Critical Challenges In An Unprecedented Economy
July 9, 2013
As the job market continues to tighten, there will be fewer options. If you've been paying attention at all lately, I don't have to tell you we're living in tough times. Formats have fragmented and Urban radio is being squeezed by a system that is dictated more by cost controls than by performance, loyalty and tenure. There's a reason for that. Many of today's most successful radio stations are owned by public companies. And public companies need to show growth and profit. Regardless, to become or stay employed, you need to become an innovator.
Innovators are those willing to step outside the box and do things differently on their own, using the creative forces within. It takes vision with strength and iron-clad determination to pursue an idea beyond an industry's norm. It takes courage to reach, to fail, to achieve above and beyond - to stretch outside of the comfort zone and dare to be different. Innovation and change can lead to resilience, growth and positive changes when correctly cultivated.
There's also a reason why so many talented people are either out of work or on their way out of work. Every company today is looking for people with proven skills and track records -- and even some of them are going to have problems keeping their present jobs or finding new ones. They may be forced to relocate and take less money just to work in our industries. How many good people do you know personally who are out of work? If you include yourself in that number, this week's editorial could prove especially useful.
You might want to stick it out if:
- You like to think about your job on weekends and decide what you might do to perform better.
- Your position is compatible with your needs and values.
- You dig your job, your colleagues and the exciting atmosphere that surrounds our industries.
- Your work enables you to fulfill your sense of purpose.
You should probably get on up outta there if:
- You feel tired and irritable most of the time.
- The hours and work interfere or conflict with your preferred lifestyle.
- There aren't any jobs within the organization you can transfer to.
- The work is not congruent with your needs and values and you have another job offer.
If you decide to stay in our exciting industries, just know that the solution is to try to become an indispensable specialist. Stay marketable, network effectively and stay visible in the marketplace. No longer can you be obscure and secure. You have to become noticed. You need the ability to provide thought and insight. There needs to be a little bit of fire to go along with the smoke. It also helps to poke the flames.
Innovation And Comfort Levels
Somebody asked me recently how Urban radio was going to fare in the midst of all the changes. My answer was and is that in order to survive Urban radio, as well as other music formats, must build a younger demo base. In order to do that effectively, it needs innovators. We need innovators with unique abilities. They don't have to re-invent the wheel, just make sure that the wheel keeps turning -- in the right direction.
The good thing is that there are some truly innovative people out there ... people who are in creative positions like to believe that they deserve to be there. They have paid their dues. They have the background, training and innate ability to call upon their intellectual wisdom and experience to push just the right, special buttons to achieve the success and goals that the company has set for them.
But there are hindrances. One of the greatest hindrances to any of us who fall short of our goals or lose our gigs is our level of comfort. When we become satisfied and comfortable with where we are and what we're doing, we stop striving to achieve. While you're still employed you need to redefine your comfort level so you can strive to even greater heights.
If you're an on-air programmer and you suddenly find yourself doing two or more formerly full-time jobs, you don't have enough time to devote to your on-air performance. Yet you're expected not only to program, but to expertly handle a staff of sensitive egos. As a result, many stations simultaneously lose their best air-personality and gain an under-trained, overwhelmed PD. For those of you who find yourself in this position, my best advice is that you must learn to manage your time and delegate.
If you're sitting in a comfortable job, working for a great company, you have every right to feel proud of yourself. When things are going well we tend to get complacent. But you have only to look around to be reminded that "stable" is a term rarely applied to today's job market.
The landscape can change in an instant. Mergers, downsizing and layoffs happen all the time. It could even be something as simple as your boss gets promoted or booted and the chemistry isn't right with the new boss. You should always be prepared for a sudden job change or loss.
Review Your Resume Regularly
Not having a current resume ready is one of the biggest stumbling blocks for most people who need to get back into the job market. After an unexpected job loss, when you have plenty of other things on your mind, is not the time to try to think creatively about what you've done in the past. It's much easier if you keep a list of your accomplishments as you go along.
People in our industries change jobs and duties frequently, even if they stay with the same company. That's one of the reasons you don't want to become known as a complainer. In 2013 the squeaky wheel gets replaced.
You could leave a job on Friday and start the new one on Monday. Just before you make that transition, take time to write down what you did in the last job or project. Write a brief description of the job as it might appear on a resume. Once you're involved in the new job, memory of the old one fades.
