The Challenge Of Finding A Radio Job

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Nicole Sandler has a very impressive resume, as you’ll see. You would think at least one radio station would want to tap into her vast experience. When she posted on Facebook, Wednesday, that she believed she wasn’t getting her calls returned because of her age, we took notice. Not only because of what Nicole posted, but that so many other people were agreeing. So, we reached out to Nicole to get her thoughts on trying to find a job in radio at the age of 59.

Radio Ink: How long were you in radio and tell us a few of the places you worked?
Nicole: I’ve been in radio for 40 years this month. I started while in college at WUSF, at the University of South Florida. Most of my career has been spent in NYC (WMCA, WPLJ) and Los Angeles (KLSX, KNX-FM, KODJ, KLOS, KSCA, Channel 103.1).

Radio Ink: Since you left radio you’ve been podcasting. How is that going?
I never left radio. I still consider what I do radio. I host a live talk show four days a week at nicolesandler.com, which is then posted as a podcast.

I moved my show online on January 21, 2010 – the day that Air America went off the air. At the time, I was hosting the 11 p.m.-1 a.m. ET program. I had already been simulcasting the program on a service called Ustream, later migrating to YouTube and adding a couple of audio streams. A little over two years ago, I joined the lineup at the Progressive Voices Network (progressivevoices.com).

When I decided to go online, I also decided not to put my show behind a paywall, knowing that people are still struggling. Instead, I pledged to follow the public radio model and make donations voluntary. Before Air America, I hosted mornings on then-progressive talk WINZ/Miami, until they decided that South Florida needed a fourth sports talk station instead of one progressive talker.

After graduating from USF with a degree in broadcast programming and production, I moved to New York City to become Bob Grant’s producer at WMCA. From there, I moved to WPLJ to produce Jim Kerr & the Morning Crew, while spending weekends on the air at rocker WRCN.

A relationship brought me out to Los Angeles, where I produced Phil Hendrie’s KLSX morning show before moving over to KLOS’ Mark & Brian Show. I left KLOS to help launch a new Triple A station in Los Angeles, KSCA, where I hosted middays, then mornings, and became Music Director. After the station was sold during the original consolidation frenzy, I moved to (the now-defunct) The Album Network as Rock Music Director, then headed down to San Diego to co-host the Brand X Morning Show on 91X.

When Clear Channel decided to launch a new Triple A station in Los Angeles, they brought me in as MD/afternoons, eventually upping me to PD… until another round of consolidation required that station be sold. I was able to convince management to allow us to make history and become the first station to move seamlessly from over the air to Internet only. (The move is detailed in this piece I wrote for the Triple A trade magazine Totally Adult – HERE)

Nicole at KSCA

As you can see, I’ve long been an innovator.

WorldClassRock.com was killed during the dot-com bust, and I wound up moving to Taos, New Mexico, to program KTAO. Realizing that was a mistake, I moved back to South Florida and began voice tracking for Sirius radio (before they joined forces with XM). Then an offer to program WXRV just outside of Boston brought me to New England.

Radio Ink: Why did you decide to try to get back into radio?
Nicole: Again, I never considered myself “out” of radio. I’m always reading the trades, looking for opportunities. At this stage in my life and career, I’m not looking to chase jobs to places that I’d never considered living. Having grown up in South Florida, I moved back here when my kid was starting school. I thought that with my track record and decades of experience, getting a job wouldn’t be too difficult.

Radio Ink: You posted on Facebook you didn’t get a single call. Why do you think that is?
Nicole: I didn’t exactly say that. What I said was that I had applied for a couple of positions in the past year but wasn’t even accorded the courtesy of a return call or email. I think it’s a sign of the times. Program Directors have more and more on their plates, and probably prioritize a job inquiry by an out-of-work radio pro very low. I think it’s a lack of common decency. By the way, when I persisted with the PD in question, he did respond… basically telling me (on both occasions) that they already had someone in mind for the position.

Nicole with Sting

Radio Ink: Many of the comments you received agreed with your reasoning as to why you haven’t been hired. Were you surprised by that?
Nicole: No, because what I’m experiencing is commonplace. With consolidation, there are fewer jobs out there. Experience is not valued because, at most of the bigger companies, there’s little autonomy. Stations are, for the most part, programmed by corporate fiat, with the local PDs just carrying out the game plan. What I found really sad in that Facebook thread were comments by people who enjoyed much greater success than I had who, also, cannot get a response to their inquiries or applications.

