It’s a who-you-know world, and when I lived in Mitchell, SD I knew nobody. I landed the Velvet Touch late-night announcer gig at KORN (yes there really is a station called that) from 7pm to 1am. My instructors at Brown Institute told me I could get a job anywhere, but that I had to start somewhere, so they flung me 500 miles across the Prairie with no instructions on how to get back.
Don’t get me wrong, I met many fine people in Mitchell South Dakota, but none of them had connections in broadcasting, and none of them were interested in helping me find them.
So I resorted to the age-old custom of resume stretching.
Not lying. But definitely stretching my short life into the strange and fantastic shapes required to get whatever job might take me.
Even Farm Reporter.
As a product of the suburbs, agriculture was a far distant cousin. But when I heard that a Farm Broadcast network in Minnesota was paying the princely sum of one thousand dollars a month, I immediately started re-forming my resume.
The only trouble was I had already sent a resume to the same station seeking employment as a mid-day disc jockey on their FM station. Their Program Director took the time to tell me (for 15 minutes) not only that he wouldn’t hire me, but that I was terrible, and would never make it in the business. Since he was part-owner, I lived in fear that he might meet up with the director of the Farm Network and exchange notes.
That didn’t happen thankfully, and I landed the job after 2 months and a lot of nail-biting.
I was more than nervous when my new boss showed me around the station. I was certain that I would be caught out and my paper-thin experience exposed. I shook hands around the station, and then my boss led me upstairs to meet the Management. “I want to introduce you to Jack Lynch.” Jack was in his early 60’s at the time, a force to be reckoned with. Former founder and Sales Manager of the Network, Former 10-year mayor of the town, top sales producer, etc, etc.
We rounded the corner and met a smaller man with short gray hair and a piercing blue stare. My boss started in with who I was, when Jack cut him off. “You don’t have to tell me about Jeff Gould. I know all about him.” He shook my hand and looked me in the eye. “We’re glad to have you here, Jeff. Welcome aboard.”
I was dumbstruck. How did he find out about me? Was it possible he had heard me read the market reports as he was driving across the interstate? Maybe he had listened to one of the countless tapes I had sent the station. No matter how he found out, having a powerful ally like him made a world of difference. Instead of feeling like I had snuck in the back door, I now felt like I really belonged there, a new and valuable hire.
Five years later, I was packing my desk for another job. By then I had moved my way up at the station, trying my hand at various job titles (including morning side-kick to the very man who had said I was worthless). I had gotten a job offer in Sioux Falls, and falsely believing that moving always meant progress, I was packing my stuff into a card board box in a small office next to Jack Lynch’s desk.
I heard footsteps coming up the stairs and saw the Program Director showing a new hire around the building. The overnight position had an opening and they filled it with a gawky kid fresh out of Brown Institute. “Hi,’ I said. I forgot his name instantly. Turnover was high in small-town radio, most announcer positions changed every six months or so.
I went back to my packing, and heard him being introduced to Jack outside my door.
Jack stopped him in mid-introduction. “You don’t have to tell me about Steve. I know all about him. We’re glad to have you here Steve. Welcome aboard.”
Wisdom: Confidence is the most important thing you can give someone, and surprisingly easy to offer. I’ve given the Jack Lynch speech a few times myself over the years, and smiled to myself while doing it. I can only hope it helped them as much as it helped me.