How much will you compromise?

Posted on January 18, 2012

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Chances are you’ve got an ultimate ambition for your work in the media. What’s the dream?

Hosting your own new music show in the evenings on BBC Radio 1?

Making audiences all over Scotland laugh in the mornings on Clyde 1, Real Radio or Capital?

Being a news anchor on BBC News Channel? Maybe having your own column in the Daily Record – setting the agenda like Jim Traynor or Joan Burnie.

In order to achieve that long term goal, you’ll have to do other stuff first. You’ll need experience, you’ll need money, you’ll need contacts, a reputation and a bit of luck along the way.

But the “stuff you do first” will either increase or decrease the chances of you achieving the long term goal – so you need to think carefully about what you’re willing to do.

For example, if you want that edgy new music show on Radio 1, would you take a job playing all the current big hits on a station like Capital FM?

On the one hand, you’d be getting very valuable experience. You’ll develop the technical skills (which are similar whether you’re playing Skrillex and The Doors or Jessie J.) Your voice will improve, you’ll be working in radio, building an audience and who knows who you might bump into.

But, you’ll be building a reputation as someone who plays pop music. And over time this might frustrate you as you won’t be able to play the music you really want to and the audience won’t understand who you really are. So it might be something you consider for a while, then move away from to pursue that main goal.

For a new music presenter building up a following on your own podcasts or hosting an unsigned band night at a local pub or club might actually be more relevant experience. The most successful personalities in the media are those who’re able to completely be themselves as much as possible.

It’s the same with newspapers. If opinionated sports writing is your aim then there’s a limit to how much contributing lower league match reports through an agency will help you. How long would you do this for before pushing for something else? And what might the next step be? The beauty presented by the internet is that you can continue with “the day job” while building up a blog with your more controversial writing. You could even do it under a pseudonym. This is a far better option than the old method which might have involved trying to sneak some controversial opinons into the lower league match report which may well have landed you in trouble! And it means when you tell the boss why he or she should give you a shot at the bigger dream, you’ve got lots of examples to show them and prove that this is something you can do.

A career in the media is full of stepping stones, choices and compromises. A foot in the door at a small community radio station, TV channel or newspaper? In some ways that’s great because you get to do so much and learn about all the different areas of the business. The downside is the pay will be low (or possibly nil) and there’ll come a point where the resources are so scarce you can’t actually make more progress.

So you’ve got to weigh it up and always keep in mind that ultimate ambition, what it was that got you started on this crazy adventure. A good question to ask yourself regularly is this:

“Is what I’m doing today taking me any closer to my main goal?”

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