Radio Ink: Do you plan to keep trying to get back into radio?
Nicole: Again, I don’t consider myself “out of radio.” I know I have so much in the way of talent and experience to offer. Although there are a few places I’d consider moving to, I’m not looking to chase jobs around the country. There are quite a few stations in South Florida who could use my expertise. I’d be thrilled for the opportunity to get back into the day-to-day operations of a radio station, as opposed to working alone in my home studio.

Radio Ink: What advice do you have for younger broadcasters?
Nicole: Run away. Now. Seriously, learn another trade. There’s nothing out there for a 59-year-old radio professional. Truly, nothing.

Check out Nicole’s show at www.nicolesandler.com and hit her up on e-mail at nicole@nicolesandler.com 

12 COMMENTS

  1. Not true-well maybe…

    66 years old, director of news and broadcast operations in Florida. Radio vet for over 45 years and still breathe and eat this business. No, I’m not back in NYC, LA, Denver, New Orleans or other major markets, but I’m in an environment where I control the work pace while still deeply engaged on the network level.

    I love radio and to some degree I understand the battle and frustration…

  2. Nicole, don’t give up!! There is definitely age discrimination in radio and almost everyother business. I would suggest being flexible about formats and,compensation and, if possible, offer your talent to out of town stations on a remote basis. I know there is a place for you…

  3. I kind of feel her pain, but yea, lot of bitterness. I too have ‘aged out’ of the business, but hey, that’s just rock and roll baby. In the talent realm, it always has been a biz for the young. As far as youngins’ doing radio, I’d encourage them. If it’s your passion, go for it. But be warned, it’s not a biz for the faint of heart and never will be.

  4. The adult alternative format is mostly being done in non-commercial radio. The writer of this article should look outside the box of traditional commercial radio and reach out to stations such as WXPN-FM Philadelphia. There’s a whole world of radio that exists outside traditional boundaries. There is a support system for these stations, with job listings posted at current.org. There is also an annual public radio convention where people can network and talk about programming ideas.

  5. She considers herself having never left radio?

    Sorry, a podcast is to radio as a blogger is to journalism.

    She (admitted) she made some mistakes in her career. Then goes in to say her current situation is a problem with age?

    No ma’am, that’s called making bad career choices. You tried to transition your radio career into what you saw the future as and in…….. Podcasting and streaming. Except, that isn’t the future.

    As the kids say today: Sorry about your bad luck. But this is a situation anyone reading the article from an outside perspective can see clearly.

    You screwed up your career path, made some bad decisions and now want to place the blame anywhere else.

    And you are being bitter about it, too.

  6. Nicole has every reason and right to be, at a minimum, “righteously indignant”.
    As many other knowledgeable and skilled pundits have noticed and pointed out: Radio has no interest in expertise or innovation – especially if there is a price tag attached.
    I believe it will take a renegade operation to be the first in providing a more effective brand of radio.
    Unfortunately, the hours will be bad and the money will suck.
    There is nothing radio can offer that will be worth chugging back the Kool-Aid.
    Modern Radio just ain’t that big a deal anymore.

  7. She sounds bitter and negative. And sorry, but this is exactly the problem with the radio industry. Many old people-mostly white males of which I am one – are the top CEO’s and top managers of radio companies and stations. They keep doing the same old, same old…applying their thinking that goes back to the 80’s and even the MTV 70’s. They surround themselves with puppet corporate VP’s as a way to pass blame and to avoid being the “bad guy.” … But this kills innovation and risk-taking. They require sales personnel to “show up in the building” every day — why??? Their “answer” to leadership and “management” is to schedule another meeting, with most meetings being a waste of time, and just hurting the productivity of salespeople. These older types create a sense of self-entitlement– that their stations are “entitled” to clients’ ad dollars. And their strategy to “sell” radio is to find fault with the media competition, and point out those faults to clients buying that competition! Gee, that’s real smart– second guess a decision that a client made!!- The point is, old people, most of whom are “set in their ways” have stymied the radio industry for years now. And it was young people …from their 20’s to early 40’s … that led the way, in programming, on the air, and in management- during the innovating and growth days of radio, from the 60’s up to about the late 80’s.

  8. “There are quite a few stations in South Florida who could use my expertise. I’d be thrilled for the opportunity to get back …” Because Adult Alternative would be a great choice in a market that keeps losing native English-language speakers, like Los Angeles. And her advise for younger broadcasters? Horrible. I wouldn’t hire her either.

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