Always Take The Opportunity Over The Security
“I can’t pay you.. but you can ride with me..” is that a promising statement for a potential new career or opportunity? H-ll-the-f--k-no.
But it’s what separates those that only want to be around based on what you can do for them, rather than what they can make happen for themselves.
Hi, by the way, I’m Ashlee. Most know me as “Ashlee On-Air,” my coy radio and Instagram/Twitter handle that rolls off the tongue while I’m speaking on the radio. Oh, yes, I’m a radio jock and the Program Director of said radio station which I speak on. I’m also a Gemini, enjoy adventurous outdoor escapades – and currently on a Dave East wave.
At 28, I’m the youngest Program Director in my entire company (iHeartMedia).. yes, THAT iHeartMedia, the one that puts on the Award show, the festivals and pretty much owns every single radio station across the United States. I am one of a handful of black woman PD’s..
So what do I know about the struggle ? Those times you have literally less than $1 in your bank account and have to rely on the ‘free food’ that companies are going to bring to the station to be your next meal. When your car gets a flat tire – but with absolutely NO money to fix or replace it, you have to stay at the station late and sneak home a station vehicle just to get home and get back to work the next morning at 5am to run the boards. When you had a very well paying job, but knew in your heart, it wasn’t what you were meant to do, you have too much creativity for that – too much personality just to be hearing middle aged women screaming at you at the Guest Services desk because their coupon expired last month. Yep – that’s me. All true experiences. All what molded me into the person I am today.
My background, I didn’t grow up with money, my mother and grandmother have NO extra money to just “lend” to me if I needed it. Since I’ve been 18, I’ve pretty much been on my own. After college I continued to live on my own, until I got evicted from my apartment because I couldn’t make rent — due to the NOTHING hourly wage I was getting paid at the radio station. Even then, I moved in with my sister – still paid her $200 month, which is NOTHING but for the little bit I was making – it very well felt like a good $700 out of my paycheck.
But I stayed there. I loved radio, I adored it. Being a host and sharing my experiences with people was something I dreamed of doing my entire life. Now you’re telling me I work for the number one media company in the country – and you think I’m just going to give that up? You’re trippin’. I took the OPPORTUNITY.
We can keep it going – I’ve flown to some amazing festivals or conferences that I was invited to cover, and needing that OPPORTUNITY – I went. Only being able to afford the plane ticket – and having to stay in a hostel, or bum on someone’s couch, you name it. Still, I took the OPPORTUNITY, not the SECURITY. This is when that $20 Planet Fitness black card came in handy when I needed a place to shower…
But one thing I can assure you – this ascension into the ‘glamorous salaried music industry’ life was not easy.
At the moment, I live in a college town, but I haven’t had much luck with hiring college employees. Why? Personally, because millennials (even though I am one..) -have no work ethic. The minute things get ‘hard’ they give up. They believe everything is supposed to come at once. They have a ‘dream’ but they weren’t taught to be relentless and resilient, they were taught to ‘party it up in college,’ these are the ‘best times of your life,’ hey – ‘you’ll get a basic job eventually.’ This is true for the average 9 to 5 paper pushers – but not in entertainment. Some young people think it’s all so planned out and methodical. Get the college degree, then jobs will be BEGGING you to work for them. Negative. You’re working for the SECURITY. I thought that too. But working in the creative field – NOTHING is promised. There is no handbook to success, because everyone’s career and background isn’t the same.
I get e-mails daily about young people trying to break into the industry. They see what I POST on Instagram and think it’s all sunshine and unicorns – and at the snap of a finger I became this ‘socialite.’
GIRL, Bye is my response to that. I personally have sacrificed almost any and everything for what I have toady. I live at least 2,000 miles away from any relative. My closest friends live either back home in Tacoma, WA or Harrison, NJ. I don’t go out by choice – but I’d rather stay in and do research or read up on some new strategies than aimlessly drink in the club any day.
I can’t stress the level of CONFIDENCE and RESILIENCE you have to have to make it in this industry. I was told ‘NO’ for MONTHS before I finally heard a ‘YES’ from the man that hired me in Texas. I wasn’t the ‘FIT’ for these other markets, but I was more than enough for this one. And as much as I was grateful for that opportunity – it still wasn’t enough for me.
I then took it upon myself to be a national correspondent for the company at all these festivals, conferences and award shows. The Grammy’s? BOOM, we were there. Revolt Music Conference? We’ve been there every year since the 2014 Inaugural. Lollapalooza? BOOM. I’m in there. Why do I put my own money into this and not just settle? Because it’s an investment into myself and where I want to be.
The networking opportunities, the people you meet in these circles – is PRICELESS. But no one really wants to do it – because they don’t want to put their own money up. They don’t want to put time in, (if they’re not getting paid), they don’t want to take a chance and BET on themselves. If you’re one of those reading this, shaking your head saying ‘girl, you crazy.. I wouldn’t do that.” think about why you wouldn’t. Is it because you don’t care that deeply about this career path? Are you scared? What is it? Because whatever it is that’s holding you back from reaching your greatest potential and realizing self-efficacy is ultimately what will be the major thing blocking you from your idea of ‘success.’
People who know me hear me tell this story over and over again, but it’s important for people to realize WHY COMPANIES AREN’T TAKING A CHANCE ON YOU. Look at work as just a ‘job,’ and be a worker. Or look at your career as an ‘opportunity’ and a ‘launching platform,’ it is ENDLESS the places you will go. You cannot TEACH that kind of drive in someone.
My advice to the flustered person that keeps getting rejected is this:
- Are you sacrificing indulgement and dedicating ALL of your time to this craft? IF not, FIX IT.
- Are you taking up all of the opportunities to be in the CIRCLES you want to be in and networking? If not, CHANGE IT.
- As of this moment, are you the absolute BEST version of yourself, today? If not, THEN BECOME IT, APPLY YOURSELF and stop bullshitting!
This advice may be ‘harsh’ – but hey, this industry is NOT for the weak. It’s a dog-eat-dog situation – so what are YOU going to do to become the top dog?