Some more sad radio industry news, today from the BBC, that there will be 65 redundancies at the BBC’s national networks. Already this year there’s been similar changes at GMG/Global, Absolute and other radio groups too. It’s never nice. Especially if you’re at the receiving end.
The main thing to keep in mind if you’ve been dealt this duff hand, is that it’s rarely about you. Generally the reason redundancies happen is that the organisation did not keep pace with the changes in its industry. If they had evolved as their market had evolved, roles and responsibilities would have done the same. A large number of lay offs means they’ve only just realised what they should have known for a long time. It is very much their fault and not your fault.
However, blame isn’t that useful and it definitely doesn’t pay the bills. I’ve therefore tried to come up with six tips about what to do if you know (or suspect) that radio redundancy might be coming your way.
Most people are hired based on skills and experience. You need to be able to demonstrate that to a potential employer.
Get audio examples off the log, take screen shots of websites and download that raw video that you made. Do it now, because you’ve got the ability to easily get it from internal systems, or can quickly push that old microsite live again so you can do a grab. You know you always MEANT to get a copy – do it now.
You’ll then be able to make stories out of this material to explain who you are and what you can do.
2. Expand Your Knowledge
All companies do exciting things. Just probably not in your area. And I’m sure you often think “I must go and find out about that” but never do. Now’s your time. You probably know someone vaguely connected with that bit, find an excuse and then learn about it.
Knowledge about cool things is useful – other people will be interested. If you worked at Radio 1 and had an interview at Capital they might be interested in how R1’s visualisation works. Do you know enough to seem knowledgable? No one expects you to be an expert, but being knowledgable shows you have value. Value that could be useful to them. So use your time to acquire the knowledge you never got round to acquiring.
Networking isn’t about having faux business relationships whilst quaffing wine and laughing at other people’s jokes. Networking is about building loose connections that you can build on later.
Having a two-minute chat with someone at a party means later on you can send an email saying “oh, we had that chat at thingy’s party, I meant to ask you x…” or being able to tweet them a few days later and say “well done on your RAJAR figures”.
Providing you’re not a dick. And luckily most people aren’t. Small network connections make it easier to achieve something – suddenly you have a few routes to find out more or get closer to your goal.
In radio there’s lots of ready-made ways you can start networking.
1. Radio Academy monthly/regional events. The RA run monthly events in London and regularly around the country. These are free if you’re a Radio Academy member. If you are an employee of pretty much any radio group or in Student or Community Radio, you get free membership. Even if you don’t it’s only £25. They’ll be 50-100 people at these events from the whole breadth of the industry. The events are usually quite interesting, you get a free beer, and then you go to the pub afterwards. Low-energy, low-cost, great networking.
2. Go out for drinks with your work colleagues, go to your friends (at other radio stations’) work drinks too. You’ll meet more people and make more connections.
3. Go to radio conferences. This may cost you a little bit of money, but it positions you as someone who’s looking forward. The Radio Festival can seem expensive but there’s big discounts for freelancers. Definitely come to mine and James’ Next Radio – it’s £99+VAT – and is a great way to learn something new and meet lots of people.
If you’re worried about networking, visit yesyesmarsha.com. Marsha used to be an XFM DJ before she moved to Canada. She now helps people get the most out of networking and there’s lots of great free advice on her website.
4. Social Media
Everyone I interview I look up on the internet. I can find out much more about them in five minutes than from their CV and covering letter. Often their social media contextualises their CV better than they do. It can however make me skip them or, if I can’t find anything, and BTW I am an AMAZING googler, it’s a wasted opportunity. If I find less context there’s less chance you’ll go into the interview pile.
FFS sort out your LinkedIn – don’t sound like an idiot – but use it to explain what you did at your different jobs. Remember employers are after skills and experience – this is the perfect place to demonstrate it. Maybe use some of those examples you pulled off the loggers. Also put a nice professional headshot on there. Books are judged by their covers, make sure your profile makes you something someone wants to buy.
Also, don’t beg people for recommendations. Well, definitely not over email. In person you can get away with, but over email it’s just annoying. Even if I like you a lot, you’re asking me, out of the blue to give up some time to describe how brilliant you are. They’re hard to write and take time.
The way to get recommendations is to write them about other people first (without asking for one in return). It’s likely I’ll feel so embarrassed I will write you one back immediately.
Sort out your privacy settings and change everything to friends only or friends of friends. Then post some things as ‘Public’ that frame you as a clever, interesting person. Good industry articles, a lovely picture of a sunset, whatever. Make your public Facebook look like you’re a normal person and not a beer monster/writer of long boring posts about how crap your life is.
Radio people love Twitter because we’re a bunch of narcissists that got into an industry where our day job is broadcasting our opinions/ideas/music choices/voices to millions of people.
It is likely your potential boss will use Twitter, so you need to make a good impression. If you’re a lapsed Twitter user/never used it before, then do it in this order:
1. As per FB and LinkedIn – make a nice profile. Decent imagery, good bio, link to your website (or LinkedIn page) and get a decent name. TableGangster554 is not acceptable. Your Twitter name should identify you.
2. Write at least two posts a day for a couple of weeks. Two thirds of your posts should be what you want your personal brand to be seen as. The rest should be posts that make you a real, normal person.
3. Follow your actual friends and colleagues. They are more likely to follow you back. This will give you a nice ratio of followers to followees. This will make you seem like a well adjusted person.
4. Slowly – perhaps a max of 30 at a time – follow people who you’re interested in and potentially could give you a job. When you follow someone, they get an email or a twitter alert, most people will check out new followers’ profiles. If you’ve done the above you will maximise being followed back or worst case, they will actually, for a brief moment, know who you are.
5. Start to engage with the people you want to get to know – favourite their funny tweets, reply to their questions – join in. It’s called social networking for a reason.
SoundCloud & YouTube
If you make audio or video for a living, put your best examples on these sites. Link or embed them in your other social media. Use the metadata to probably describe what it was for and why you did it this way. Let people explore and find out about the work you’ve done. Use it to demonstrate your skills and experience.
5. Listen and Learn
If you’ve been siloed in one company for a long time, start listening to other radio stations, visit their websites and generally find out more about them.
Don’t just do this for stations that you want to work for. If you’re applying to Capital, make sure you have an opinion on Kiss, The Hits and Capital Xtra.
Learn about the media their listeners are interested in – websites, mobile apps, games.
Exploring these areas will mean you can combine your skills and experience with insight and ideas.
6. Job Adverts
Lots of jobs are advertised, lots of jobs aren’t. Subscribe to Media UK’s Jobs Emails and you’ll get pretty much all of the ones advertised. The ones that aren’t advertised you’ll find out about if you do some networking and get to know people at different companies.
I hope some of that’s useful. If you’ve been through a radio redundancy please leave your tips below too.