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Three ways to get a job in podcasting or radio

27Jul17

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From talking to people in podcasts and radio, and reading people’s stories it seems like there are three ways to get jobs: applying to them, making something great, and persistence.

  1. Apply to Everything

First, check websites of shows or networks you like. For example:

Some shows or networks with recurring internships/fellowships:

Listserves – Jobs, freelance gigs, and opportunities for collaboration are sometimes posted on list serves:

Databases – regional radio jobs are often also posted to a few databases:

Some jobs (though mostly ones that require a lot of experience) are posted in the classifieds of Nick Quah’s hotpod newsletter.

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2. Make something great

Pitching stories to shows you love can be a good way to meet producers and editors and show them how you work and think about stories. They might keep you in mind the next time something opens up on their show.

Producing your own stories, and if they takes off and gets heard by the right person, they may want to collaborate or hire you to work on your project. Whether or not the “build it and they will come” or “be so good they can’t ignore you” philosophy still applies in this attention-based economy, I’m not sure, but by making something good at the very least you’ll have something to put on your resume and list as a clip that might just clinch you that job.

You’ll want to create some kind of show reel that quickly shows your editing skills, style, and voice on mic, which can help give employers a sense of you, what you’re all about, and what you can contribute to their project.

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3. Be persistent

Advice I’ve gotten from a few people, and from the book Out on a Wire is to be persistent–eager but not desperate. Let the people who make stuff you love, know that you love it. Pitch them stories, ask them if they need any help, and repeat every few months. Famously, Alex Blumberg worked as Ira Glass’s assistant and Stephanie Foo started her own storytelling podcast called Get Me on This American Life. Know what you want, know why you want it, and then figure out how to pitch yourself and your story.

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Hang in there

If you’re brand new to all this there are some books and resources that can help you out. Take all of my advice with a grain of salt, I lucked out and managed to get my foot in the door, working as an intern for Science Vs, but I’m struggling with finding a next step. The advice I’d get repeatedly from successful producers was essentially: yeah, starting off in this field is difficult, but if you want to make radio podcasts, you just have to put up with it, and hold on tight to any opportunities you get, and build up your experience and skills.

For me it’s helped to try to reset my expectations. I’ve  I’ve been trying to change my mindset, accept that it’s just part of the field, and imagine myself as an actor getting rejected from audition after audition.

When I applied to college and grad school, I had some sense of where I stood based on grades and test scores, and, while I worried about slipping through the cracks, I knew that statistics were on my side. Now, applying to jobs in a field where there might only be a couple of dozen positions open at any time that receive hundreds of applications, the cracks I worried about slipping through have grown into chasms, and I feel like I’m on a tight-rope. And I’m not even walking on the tight-rope because I’m not making any forward progress. I’m just dangling from it by one arm and trying to hold on as best I can and hoping someone sees something in me.

Well, that was awfully melodramatic. The bright-side is that making and distributing podcasts has an incredibly low barrier to entry, so you don’t need to wait for permission. If you think you’re qualified for the job apply. If they don’t take you prove you’re qualified for the job by making something great. But keep in mind, it’s not going to be easy when you’re starting out, so persist, hang in there, and keep making stuff.

Finally, everyone’s route is different. If you have the time and means you might want to think about going to journalism school (columbia seems to have a strong program by their representation at Gimlet) and audio-specific programs like Salt or Transom are short and highly-esteemed. Lastly, attending Third Coast seems like a common path for newcomers to network with the people they’re interested in working with.

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