In 2013 I went to the National Sports Media Association Convention for the first time, and looking back, it wasn’t an easy decision to make that trip. After all, radio is not the most lucrative industry in the world, and it’s certainly not inexpensive to go to these events. Fees to go to the event were about $300 to start. I had to pay gas to drive six hours from Aberdeen, SD to Omaha, NE to catch a $350 flight. Multiple days of hotels and food on the way there. I don’t remember the exact cost, but it was well over $1,000 to attend the conference. I had been told it would be worth it, but I definitely had doubts because after all, I could pay a lot of bills with that much money.
That was the time I learned the value of investing in myself. Whether that’s spending money on career development opportunities or investing your time towards bettering your career prospects, it’s essential in growing into the best person you can be. The following are the ways that I personally have invested in myself and my career:
Equipment: I hope that everyone reading this is happily employed at a radio station or school that provides equipment for you to use for all of your broadcasts. However, the odds of you being continuously employed with no gaps are low in this business. Having your own equipment means the ability to make your own opportunities. I’m not suggesting anyone go out and buy thousands of dollars in fancy gear. Two headset mics, a mixer, and a laptop are all you really need. Middle of the road headsets are about $200, and a very basic mixer runs as low as $40. Add some XLR cables, and you’re looking at around $500 for the whole package. I realize that’s not inexpensive, but it’s worth it.
Self Improvement/Career Building: One of the best places to focus your time and resources is self improvement. There are many sportscasting coaching and critique services out there (I even have one) that can help you improve as a broadcaster. Many of these services also include job boards and career guidance. With patience and successful relationship building, you can find people who will give you critical feedback for free. You can also find most job listings on pay sites for free if you take the time to scour the internet regularly. But if you want faster results, services like STAA or coaches like Marc Zumoff can help you get ahead faster.
Networking: This is the category that I’ve personally invested the most in monetarily. The main reason being that I’ve lived in geographically isolated places, and if I wanted to build meaningful relationships in the industry, I had to travel. If you live in or near a major media market, this may not be as pressing of an issue. I’ve gone to the NSMA Awards Weekend three times, the STAA retreat once, and most recently the Conclave Radio Conference. I feel like at this moment, I’m one connection away from just about any broadcaster in the country, and it’s all because I’ve taken the time to go to conferences and build relationships.
Brand: Your brand is how you’re perceived by others, both inside and outside of the industry. There are endless way to build your personal brand, and most cost time or money. For example, I started a website with a blog and podcast. That has helped me to make contacts with broadcasters at all levels all over the country. It has even helped me find freelance work. However, that branding came with a price. I needed to buy equipment, web hosting, a domain name, and commit countless hours to creating free content. I’m certainly not suggesting that everyone else do something that extreme, but at the very least you should have a professional looking personal website. Other branding opportunities include business cards, customized thank you notes, and too many other possibilities to count. Find out what works for you and roll with it!
Time: Not every investment in your career costs money. I recently checked out a book from the library on coaching volleyball because I wanted to have a deeper knowledge on the advanced strategies of the game for an upcoming broadcast. I frequently stay up late to do game prep, critique my own work, and send emails to friends in the industry. It’s all free, but it takes a lot of time. You could even say the cost is sacrificing social opportunities or missing the newest episodes of my favorite TV shows. Just like money, we have a limited amount of time, and investing time effectively is extremely important when building your own personal brand.
Remember that every investment involves some risk, and not everything will pay off in the end. However, if you’re smart with how you invest in your career, the potential for growth and major returns is unlimited.
How have you invested in your own career? Share your stories in the comment section below.