Part-Time To Full-Time ... It Can Happen
October 11, 2016
Everyone lives for the weekend and in radio it can be a special time for listeners ... and the only time for some air personalities. My favorite time to work was Saturday midday in the summertime. The air conditioning was on full blast in the studio and I knew what I was playing and saying was center stage for all who tuned in.
My First Time
My very first part-time weekend shift took place in college at a News/Sports/Talk station. I remember everything about it; it was a Saturday/Sunday morning overnight shift from mid-6a. I was so excited and had taken a lot of notes earlier in the week while sitting in on the PD's afternoon show. He explained to me how to air the recorded programs that started at 4a. During the weekend overnights, music was played and it was my job to read a five-minute newscast every hour until the recorded shows began. Having always been a late-night person, I figured it was a cinch to work this time slot, but there is a big difference between staying up late and staying awake until 6a.
What Time Is It?
By the time my relief came in, I was mumbling, tired and hungry. My first mistake was going to Denny's and eating a bowl of chili before heading home for some sleep. It was about 7a, still dark, and I figured I could sleep until the NBA game came on at noon. I dozed off and I can remember jumping up, noticing it was only 7:30. I assumed I had just had a cat nap because I was nervous about oversleeping and missing the game. I was exhausted and thought I should force myself to stay awake for the game and sleep afterwards. I turned on the TV and there was a movie on, I thought it was strange, there usually were no movies on this channel at that time of the morning, Then I thought, something is odd, looking at the clock again, it now said 7:35, way too early to call a friend to see if they knew what was going on. So I called the TV station and asked the guy who answered why there was a movie on? He said, "There is always a movie on at 7 on Sunday." I said, "I have never seen a movie on this channel this early in the morning. He replied, "Sir, it's Sunday night." I had slept the whole entire day.
My first on-air weekend experience has given me a fondness for part-timers and weekend personalities. Therefore, I love to hear how these on-air warriors work their way to full-time status; it's not easy.
Jock: You know I have been out of a full-time job for almost seven months. I was doing bartender work and trying to get some advertisers for my podcast. I was back east living in Pittsburgh and sending out demos to every opening I ran across in All Access. I was reaching out to one of my old bosses and he told me if I could get myself to where he was, I could work part-time for him. He's over a cluster with several formats down south.
Coach: Yes, I am familiar with your story because I suggested you go there and take a part-time job while you worked for your old boss. I figured there was something he wasn't telling you. The last time we talked was two months ago and you said that you were going to drive down and look around.
Jock: I did and I moved here about three weeks ago. I am living with a friend of a friend while I look for a place of my own and a regular part-time job. The cluster of stations is awesome.
Coach: How long did it take you to learn the board and the studio computer software?
Jock: The first day I came in for training, I was nervous. I felt like a little kid. The guy who trained me told me to record my talk breaks and play them back on the air until I was comfortable.
Coach: That was good advice.
Jock: I recorded my first break, it took about 12 takes. Sam, I hadn't been on the air for months. I just said screw it and took a chance and did all my talking live. It worked.
Coach: It is hard for some people to do voicetracking, I have gone step-by-step with some of my coaching clients until they got the hang of recording breaks and making them sound live. My rule of thumb is to always approach it like it is live and do it in one take. It takes a lot of practice and mental preparation.
Jock: Well, you'll have to show me some of those tricks. Luckily, I have been getting a lot of work between all the stations. But doing part-time, I feel like a piece of driftwood.
Coach: I have always advised part-timers and weekenders to make regular business hour visits once a week so everyone can see their face. It is always smart to ask the Promotions Director if they need any help or stop by production and see it the Production Director needs a hand. Don't hang out, but be seen. Also, check in with the OM, PD and or MD. It is a good way to always stay at the top-of-mind awareness.
Jock: Be seen, right?
Coach: Right, and it is a good time to ask questions about memos or anything else on your mind. The key words are listen and learn. I would also suggest that you ask your boss when would be a good day to come in for an aircheck session. Many times weekenders don't get this luxury because of all sorts of reasons. Yes, the PD should be doing them anyway, but these days it is hard enough for them to sit with the full-timers for a session.
Jock: What is the best time of the week to drop by the station?
Coach: I always suggest Thursdays because earlier in the week there are too many meetings and on Fridays everyone is busy working to get out the door for the weekend.
Jock: How can I get off weekends and do full-time?
Coach: I already told you, get in some critique sessions with your PD. If you need more, make friends on social media with another PD or personality and ask them to occasionally listen to your demos. Something else that is important: Get in the habit of listening to your air work. You can't improve without listening to your work, although you are probably your worst critic, you can try and learn to recognize your strengths and weaknesses through personal observation. Between doing that, critiques from your boss, and pointers from a friendly programming outsider, should put you on the road towards a fulltime job somewhere.
You also need to learn how to prep for your shows. Get to work an hour before your shift and check to see what's playing in and around your allowed talk times, go over the studio liners, read the local paper for local happenings, and check the Internet for entertainment stuff. Check with your PD during critiques for suggestions on how he or she wants you to be on the air. Also, listen to the other personalities on the stations in your cluster to hear how they do things. You will learn how to inform and entertain concisely within the guidelines of your stations program directives.
Jock: Do you think I am stuck with part-time with no chance of going full-time? Will I have to go somewhere else?
Coach: It could happen for you there but I must warn you, sometimes great weekend jocks can become valuable utility players. Honestly, it is easier to replace a full-timer then a part-time weekend personality who can fill in for any shift. However, in your case, I suspect your PD is not telling you everything and has a reason why he suggested you to come and work there. There is a good chance there are going to be some changes and by being there, you'll wind up full-time at one of the cluster's stations. Meantime, keep your head down, don't fall into any cliques, and observe how everything works. I suspect you will be full-time before the end of the year. I just think your former boss just can't say what the master plan is, but you are a part of it. Oh, go get that other part-time job until you move up.
Jock: Anything else?
Coach: Yes. It's your job to check in and stay in touch with what's going on in terms of contests, promotions, and procedures. Even though you will be working a non-radio job on the side, make every effort to attend jock meetings and when you can't, make sure your boss knows you won't be there. Also, make sure you get with him or her in person or on the phone--to find out what the meeting was about. Let me be clear, be proactive and stay on top of things.