To create the best package, you should think beyond job descriptions and accomplishments to transferable skills. If you're applying for an on-air PD position, or a position as an air talent, you should make certain that your audio presentation is perfect. There should be nothing that you have to apologize for. Personally, I like the "greatest hits" approach. Put four or five of your best breaks, regardless of chronology, in inverted pyramid style together on a disc or MP3. Have someone else listen to it when you have finished and be prepared to make some changes.
Programmers and GMs tend to want to try to hire specialists today. It is no longer effective to say that as an air talent, you can do afternoons, nights, middays and mornings. That's like saying you're a professional football player and you can play any position. If what they're looking for is a morning jock with a proven track record; you can't fake that and you shouldn't try. With the exception of the overnight position (many of which are voicetracked today anyway) and weekends, you should be a daypart specialist. That's the way to put your best foot forward. In some cases, if you've done middays, it's entirely possible you could transition to afternoons. But most stations want to hire a person who has done what they are applying for. As bad as you may want to work, if you are ill-suited for a position, you will soon be back in the unemployment line.
Now, let's look at the resume that accompanies that audio presentation. I personally prefer and advise that you send a one-page resume. These GMs and PDs are really busy people and while a three-pager may be impressive, chances are, they won't have time to read it. There are resume-writing services that can ask the right questions about your background and help you phrase your experience so that it gets attention. Engage someone to help, if you need it.
Some of you may prefer to create a career portfolio. Just don't make it too long or involved. These decision makers today are busy people. But portfolios can be effective as a virtual record of your accomplishments and as a way to market yourself.
You should think about your own personal brand that reflects your unique selling proposition. A portfolio is a way to tell your career story and emphasize the best chapters. What should you include? Letters of recommendation, awards, client letters, testimonials and ratings.
You may be very happy with your present position when you suddenly get tapped to apply for an internal promotion. Wouldn't it be great to have a complimentary letter from the CEO or president of the company at your fingertips? People always need to be able to talk about their value.
The person who never speaks about his/her skills and capabilities never gets the promotion. Don't confuse articulating your skills with bragging. If you're the type of person who finds it difficult to claim your successes, bounce ideas off a trusted friend or colleague who can help you say something better.
A career portfolio is also a useful tool for annual reviews. It will remind you of what fires you put out, what rating success you had, all of which could translate into a raise or a promotion.
Networking & Career Development
You've heard it many times. We all need to be connectors of people though networking or "netweaving" -- which is introducing your acquaintances to each other, with the expectation that it will benefit them both. Having an active business network also gives you a person to turn to when you need advice about a business project, software issue or management problem. When you have good relationships with people and you aren't asking them for anything it's like an investment. It makes it easier to ask for help when you need it.
Another way to network effectively is to read trade journals. At the very top of that list is All Access. Whether you're new in a gig or looking, always read the job ads in your field. It's easy do to with today's Internet job boards and it tells you about changes and new opportunities. You always want to keep your eye on the availabilities.
You should continue to develop yourself. People often rely on their companies to provide training for them, but there may be no training budget. We all need to take responsibility for maintaining our skills and developing our careers. We should all have something that we're interested in learning and there are plenty of continuing educational and online courses that are accessible and affordable.
New skills, certifications or degrees can often lead to advancement or a new direction in your career. They can also give you career options
You also have to save for the future. Many with really good salaries spend it all every month. Everyone should have at least six months living expenses saved. If they don't have it liquid then they should have assets they can access easily or borrow against, if need be. Put a small part of every paycheck into savings. It builds.
If you are fortunate enough to get a salary increase, don't allocate it all. After all, you weren't using it before. You can treat yourself, but save something, too. Having a financial cushion greatly decreases the stress of a sudden job loss and can prevent you from having to take the wrong job simply because you need the money.
Finally, if you're lucky, you may not have to leave that current job you've got, but if you do, being proactive about career planning will make it easier to find the next one. Getting and keeping a gig is going to be harder than ever because there are fewer options. But you've got a much better chance of surviving and even prospering if when you land that next job once you get comfortable, instead of looking for excuses not to get things done, accept problems as additional challenges to prove your worth.
Remember these critical employment challenges we face in an unprecedented economy are based on the fact that we are now in the content generation business across all the digital channels. The goal of our stations is to positively impact consumer behavior by being ubiquitous across all platforms, and by the quality and timeliness of our content. We need to stop interrupting what listeners are interested in and become what they are interested in.