceover was always an avenue I wanted to pursue as more than just a part-time hobby, so that was what I chose until I could land my next radio gig. I figured I could focus on voiceover while finding the correct radio gig, not just the 1st one. Networking was another thing I knew I needed to work on. Sure, I knew my fair share of people in the industry. But I had friends that could pick up the phone and pretty much call anyone. I wanted to be connected like that.
Social networking was and still is the best networking tool that I know of. It’s super easy to connect with people in the industry, as everyone is using it. The one thing I have found about our industry is that it’s very nurturing. Take advantage of it!
After a few months of jumping headfirst into voiceover (www.adamschneider.com) and searching for that elusive radio gig, I found a gig I wanted in Miami, FL imaging a Classic Hits station. But, as I alluded to earlier, the competition would be fierce. I later found out that over 1000 people applied for the job.How did I, a person with no Classic Hits experience, land the gig? It’s what I like to call the Smother Technique. While I can’t take full credit for it, I have added my own twist to it. I learned it from my mentor, the ultra talented Jeff Berlin.(I could devote an entire blog as to how amazing he is, but I’ll save that for another time.)
What is the Smother Technique? It’s where you smother the Program Director (or whomever is doing the hiring) with your work. You want to make them get so inundated with your work that they have no choice but to hire you, even if only to get you to stop smothering them. It may sound somewhat ridiculous, but it works. I 1st used this to get the Columbus gig, so I knew it worked. (I even saw stacks and stacks of CDs I had sent on my PD’s desk and in his car when he picked me up from the airport.)
Be forewarned: This isn’t a foolproof way to get a gig but it will drastically increase your chances. Before I did the Smother Technique I maybe heard back 35% of the time. Now, I hear back about 90% of the time. Even if you don’t get the gig, you get on the PD’s radar. I even now get rejection emails, which we all know is preferred to never knowing if the gig has been filled. Also, be prepared for the long haul, as you may have to do this for months. From the 1st package I sent until my 1st day on the job for the Miami gig, nearly 4 months (and 7 interviews) had passed.
The gig in Miami as Creative Production Director at Majic 102.7 was a lot of fun and it was my 1st time imaging a Classic Hits station. I had come to find out that it wasn’t that much different than imaging any other station, just that I had to tone down my active rock tendencies (in both writing and flash). However, sure enough my company went through budget cuts and my position was eliminated.
The last time I went through this, it took my about 9 months to find a new gig. This time, I was a lot more fortunate. My networking had definitely paid off, as I didn’t need to employ the Smother Technique as much. I made it a point to contact all of the industry trades, as these budget cuts flew under the radar. Within hours of it being announced on the trades that I had be let go, I started getting emails and phone calls. Within the 1st month, I was up for over 10 gigs, many of them in major markets. The formats of these gigs were all over the map – Hot AC, Classic Rock, News/Talk, Variety Hits, AC, Country, Active Rock, CHR, AAA, etc. The one thing I had learned was to not be overly picky with format, as my skills could be applied to any radio format. I was also getting a lot of freelance offers.
How was I getting so many potential opportunities with minimal effort? Remember that networking I had begun years prior? It had finally paid off. I didn’t wait until I needed my network of friends and colleagues to start contacting them. I had begun a normal open dialogue with them for quite awhile before.
Which gig did I choose to take? It may surprise you, as it was a huge departure from what I had done in the past. One fateful Monday night, I received a somewhat mysterious email from a friend and colleague whom I had never worked for/with, but had wanted to for years. He asked me what my status was on a gig that he knew I was very close to taking and to send my stuff for a gig that he couldn’t give me any detail about. Knowing this person and trusting him like I do, I took his advice and sent my stuff without knowing what the gig was. I knew that he had my best interest in mind, so I wasn’t worried about where this may take me. Flash forward about 2 months, and I have now just recently launched a brand new all news radio station in Atlanta, GA – All News 106.7, as the Creative Services Director.
This is easily the most challenging gig I have ever had, but I have always prided myself on taking the most challenging gig I could find. I prefer not to rest on my laurels, but rather to expand and try to push my own envelope and suggest you try the same. I couldn’t be happier with this job, as I have the opportunity to work with some amazing people and watch a station grow from birth. This gig also further pushes me in a new creative direction that I know will pay off.
So what’s the moral of this story? Smother and network! The radio industry, especially in this economy, is a tough business. It’s not what it was several years ago. As long as you keep honing your craft you should do fine. And if you find yourself out of work, smother and network! It works, as I’m proof of it.
I have been very fortunate in gaining the knowledge and insight of some very close friends in this industry and am a firm believer of paying it forward. Thus, if anyone wants any help, advice, or just wants to network, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org