Being Fired Can Lead To Advancement
August 16, 2016
Being fired or unemployed in this business is a part of the culture and it is nothing to be ashamed of. It never feels good to be fired. I was once let go three days before Thanksgiving and days before the ratings came back indicating a 13 share for my 6-10p shift. The reason: I naively looked to my PD for advice concerning a job offer and he took it to mean I was looking to leave. I found out later he had wanted to replace me with a friend of his and took our conversation to the GM and convinced him to make a move because I was about to leave. I felt like a failure because it was the first time I had ever been fired; I was convinced I had done something wrong, it took a couple of veteran air-staffers to make me understand it was not a reflection of my work.
It was the first but not the last time I ever lost a job. One time a GM brought me into his office to let me know my contract was not being renewed because I was making too much. Here is a recent e-mail exchange with an industry survivor feeling like he failed and trying to take his radio career another direction.
Jock: I am in a transition period. I did afternoons for years at a Top 40 station in Baltimore and now I'm in the process of trying to do Talk radio. This is really different for me because it is a small station in a small town and I even have to sell time. I do two hours a day just before Rush Limbaugh. I take calls from listeners and have guests whenever I can book someone.
Doing music radio was easy, but this has been hard on me and my family. Making the adjustment to Talk radio has caused me lots of anxiety and I'm scared I will not be able to be good at this. Talking for a few seconds or doing a five-minute interview is a lot easier then talking for two hours. Every day before I go on I freeze up and wonder if I will go blank when I interview a guest. Sometimes I find myself waiting to talk rather than listening to my guest.
The reason I took this job was because I haven't been able to find anything in any music formats and this talk thing just sort of popped up. I sent in an aircheck of me reading news, talked to the owner/GM, and the next thing I know I got the job. All my buddies have wondered what happened to me. I am a little embarrassed and that's why I will not tell you the city or station I am now at. I want to get better at this but I am not sure of what I am doing or my next step.
Coach: First of all, stop feeling embarrassed. You found a job in radio and are trying something different. Your radio friends will understand and admire the fact you are working again. It sounds like you have a fear of failing and need reminding it's all the same; regardless of the format, all you need is a microphone and listeners. It is a matter of transferring the skills you used in Top 40 to Talk radio. And you mentioned something that separates a good talk show host from a bad one -- instead of waiting to talk, you have to listen. An interview is nothing more than a conversation between two people. Learn to ask concise questions; there's nothing worse than an interviewer voicing a long comment and asking the guest to comment on what he or she just said. In everyday life, people who do that sort of thing are considered windbags and no one ever remembers most of what they say. Were you successful in in your last job at the Top 40 station?
Jock: I did afternoons for more than eight years and my shift was in the top five 18-34 for six of them. I was a victim of cut backs.
Coach: Well, it sounds like you did well and losing the job had to do with economics and not performance. Many studies have shown the most successful employees are those who consistently get ahead, create value for their company, and are well liked. You know what to do, but have not mentally transferred your skills from the Top 40 job to this one. Do not let this window of opportunity close; this is a chance to get into a profession with more longevity than any music format.
Jock: You say that, but I still fear like what if there is something I am lacking in.
Coach: You did not fail in your last job; your employer decided to view you as a widget and decided you were no longer necessary for the company's strategic plan. In our current economy this sort of thing has become common place for many people. Part of your problem with your new job is the old job; stop thinking about being let go and concentrate on the experience you picked up as a broadcaster.
Jock: How do I avoid what happened to me at my last job?
Coach: You are not in control of your employment destiny when you work for others. You need to focus on doing a good job and not how to not lose a job, I hope that makes sense. To become comfortable with your new gig as a Talk show host, work on reapplying the skills you have learned over the years. I suggest you get a copy of a book Heat and Light written by Mike Wallace and Beth Knobel, much of it is about journalism, but it covers interviewing techniques. In your search for a comfortable style, study other successful interviewers. By the way, you can Google archived shows of present and past talk show hosts, including Larry King back in his Mutual of Omaha radio days.
Jock: This still all feels a little strange.
Coach: You are to be admired for finding a new direction to stay in this business. Just remember, show prep is the same no matter what format. Try looking at doing a two-hour Talk show as an expansion on a short-form five-minute exchange. I have confidence you will figure things out and have success in Talk radio.
Reinvention and surviving in business is a skill set. We all accumulate knowledge transferable to similar job situations, it's a matter of recognizing what you can do; then go out and tell others until someone says yes to a new job opportunity.