Once you land a job in radio, you need to apply for another one

September 8, 2016 — 5 Comments

I’d like to share something with you.

Someone asked me about my job this week. They were relatively new to the radio industry, keen to move on, and frustrated because they’d just applied for a job and hadn’t been selected for an interview.

When they learned that I’d moved to Radio 2 following a job application and interview they seemed deflated that the same hadn’t happened for them on this occasion. I made the point that they should create a greater number of ‘occasions’, then perhaps they’d have more luck.

I tend to find that people who land a radio job and get ACTUAL PAID WORK ON A REGULAR BASIS often then wait around for their next dream job to come along, apply, don’t get it, and are then a bit crushed by the defeat. It’s always disappointing, of course. But in such a competitive industry you need to expect the majority of job applications to end in failure. It’s just the law of averages.

Some people will buck the trend and get every job they go for. Others will never move on and eventually give up. But everyone in-between can increase their chances of progressing¬†by simply applying for a greater number of jobs. That’s what I did.

Here’s what I’d like to share. It’s a screenshot of my old BBC careers page showing all the times I applied for a job between 2007 – 2012.


I count 38 submitted applications. One every month or two for five years. Plenty of these applications were ‘I’ll never get it but why not give it a go’ type-things. Others were ‘I’m not totally sure I want this job but I’m interested enough to try and get an interview’. And some of them I got. But loads of them I didn’t get close to. Or I got an interview and failed. I hope the photo gives comfort to some people who feel as though they’re constantly being knocked back.

The thing is, the whole time I was very happy in my current role and I was always doing a job I really enjoyed. I already had my foot in the door and was lucky in my career. I spent several years doing different roles in BBC local radio and absolutely loved every minute of it. I just knew that eventually I would want to move on and that to do so would require serious levels of prospecting.

This week isn’t the first time I’ve spoken to someone who has put all their eggs in one basket (having waited ages for a particular job) and it hasn’t worked out. In fact I speak to people all the time who are keen to move on but only seem to apply for one job a year, if that. I hate the phrase but ‘in it to win it’ couldn’t apply more. If in doubt just sling an application in.

“Getting the job you want is a campaign”

This is a wonderful piece of advice my current boss Phil once mentioned in passing. You don’t wait to see your dream job advertised and then apply for it out of the blue. If it’s something you REALLY want you mount a campaign over time.

In reality I didn’t simply apply for my current job and get it on the first attempt. I’d applied for another job on the same show two years earlier. In the meantime I’d sat in on the show, wangled a week working there, stayed in touch and then finally applied for the job I got. But of course it’s still not that simple – between then and now I had to reapply and interview for my own job several times because I was always working on fixed-term contracts.

The Radio Academy used to run ‘Foot in the Door’ events. It can be hard enough to get a foot in the door – but if you do – remember that the real challenge is to get at least your entire leg (and preferably your torso) through that very narrow opening.

5 responses to Once you land a job in radio, you need to apply for another one

  1. I’ve never applied to quite so many jobs as you have, but I’ve always applied for interesting jobs, even if I have been happy in my current role. A fringe benefit is that you get better at writing applications and become more confident in interviews. It’s the ultimate form of ‘networking’. If you do get an interview you get 30 minutes or so of someone’s undivided attention, and it’s someone who has the power to give you work. Much more valuable than chatting to someone during the coffee break of a conference for 3 minutes. Even if you don’t get an offer, you have learnt about them and their business and they will (if they liked you) be considering you as an option for future roles.

  2. This is interesting. I used to work as part of the recruitment team at another big broadcaster and knowing that whoever was sifting through the applicants could look at the jobs you applied for in the past really put me off applying for things myself (and cringe at past job applications!!!).

    Right or wrong, this could see a recruiter not take your application seriously if you have a history of erratic ‘I’ll apply for anything’. And when applying for an entry level job with 1000s of applications, a recruiter is looking for anything to get that number down.

    So from a recruitment point of view, I would say to make sure it is at least the correct level of job – or perhaps no more than one level up. I saw so many graduates applying for very high level jobs which is both a waste of their and the recruiters time.

    • Hey Chelsea. Sorry for a MEGA belated reply, somehow only just saw this. And yes very good point. Many of mine were similar or related to what I was already doing, but when I’d just graduated there were certainly a few way above my experience level which perhaps I shouldn’t have applied to! Then again if someone had a super-great-CV and looked perfect, most employers wouldn’t (I hope) turn them away purely on the basis of blind ambition!

  3. Found this really useful Tim, I’ve been freelancing for a couple of years and had short term contracts.

    I’m interested whether you think it’s important to spread your wings and travel around to different places of work or to try and be loyal to one place in the hope it’ll improve odds of getting a permanent position?

    Would appreciate any advice!

    • I don’t think there’s a correct answer to this one!

      Loyalty can absolutely pay off. “Getting a job is a campaign” – a great bit of advice my current boss once gave me. And it’s true – pursuing one particular employer can, eventually, pay off. However, we’re all in the hands of available jobs/cuts/bureaucracy/competition so it doesn’t always work.

      Spreading your wings can be great – that period of freelancing and experiencing lots of different places can later seem invaluable if you end up getting a more permanent job. Having experience of lots of different places can look impressive to an employer. Then again…it can sometimes look like no-one will *quite* give you a job. Again – no easy answer.

      I know people who have kept at it with the same place for years on end and eventually landed their dream job. I know others who have done similar but never got anywhere. I know a couple who kept getting rejected at the places they often worked within the BBC only to then end up with remarkable jobs elsewhere – as if their talent had been overlooked, sadly.

      So, unhelpfully, there’s no correct answer! I always think it’s good to keep looking for opportunities, feel like you’re always expanding what you can do and challenging yourself, and most of all keep enjoying what you’re doing. If you’re not enjoying it in this industry there’s no point. And if you are enjoying it and getting paid for it, it doesn’t really matter what contract you’re on because you’ve already won!

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