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How To Beat Media Job Shrinkflation

It’s difficult to pick up the trades without seeing the elimination of jobs in media. We’ve seen radio and audio companies cyclically eliminate talent, multiple times over the years, often driven by revenue or the lack thereof.

It used to be something we saw only in July and at year’s end. There no longer appears to be such a predictable pattern. The telecom bill of the mid-90s first brought employee growth and then shifted quickly into what seems to be a continual elimination of positions – clearly brought on by consolidation. 

The challenge for media companies who have consolidated is that unlike the airline and other such industries, you’ve not eliminated significant competition and you’re not reducing choices enabling the funneling of an audience into an aggregated platform. I realize that naysayers will say that competition has, in fact, been eliminated, but my point is that there are still more than 15,000 radio stations, despite increased competition from other entertainment and information platforms. There’s no letting up.

The level of competition for an audience will continue to increase. Which means that as shrinkflation takes place in the media workforce, to survive you have to be among the best of the best at every position. At least you would hope that measure would be used versus one tide to salary.

I’ve always been convinced that you can tell how seriously committed to being in media 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. They sign-up for unemployment and start the search for a new job. Talent today are less likely 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 seven different cities in my career.  Many have had a longer journey than mine that includes more markets than where I’ve worked.

If the reason that you were terminated was for poor performance, then you need to sharpen your skills and practice-practice-practice. Work at becoming better at what you do. 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 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 and/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. 

Even in a bad economy the on-air 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 before the elimination becomes reality. It’s an easier determination in regard to the sellers that make the cut. It’s all about the numbers. Do you more than pay for yourself? Are you building advertising loyalty to you and the station.

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 demo link of your most recent station. 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 and truthful. 

Develop a list of places to submit your resume to, and set up a cycle on how regularly you will send a follow-up. There is good and bad side of repetitive contact. My suggestion is that it be once-a-month. Don’t hound the prospect. 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 email is most appropriate.

If you have an agent, let them do their job. 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. Unless you are a superstar, 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.

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