Here’s my dilemma. I have worked in Broadcast radio and television in some aspect since my first job in News Public Radio during college in 1998. The experience was quite horrible or so I thought. I was a Mass Communication major, working on air with the student station and professional sports stations for free before I obtained the paid NPR job. When I first started there I thought, “I’m on my way now!” Little did I know, the bad experience I was in for would only get worse with my professional career after college.
Looking back on the college years.
My job was simple, or so it seemed. At the station I would mainly work over nights on the weekend, on-air and running what the radio industry calls ‘the board’ which is simply the control system used to air commercials and radio show material. The training was literally non-existent. I figured, I worked over night, I’d go live every hour then run the taped, satellite fed or on reel show for the rest of the time. How hard could that be? So, it did not matter that training was inadequate. In fact I had my shift down to a science. What buttons to push, which PSA’s to read, where to get weather information. I was so set that I even took one DJ’s advice on setting an alarm to go off five to ten minutes before I had to go on air- not to remind me to go on air, but to wake me up to go on air. Yes, I would sleep in the studio. An overnight, Friday- Sunday, midnight to 7am shift, was a monster for a college student who, before the job rarely saw the sun rise on a Saturday or Sunday morning! Everything was fine until I was scheduled to work a shift during a week day. It was pledge time. Everyone had to work during pledge week. The shift was fine, but as I stated before training was only on how to run the board during overnights. A “live” show with the station was not yet apart of my vocabulary. But I did it; it crashed, and then burned. I was embarrassed but not fired. Apparently my immediate boss was fired instead. It turns out I was not the only one who was not trained on how to work the board during all type of shows. That gig did not last, only because by the time they fired the boss lady I was used and abused and tired of people acting as though I knew nothing at all about radio, so at the end of the next summer I just did not sign back up for work. For semesters after that the NPR station called trying to get me to come back. I should have gone back, but I didn’t.
As bad as this felt then, that’s nothing compared to my professional experiences after college.
It took me two years to get my first television gig. I worked in radio again after graduation in a small role and hated it. There was just not enough excitement and the money is almost not existent. For an industry where the pay sucks there are tons of backstabbing people in it who want your job because it may be closer to working on air. My broadcast career has gone back and forth from radio to television. This last stint in radio was my last straw. I had to draw the line. I worked for Clear Channel with a boss who seemed to be jealous of me because of stupid little things like my natural American manicure looking finger nails and I worked with and indirectly with co-workers who would say or do anything to get my job or the next promotion. There were two things that worked about that job, the fact that one person who ended up my direct supervisor was an old high school friend and I met aDisk Jockey who saw the bull too and we both silently decided to cover each other’s back. I had to form an alliance with this DJ who also had people out for her job that would go through fire to replace her. When I left she and I almost wanted to cry.
That place is now on my ‘hated it’ list. I took the next job to get away from the craziness and ended up as the saying goes, ‘out of the pot and into the fire’. But then again, it felt like the same level of hotness at both places. I was lead producing a four hour show for a FOX affiliate. Moving to a new city was hard. Even though I thought I mapped it out, I made a rash decision. I ended up in a city over 800 miles from my home city, having spent my money on a promise. Car note, car insurance, all my money spent to move to a city with a station who could give a rats-turd about me and my future. The promise was to reimburse me for my move. The problem was I had to spend money I technically did not have to make the move. Looking for a promising new future I took a chance. It was like playing the lottery and letting someone else pick your numbers; either which way it goes, it’s a gamble. When I moved there I was starting from scratch. I had no furniture, left my car so that I could get there in the time span they wanted me to and I had no idea what I was in for. Real smart, right? At the time the outlook was brighter. I was leaving a part time job (I’d moved back home from California to help take care of my mother who’d fallen ill, we lived with my sister who worked during the day while I was with my mother and she was with mom at night while I worked) that had no positive future or a full time job in sight for a job that, at least at that time, had a positive outlook. Needless to say it took me a year to get back on track from having spent money that they did not reimburse, the job security I thought I had, was not with FOX. About six months later I found another job, in television, this time my goal was to focus on getting into Law School. Turns out, the city I’d moved over 800 miles to, has a school I ended up wanting to attend for law school. I thought, ‘God works in mysterious ways.’ I would have never considered the school had I not moved to this city. Despite the new information, at that time I was ready to get out of town, but with the new job and desire for stability I did not move. I did my research, visited the professional school and realized I loved what it stood for, and the cost to attend made the school hard to pass up.
So, I found myself working in a small role at a television station and set my sights on getting into Law School. I applied for a fee waiver to take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) from the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) and received it. I began studying for the test.
I remember the day I interviewed at the new station. A woman walked into my closed door interview, excused herself and scurried off. The following week (I was offered the job two days later) I walked into the station a new employee and the first person I spoke to ended up being the same woman who interrupted the interview. That woman turned out to be the CEO of the station as well. She spoke, having remembered my name and told me, ‘…I remember you, your resume indicates that you are over qualified for the job you’ve taken, but that’s okay we are going to use you in other areas.’ That was my first day at work. Two weeks later the same woman came to my work area and offered me a proposition. She offered a chance to move into a corporate environment working as a Local Support Coordinator. The move was from Master Control in to the corporate side of television. That same day, I interviewed with practically everyone.
Now the way every thing sounds so far is lovely. You may be thinking “what an opportunity,” or “talk about opportunity knocking” but hold your thoughts and comments.
