(By Mike McVay) We’ve seen radio and audio companies eliminate talent in a cyclical fashion, multiple times over the years, often driven by revenue or the lack thereof. Consolidation in the mid-90s brought about a significant number of terminations. That has ebbed and flowed inconsistently until recently. The economy for broadcasters showed a downward turn long before COVID-19 became known as a worldwide pandemic. The Coronavirus has created even more job eliminations. This is especially true for on-air talent. The question is, what to do when you lose your job?
I’ve always been convinced that you can tell how seriously committed to being a performer someone is once they find themselves unemployed. Those that are truly committed to their craft take a day to feel bad for themselves, without feeling bad about themselves, and they sign-up for unemployment as they start the search for a new job. Talent today are less likely to want to move across the nation to accept a new position, but many of us made a commitment to go wherever our career takes us, and we go. I’ve lived in 10 different cities, to date, in my career. Many have had a longer journey than mine that includes more markets than where I’ve worked.
Pause long enough to reflect on the position that you’ve just lost. Why were you terminated? Was it for a poor performance, not being user-friendly for your employers, did you make a serious mistake or violate a policy of the Human Resources Department? Were you eliminated because of budget cuts? Regardless of the reason, the question is “What are you going to do about it and how do you keep it from happening again?”
If the reason that you were terminated was for poor performance, likely meaning a poor rating performance, then you need to sharpen your skills and practice-practice-practice. Get coaching. Work on becoming a better on-air talent. If it was because you aren’t easy to work with, own it, and come to grips with the fact that you need to make yourself a “project” that will lead to you to becoming a better co-worker and better employee. If your reason for termination was due to an HR violation, own that, too. Get help, if necessary, or do the research to better understand and accept where you went awry. I’ve long believed that people can change and I’ve hired many a person who could be considered a “reclamation project.” More times than not it’s been a successful hire.
The reason for the intense focus on improvement, even if you’re elimination was due to a budget cut, is that successful talent who generate revenue and ratings for a station are usually not eliminated because of the economy. Those who pay for themselves, go above and beyond the call of duty and are selfless workers, tend to be the keepers. Even in a bad economy the talent that are kept are those with good ratings, assists sales in generating revenue, are desired by advertisers for appearances and remotes, has a long list of products or services that they endorse, and is an in-house favorite to voice commercials. Be that person. Be that talent. It doesn’t mean that you won’t suffer a termination due to a budget cut, but it does force there to be a conversation and deeper consideration from your employer.
The talent that I tend to avoid hiring are those that have a continuous string of bad luck. Every time that they’ve left a position, it was someone else’s fault. Not of their own doing. They are a helpless victim. A potential employer can believe that once. Not if it appears to be a repetitive history. Your luck is what you make it.
Once you’ve decided that you’re ready to get back on the job-hunt-horse and ride again, fine tune your resume. Keep it to one page. If you’re an on-air talent, include a link for your audio to be heard. If you’re a Program Director, include a link to a demo of your most recent stations. If you have access to the ratings, include those, too. Be honest. Today’s potential employer will search your social media postings. The digital age eliminates the opportunity to be anything other than genuine.
Give some thought to where you want to live, what type of station you’d like to work for and the type of employer you’d like to work with, before sending out the first resume. Develop a list of places to send your resume to, and set-up a cycle on how regularly you will send a follow-up as there is good and bad in repetitive contact. My suggestion is that it be once-a-month. Don’t hound the prospect, but send along your resume as a reminder, so that you come to mind when they do have an opportunity. No phone calls. That’s interruptive. Don’t use social media Direct Messaging to contact the prospective employer. That violates a personal space. Using one’s work E-mail is most appropriate.
If you have an agent … let them do their job. Be encouraging to your agent, and communicate your desires, but don’t have expectations that exceed your level of talent. By the way, the time to sign an agent isn’t when you’re out of work, but rather when you are working. No agent wants to sign a newly terminated talent as their job then becomes more like an employment service than a marketing arm for your career. There are those of us who have held corporate jobs that like the idea of the biggest talent having an agent. It provides another stream of communication to the star personality and often brings reinforcement to concepts and ideas that you may want the talent to better understand.
Despite the cutback of jobs that we’re seeing, there are opportunities available, and there are people who want to hire talent with specific skills for specific jobs. It may not be the job that you want and it may not pay the salary that you need, but there are opportunities available. I’ve seen air-talent terminated because a station decided to us a voice-tracked talent. Don’t complain about the use of voice-tracked talent. Become one. Be prepared to evolve and change.
One of my children spent time with a film company as an assistant to a Casting Director. She changed her perspective on trying out for acting jobs because of that position. She said that “she used to be nervous when auditioning, but she realized when she joined casting that the Director wants to find someone for the open role, so they can move on to the filming process.” The same can be said for the decision-makers in radio. They want talent who can fill a role. Then they can focus on the product. It’s not about you. It’s about the role and the job.
Be committed. Believe in yourself. Get busy.
Mike McVay is President of McVay Media and can be reached at [email protected]