How I Transitioned From College Radio to Commercial Radio
A lot of younger women (college girls) who follow my personal accounts always reach out to me for advice on how I did "it". The "it" they refer to, is how I made the leap from college to commercial radio. So, I decided to sit down and write out my journey, plus, add-in lessons and tips that I wish I would've known back then.
I started radio on a whim. I originally went to school to become a television reporter. At my school, you can't even get on the television without taking required classes. I was impatient.
So, after taking some tests, I began a shift at my college radio station.
The radio station is a big deal at my college, especially if you're in J-school. So having my shift was amazing. I loved music first, and then fell in love with the art of radio. It got to the point where I would base my school classes around my radio schedule ( it's silly - don't do that)
My friend (Champ) would tell me all the time, "Nobody outside of college radio, cares about college radio." At this time, my show was doing really well and I just thought he was being rude. But I should've listened.
In Fall 2014, I was set to graduate in December (finally). In September, I went to talk to my professor at the time and he told me I should start applying to radio stations. So, I looked at a map of southern states, and for each state I would google small towns and then the hip-hop stations in the small town. I would find out who their Program Director was and e-mail them my resume and air-check. I probably e-mailed over 50 Program Directors and I got ALL no's back. I was shook. They either told me I had no experience or they were not hiring at the time.
December comes and everyone in school was like "What're you doing after graduation, I know you have BIG plans." Ha! If they only knew. I graduated and continued to work at the wing spot in Tallahassee. I was depressed. People were moving on and starting their careers. My family would ask how the job search was going and I couldn't say anything, because it wasn't going anywhere.
I decided to HUMBLE myself.
I went back home to try and intern at a station in a nearby town. I went in for the internship interview and it lasted six hours.No lie. It was an Urban AC station, but it skewed higher (think of the music your grandparents may enjoy). The owner, Alice Lee, asked me who my favorite artist was. In my head,I'm thinking Gucci Mane, but I say, Earth,Wind,and Fire.
She then told me she didn't want me to intern for her, but she wanted to hire me as her assistant.
Sidenote: Mrs.Alice Lee, is the only African-American woman in the state of Florida who owns a radio station. She's the epitome of a girl boss.
Not only did she hire me, she gave me my first shift that same night. A guy had called out sick, so I filled in - talk about FREAKING OUT. But I did it, nervous, shaky hip-hop voice (know your audience) and all. She even came in the room and told me to be 'cool'.
When she was away, I was the person in charge, which was intimidating because everyone was so much older than me.
Mrs.Lee was confident, which made me confident about my work and leadership abilities.
I later left and went to a new hip-hop station in West Palm Beach, Fl & then I took a job in Tuscaloosa,AL doing Urban AC as an on-air talent/Assistant Program Director - those are stories for another day.
But, I want to let you in on some lessons you need to learn quickly:
1. That period of time between graduation and getting a radio job will make a warrior out of you. You can either live up to the challenge and get creative, or get another career. No choice is wrong, but it comes down to passion.
2. Taking pictures with celebrities that come to campus and interview with you is cool, but don't put so much emphasis on that, they CAN'T help you get a job.
3. Get an internship in your college town or when you go home for the summer. Even if it's not in the genre you "like", it still counts as commercial radio experience.
4. Make genuine connections with people who are in the job that you want. You never know who other people know, and how they can help you when your time comes.
5. You're going to lose sleep,money, and friends - it's okay, that's life. The good always outweighs the bad in this industry. It gets greater later.
6. As long as you want it, work hard, and humble yourself - anything can be yours in due time.
7. There are no "rules" or "right way" to getting into radio, everyone has a different story.
8. Ask Program Directors to listen to your air checks and give you feedback on how you can improve. (Your friends are always going to say you sound "good". but what does that really mean? Nothing.)
9. Learn all the roles at the radio station. This comes in handy when someone is out, you don't have to depend on them to get things done.
10. Patience. This is the biggest lesson of all. Not every opportunity you receive is a good opportunity ( after you live through it, you'll totally understand)
Cheers and good luck!