[980 words | 4 minutes]
“You haven’t worked in radio until you’ve been fired.” That, according to anyone who has worked in radio and been fired. I didn’t understand the significance of the statement until August 2017, when I lost my job.
Nothing was physically any different: I was still blinking and breathing. I didn’t evaporate. There were immediate changes mentally and emotionally, some for the better and many not. I felt free. I also felt lost. It was an opportunity to discover myself.
It can be especially difficult for broadcasters to process job termination because so much of what we do is who we are. But the inverse is also true. It can feel like you have been stripped of your identity and because you have been momentarily deluded into thinking your broadcasting career is over, you think it’s irrevocable. You feel displaced.
You may feel like you’re owed something, but the reality is you aren’t. In fact, maybe your termination was just what you needed. Perhaps you were too comfortable. Or too invested in your job. The latter isn’t to say you shouldn’t be passionate about what you do but rather you had forgotten (or convinced yourself otherwise) that it’s only a job.
Work-life balance is something with which many of us struggle. When I was fired, it was a wakeup call: I was deriving nearly all of my self-worth from my job, something easily done in broadcasting. We graduate college or university flat broke and pursue careers in an industry where salaries are sometimes barely enough to feed and clothe ourselves. Oftentimes, we move thousands of kilometres away from our families and friends for the privilege.
And it is a privilege. Many of us have dreamed for years about working in broadcasting. We have put so much of ourselves into starting and maintaining our careers that the borders of who we are and what we do become often muddled and usually erased. The immense emotional and financial sacrifices that have been made can, upon termination, coalesce and make you feel forsaken by the very institution to which you’ve given yourself.
You need to diversify and begin devoting more of your time to other passions. This has the effect of sharing your emotional validation among activities other than radio. It also allows you to garner a secondary income. During a career intermission, this allows you to focus on something other than the job hunt while making enough money to keep you solvent until you secure your next on-air gig. It gives you balance.
There will come a point, regardless of the circumstances of your termination, when you’ll consider the whole affair a hit job. After all, you were the consummate professional! After seeing anecdotally and across social media your former company and colleagues carrying on without you, you’ll feel sadness or anger or both. Everything about their presence will seem contrived. You’ll want to let the world, especially your industry peers and former listeners, know what a legion of horribles they are. You have a right to tell your side of the story!
And you do. But programmers have a right to read your ire and pass on hiring you because of it. The reality is that broadcasters are fired daily for a myriad of reasons. These same programmers have been tasked with termination—they know it’s difficult. But they also know that how a broadcaster deals with the situation is indicative of his or her character. Taking to social media to voice your anger shows a lack of restraint and an inability to properly deal with the inevitability of change that can define the industry.
After my termination, I articulated my emotions, by hand, and stored the document in my desk for future reference. Then, I spoke to a couple of family members and close friends. My wife and I went out for drinks and we developed a plan. I vented. I cried. But I did it within a context and sample of people whereby I received the emotional support and direction I needed. I didn’t thrust my irritation upon the Internet and instead had individual, offline conversations with people who provided help and not judgement.
Regardless of the timeline between losing one job and landing another, you need to stay relevant and top-of-mind within the industry. There are few things more detrimental to resuming employment within the broadcasting industry than falling silent. Hustling for a job goes beyond submitting resumes. You need to grind out new content while unemployed—something some are unwilling to do.
Check your ego and ask for opportunities to showcase and improve your talent. After five years of full-time on-air experience, I became an unpaid intern. Kid Craig gave me the opportunity to produce audio and video content which, several times a week, was broadcasted and streamed by 102.1 the Edge, one of the biggest radio stations in Toronto. This enabled me to approach programmers with fresh content—I no longer had to rely solely on work from my increasingly distant last job. After a couple months, I was able to leverage my hard work into two weeks of on-air cover at Q107 (thanks to PD Blair Bartrem)—more fresh content for the demo which ultimately landed me my current gig.
Whether you’re currently employed as a broadcaster or between gigs, the goal is to become and remain as connected as possible within the industry, but to realize that radio is only one part of your life. Stay visible—for the right reasons. And understand that you are more than where you work.
If you are currently unemployed, understand this period is fleeting. But embrace it. Control it. Learn from it. Explore who you are and the broadcaster you ultimately want to be. Take charge of your situation and ultimately understand you will work again. And find peace in knowing you control the outcome.