career change to radio sales
May 28, 2007 7:10 PM   Subscribe

The local radio giant is looking for sales and promotions reps, and I'm interested...

See, I don't have any formal training or experience in this area, although I have been a waiter for many, many years, which involves plenty of people skills, organisation, memory, etc and so on. Would I be wasting my time by submitting my resume? There is an age factor as well, since I'm well into my thirties. Ultimately, I'm really looking for a backdoor towards on air work, but I also desperately need a career change. Any thoughts on this will be much appreciated.
posted by ashbury to Work & Money (7 answers total)
I can't speak so much to your question about transitioning from being a waiter to a sales/promo person, but it doesn't sound like a stretch to me. Those jobs tend to be fairly turnkey and adaptable to a wide range of newbies from disparate backgrounds.


My personal experience tells me that, especially in the larger world of Radio Giants, getting yourself a job in the sales and promotions department of a radio station in no way gives you an inlet into the production side. Certain prominent local stations in my market (Boston) even have a specific zero-tolerance policy for folks looking to work between the advertising and editorial departments.

In our era of Murdochized "corporate-interest reporting," any respectable media outlet would paddle very carefully through these ethically murky waters in order to protect their perceived impartiality. There's no quicker way to get passed over for a job in a media marketing department than to let on that you're actually interested in the editorial or production side. I'm fairly certain they'd tell you point-blank that never the twain shall meet.

Of course, there are always people who freelance on the side and make friends with editors or know someone who blah-blah, but the bigger and less organic the organization, the slimmer your chances are. Maybe try putting in some hours at a local college or community radio station, where your face time will make a bigger difference, and get some of that essential experience under your belt first?
posted by mykescipark at 7:42 PM on May 28, 2007

mykescipark's is right that sales and promotions is not a good path to on-air work.

That being said, I just went back on air with a small ownership group in a top 50 (U.S.) market after being in sales (national, regional, and local) for around 13 years. Those 13 years, however, were preceded by about 10 years on-air in a top 20 market and I had formed some close, personal friendships on the programming side of our company. So, I would consider my circumstances somewhat out of the ordinary.

I have non-comm, commercial, freelance, and consulting experience in radio management, sales, promotions, on-air, and production, ashbury. My e-mail is in my profile. Feel free to drop me a line and I will be happy to answer any questions that I can.
posted by LinnTate at 7:57 PM on May 28, 2007

mykescipark, that's interesting and an aspect I hadn't considered. That said, I've been volunteering at the university station and have my own show which I've been doing for over a year now.

I'm just as interested in a career change since the waitering thing has been more than a little stale for me for some time now. I'm just as curious about my chances of getting this kind of job as I am of getting an on air job. To me, any job in the business is closer to what I want than where I'm at now and could hopefully get me that covetted late night slot (not that our market actually uses real late night people - it's completely computerized at night).

linntate, in your experience, if I'm working in the sales and promos dept. (assuming I get the job), am I closing the door on any future on-air and production chances, even if I'm no longer working for the station in any capacity (i.e. quitting and re-applying for production/on-air, or working for another company)?
posted by ashbury at 8:11 PM on May 28, 2007

No, I don't think you're closing the door at all, ashbury. In the door with the company certainly puts you closer to having positive interactions with the on-air and production staff than the faceless masses that are sending them aud CDs every day. I was in sales for the sister station of where I jock for a year before the subject of on-air work ever came up and in that time I came to be friends with both the Program Director and Music Director, so that helped a lot.

What you'll have to overcome as a sales or promotions person is the pervasive distrust programming has for you. It's not right, healthy, or fair, but it's been there in every one of the dozen or so stations I've worked for or with over the past twenty years. My only recommendation for overcoming it is not to come on too strong. I'm mortified every day by the degree to which our sales staff is happy to tell our programming staff each and every thing they are doing wrong despite the fact that they have never spent a minute of time on the air. To be fair, that can flow the other way, too.

One approach to consider. If you're talking about the Bay Area, you're talking about a lot of agency business, but if the station you're looking at produces spots in-house, writing and voicing really good spots for your production people is a good way to get noticed by all the right folks. Dropping dry reads on top of music beds is a real drag, so an interesting script concept with some interesting production elements always made my day. Not, too, interesting, mind you. Nobody has the luxury of spending four hours on a 30-second spot on the station production side, but if you can find that sweet spot of writing a spot that really lets me show off my production chops and doesn't take me much more than an hour, I'll probably start telling others around the station and playing the spot for them to boot.
posted by LinnTate at 8:27 PM on May 28, 2007

LinnTate, you have some good advice and have given me a lot to think about. I'm going to give this a shot and see what happens. The worst they can say is no and the best that can happen is I get the job. Thank you.
posted by ashbury at 8:59 PM on May 28, 2007

You might also want to keep in mind that many entry level radio sales positions are commission only with the more junior members receiving the weakest "books" of established business which means lots of cold calls, etc. Be careful -- or be prepared to keep your night job.
posted by peace_love_hope at 9:06 PM on May 28, 2007

One suggestion: does one of these big radio stations have an internship program? Maybe you could keep the restaurant job (nights) and get an internship during the day. An internship past the age of 22 might sound unappealing, but this might actually get you in the door on the production side, doing the kind of work you're actually interested in.

Most importantly, it would give you really valuable connections, allowing you to have a leg up in applying for the jobs you want.
posted by lunasol at 10:42 AM on May 29, 2007

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