Before my transition, when I first started to work for the station, I’d been cleared to take a trip to Las Vegas for almost a week. It was a plan I’d made almost a year prior to taking this new job. It was cleared by that same CEO, and it was not just any trip that I could cancel and take another time. A few years prior, I cajoled a friend into entering a very small Texas local pageant and she ended up winning each level, even making history as the first black woman to reign as Miss Texas and one of the few to make it to the Miss America Pageant on the first try. My Vegas trip was to see her compete in the Miss America Pageant. So far I’d missed every pageant she won to get to that level. In every acceptance speech, event or interview talking about her reign she referenced me. Everyone, from her family to her coaches kept telling me I couldn’t miss this pageant. Any how I was going to Vegas. Turns out taking the trip caused problems for me at work. Suddenly, I began hearing stupid little rumors like the same CEO that okayed my trip was at odds about me taking it after having been with the station for only two months. I was not sure where the mention of the trip went from you are clear to go, we understand to, what are you nuts, you just started working here.
In the beginning, of my new corporate move, I felt like I would learn so much about the network and corporate side of television and that would work to my advantage with my ambitions to go into Media Law. Here’s where it all got even stickier. One of the initiatives of the station was to take a small local station, help it off the ground and build a strong foundation for the local station. Suddenly I was asked to work as an Account Executive for the new station- part time. The other half of my day would be spent supporting the sales staff as a coordinator. The problem was I was building presentations for our Account Executives and had no time to build my own presentations. I was also allowed too much detail about my co-workers accounts while I worked on obtaining my own accounts.
Now one thing I have not yet discussed is, when I was offered the chance to move up it turned out to be a lateral move. Even though I asked for more money, since I had many more duties, I was denied the money in the move. I chalked it up to ‘gaining experience and honing skills’ and held on to the ‘learning a different aspect of the business for my legal venture’ ambitions. Two weeks after my move into the job I was told I would be training with the traffic department. I trained in traffic so the traffic assistant could take vacation for a week. I loved it. I learned much about the process of obtaining the actual commercials and making them available for on air play back. Two weeks before the assistant went on vacation I had a family emergency and had to go to my home state for a week. Again, my mother was ill. When I left home for the FOX gig, she was back to 90%. When I first got the news I was afraid to tell the folks at my job. I decided to only tell them I would go out of town for a weekend and needed to be at the airport by 6pm on Friday, so I had to leave work at least by 4pm. Of course I had to tell them it was for a family emergency (they were already antsy about me going out of town two months prior even though it was approved before I began working for the station). Their response was that I should go home for a week. It would be with no pay but excused. I agreed to it and went to see my mother.
When I’d returned to work the first day back the CEO pulls me aside and asks me what decision I was going to make about my mother’s illness. She told me my job may be depleted given their budget. But she also told me she wanted to know if I would stay so that they could justify me being there. I told her I was looking for stability and had no intentions of moving away. I’d been down that road before, moving hastily back to be near my ill mother with without any job security and or money in my pocket nor did my family have the ability to support me.
A week before the traffic assistant went on vacation I hit the streets as an Account Executive. Again, more work and no pay to compensate for it. No training, no prior experience and no account list. It was complete blind driving. And on top of that they wanted me to sell a new station that’s not on a channel many people can see. The two options of getting this station was to one, buy an expensive cable package that included the channel or two, turn your cable off. Now, I don’t know how many people purchase cable to turn it off in order to see one channel-okay, so I digress. You get the point. Even the current skilled and experienced Account Executives I worked with did not want to sell time on the new station simply because it is growing. After that first week of working two jobs with still no additional pay I worked solely in traffic. When I was done with that stint, I hit the streets again, still unsure of what I was doing.
The same week I began working as an account executive, the CEO set up a dinner meeting for me and one of the city’s respected local on air talents with the CEO in attendance. I was not sure what the meeting was for, but I smiled and pretended to be very excited. The only clue I had was a discussion I had with the CEO on why I did not attempt working on air in television, since I had the look. The dinner meeting turned out to be an embarrassing look at my life from the CEO’s perspective. In her opinion I was too old to have not made it to a certain level in our profession yet. The bottom line of the meeting was to cajole me into working as an account executive. In a conversation I had later with the anchor woman she practically made me promise that I was not looking for another job. She told me the place I worked at wanted to train me in various things- namely as an account executive but they did not want to train me if I was looking for other work. She also told me if the CEO promised to put me on air then she would (we were obtaining a new morning show and in the conversation before the dinner meeting the CEO eluded to me working as or auditioning for talent in part of the show, she told me to get a new tape done with our Creative Services Director). I continued to look at what options were out there, but denied job searching. But at this point was confused; in essence the CEO told me my job would be cut out for budget reasons, but I was also being told ‘don’t leave we’ll place you somewhere else within the company.’ I spoke to my direct supervisor and she told me not to worry. Also, just prior to all the confusion, a research director assistant had to leave the company and instead of offering me his job they divvied out his job giving me part of his work.
So, let’s back track. After the first week of account executive work, I then worked in the traffic department for a week. The following week I went back to sales as an assistant and an account executive. On that first day back the sales manager asked me if I wanted work as an account executive full time. I was flabbergasted. I’ve never worked as an account executive and here they were almost forcing me to work as an AE. Even though I figured since they were phasing out my job I may as well go with the flow of things, I thought it was a scheme to eventually fire me. Without any outside sales experience, no training for the job and no time to get acquainted with the sales duties, failure could surly be right around the corner! I told the manager I needed a few weeks to get my feet wet. She agreed to give me time. The following week two account executives were hired and I was taken off of AE duties. Now at this point I am beyond confused. Should I run for the hills or work hard to keep my job for job history and stability?
Can anyone tell me what should I do or think? Or do you want me to tell you the out come? Here is a company who has told me in so many ways, numerous times that they wanted me to be loyal and keep working for them- in whatever capacity they wanted or needed me to, but they lack stability from every angle as a company. What is the ‘happily ever after’ or the not so ‘happily ever after?’ Please tell me where, if I did so, did I go wrong?