The Job Shuffle stops here; I'm starting a Career!
December 7, 2006 4:20 AM   Subscribe

Help me end office-job serial monogamy in my 30s and start building a career in broadcasting or publishing for my 40s.

I've had a variety of office jobs that have lasted a few days (temp) to a couple of years; and, while I've enjoyed the variety in environment and flexibility in schedule, I'm ready to move on from job-hopping to building a career that I can bring with me the next time I move. In my 20s, after earning a B.A. in English, this nomadic work life was great. In my 30s I'm realizing that if I don't choose a field and start working in it now, acquiring experience and skills that I can build upon, later, when I move (maybe NYC in 5 years or so) I'll be on another "job" search for a general office job, looking forward to the same 20k yearly income in my 40s.

So, here's my plan (so far). I've done the hard part. That is, I've chosen the field(s): radio (more likely internet radio) or magazine editing/ publishing. I have minimal knowledge of either, other than the fact that I enjoy being a consumer of both. I'm very willing to start at the bottom. --I’ll have the opportunity to learn the nuts and bolts of the industry and be making an investment in a career with growth and possibility. Ideally I’d like to be making some kind of income, but if necessary, I can work for free for a few months.

What are some things I could do that would make me an ideal employee for each field? I’m open to anything that will give me a step up. Any tips on resumes, interviewing, search techniques, etc? For instance, I thought it’d be a good idea to learn a few computer programs, but I’m not sure which ones. If they’re expensive, I’ll need some tips on how to find them for cheap or even for free (if it’s something local schools or libraries might provide access to). Are there any websites or books that will give me an applicable rundown of either field, not just theoretical information? What skill sets should I be working on and should I be concerned with getting a head start on the industry jargon? Is there a book or website that even exists for this?

ABOVE ALL, I need help with finding places to apply to. How do I get a list of all the internet radio companies and (medium to smaller) magazine companies in my area, or at least find most of them? I’m in Orange County, California. Any specific job or internship experiences you’ve had in this field, perhaps even in this area would be very welcome. Names of specific companies and business wouldn’t hurt either.

Thanks in advance for your time and help.
posted by auntbee to Work & Money (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I’ll need some tips on how to find them for cheap or even for free

It's tempting but I'm not going to mention bittorrent, or fair use for educational purposes. Because that would be a pointless and silly thing to do.

As for the rest, you should start meeting people in your chosen field and talking to them. Preferably locals. Failing that, find message boards dedicated to those topics and make friends.

Look for a job with a company in the field, but doing what you're doing right now. Make lateral moves until you're where you want to be, thus gaining the experience to work where you want and the contacts that will make it happen for you.

/generic advice
posted by IronLizard at 7:18 AM on December 7, 2006

Here are some off-the-cuff ramblings from a person in traditional radio, for what it's worth:

I did office jobs like you in my twenties, became a computer support engineer at a radio station, and then moved into radio production, station-assistant tasks and occasional on-air at the same station.

To break into radio, it's not necessary to have relevant experience--the willingness to do whatever is being asked is the main requirement. I have a liberal arts degree, but started working in radio before I completed it. English is good for this--you can stress how well you communicate. A warning: unfortunately for thoughtful people, radio is an anti-intellectual world--illiterates abound. Punctuation-free email message crammed with misspellings are the norm. It used to drive me nuts, but I've gotten used to it.

Corporate radio life is superficial and hectic, plagued by larger-than-life egos and driven by bottom-line concerns. Frequent turnover, station format churning and layoffs make daily life scary and exhausting. Just showing up and being willing to work are key. And being able to do more than one thing, in this era of budget cuts, will keep you on the payroll.

Radio (traditional radio, anyway) is pretty easy to get into before you have the kinds of obligations that make it necessary to start earning tons of money. The suits tend to take the attitude that employees should be grateful for the opportunity just to be there. Compensation is ridiculously awful in the beginning, and you say you're comfortable with that--so the sooner you start, the better.

A basic (short) resume and honest cover letter, stating where you come from and where you'd like to go, would be great. You can stress that you're new to the field, which can be an asset and exactly what certain station managers will be looking for--someone they can mold to their own way of doing things. (And be sure to mention that you listen to the station.)

Good luck! ^_^
posted by frosty_hut at 8:12 AM on December 7, 2006 [2 favorites]

Previously, an answer on this subject.

I am the producer of a public radio show, if you want to e-mail me, my address is in my profile.
posted by parmanparman at 11:13 AM on December 7, 2006

I've chosen the field(s): radio (more likely internet radio)

"Radio" could mean several things. Are you thinking radio journalism? Music delivery? Talk? Production? Publicity?

I know a few people who do radio journalism, and they all started out as print journalists. Many of the same skills apply.

or magazine editing/ publishing.

It's sounding like you're probably interested more in the journalism / editorial stuff. For several reasons, I'd suggest you look at journalism school.

J-school is not a magic bullet that gets you a job in journalism. Print journalism is a highly-competitive, often low-paying job where you don't get to choose which city you live in. I'd say be prepared for that, first.

Second, you don't always break into the field by going to J-school, but for folks who are far outside the field and looking for a way in, it can be quite helpful. It'll give you skills, build your portfolio a little, and help you make industry contacts. Many programs cover broadcast as well as print and photography. Look around a bit.
posted by scarabic at 12:06 PM on December 7, 2006

I work at a publisher in OC, and can share info on our internship programs. Over the years, we've been fairly open to people with different backgrounds (i.e., not always just j-school grads). E-mail me with my user name at and I'll be glad to share more specific information.
posted by faunafrailty at 11:05 PM on December 9, 2006

Response by poster: IronLizard: Thanks for not mentioning that silly, pointless thing. I’ll be sure to look into it. ;) As for making a lateral move, I’m unemployed at the moment and I’d really like NOT to get another office job and perpetuate the cycle. Sometimes I still take a peek at the classifieds because my credit cards are busting at the seams; but I’m going to stick it out and charge until I get a paying position or can’t charge any more. Thanks for your advice. You’ve given me a couple of things to look into.

frosty_hut: Thanks for sharing your honest, albeit unflattering, description of the radio industry as an insider. I’m leaning towards a radio station or program that is less mainstream and more along the lines of self-help, spirituality, education, and/ or just plain weird, yet interesting and of value. I figured internet radio would largely be alternative programming and I’m also drawn to this relatively new format. Thank you for the practical information and luck. I’ll be drawing on both.

parmanparman: Thank you very much for the offer. As my focus narrows, I'll be sure to keep your offer in mind for any relevant questions I have.

scarabic: Yes, radio is big. I don’t know enough about it to know what I’d be best at within the field. At the moment, my guess is that I’d be good at creative development, research, behind-the-scenes matters-- anything creative. So I could potentially be in editorial, production, or another department. Bottom line, and this goes for magazines or radio, in the beginning I’d be open to anything as I gain experience and discover my niche in either industry. Thanks for the suggestion, but I’m just not feeling the J-school option. I want to be “in the trenches” and get some real concrete experience.

faunafrailty: Will do. Thanks!

Looking forward to hearing more.
Thank you everyone! Truly.
posted by auntbee at 4:06 AM on December 11, 2006

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