Jay Trachman had a way with words. That's why I treasure his memory and try to reprint one of his evergreens at least once a month. Read and learn:
"How do you know if a station is a good place to work? Especially if it's across the country? There is a station in this market which is notorious for hiring people, then letting them go just short of the time when they'd be able to collect unemployment. How does one go about avoiding traps like that?"
Almost everybody takes at least one or two jobs which they later regret. Because of our nature as performers, we're inclined to "fall" for anyone who appreciates us. To anyone who picks me out from a crowd, I'm willing to give the benefit of a lot of doubts. That's a plus, but it can mask a lot of minuses. Here are a few guidelines which may help you to minimize the risk.
There is almost no way you can know all you need to about a station without visiting there. As a rule of thumb, beyond entry level, I would not go to work for an outfit more than 200 miles away that was not willing to fly me in for an interview, feed me and put me up at a reasonably nice motel. Far from just ego-massaging, this is your earliest, most powerful indication that this management places importance on talent, and is willing to spend some bucks to get the best. Sign up with a station that pinches pennies on interviews, and you can bet they'll do it on salaries, raises, and everything else.
One thing we often forget to do, unfortunately, is to "interview the interviewers."
In a sense, you are hiring them as your bosses.
A few questions are in order.
"How's your turnover rate here?" If they don't offer contracts, "What is your policy on raises?" "Do you have a promotion budget?" "Do you believe in using the 'red phone' to correct a jock's mistakes during his/her show?" "Does the station pay for DJ materials, such as prep services?" (Another small item, monetarily, but symbolic of that all-important question: how important do they consider their talent?)
I have a tendency to judge people on an intuitive basis, shortly after I meet them. In social situations, it causes me problems.
In an interview, never.
I've found that the subtle signs which tell me, "He is not being completely honest with me," or "I bet in a pinch he could be treacherous," always seem to come true over the long run.
Sure, it's hard, when you're being brought in as the "fair-haired boy" (or girl).
These people have chosen you, and it's not easy to think negatively about them in the face of that. But in my experience, if you don't ask the hard questions -- of them, and of yourself -- you'll live to regret it.
At every opportunity you get, whether falling asleep or waking up in your motel room, or driving with the PD to lunch, listen to the station.
Do the jocks sound like they're enjoying themselves? Or are they mostly on auto-pilot? Do they sound like they're important to the operation, or are they all interchangeable ciphers?
The equipment: is it a "toilet"? Is the studio "held together with Scotch tape? Or are the boards and decks at least modern and in good working order? State-of-the-art equipment won't make this a good place to work, but an ancient facility in disrepair makes another strong statement about the importance of programming to this company.
Above all, don't make any decisions on the spot.
Remember, the boss is probably a salesman. He's gotten where he is by being good at getting others to make the decisions he wants. You need time for the glow to fade, to sleep on what's just happened to you, and to review it in the cold light of day. 48 hours, minimum.
If offered a contract, don't be pressured into signing it on the spot. "I'd like to have my lawyer take a look at this before we finalize it."
Any honest businessman should respect that; he or she wouldn't do it, either.
Conversely, don't you go home on a "We'll let you know," and start calling the next day. If they want you, they'll call -- believe me!
I keep coming back, in my mind, to the overwhelming knowledge of how difficult it is for me to say "no" to people who like me. Yet I know, inescapably, the importance of rational judgment in this kind of situation.
Don't make the critical decision until the glow has faded. Take your time. Be careful. And don't be afraid to say "no."
If these people like you, then surely there must be others out there, too.
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