When I was in college and couldn’t find a mentor despite trying, I swore that if I survived in this business and anyone wanted my opinion, I’d give it freely.
I’ve tended to stick to that promise unless the request was unreasonable, such as someone I hardly know asking me to serve as a reference. So I’ve listened to demos, helped a little with job searches and things like that. And it’s usually all good unless they completely ignore the advice, get into the trouble I predicted they would and then come back for more help.
This happened recently. One young broadcaster quit his job before getting a new one and now he’s having a lot of trouble getting work. My advice was to stick it out and get another gig first. It’s the advice I gave to another announcer and he followed it. Now he’s in a job with more prestige a bigger city. But the first broadcaster is puzzled about why they can’t get a better gig. I told them both, you’re more attractive when you’re already working. The radio market is very tight and there are only so many jobs. It’s a jungle out there.
Another relative newbie to the business whom I had never met, asked me to listen to her demo. We exchanged a couple of emails. I listened to her work and gave her compliments and some advice about how to improve it and to position herself in the market for future employment. She disappeared without offering so much as a thank you. Perhaps her attitude and lack of manners contribute to her inability to get work?
Last summer I had the pure joy of meeting with an old friend whose sons are both pursuing careers in media and journalism. They had excellent questions, listened to my old-fart radio stories and followed up later with just a thank you. That was worth my while in more ways than one. But these lads knew they had an opportunity to fast track past some mistakes and unknowns by making the most of our time together. It was a great experience for me, too.
I don’t mind helping the younger set, within reason, but when I feel taken advantage of, it’s not worth it. Ultimately, the person has to decide for themselves whether my advice is worth taking, but experience has value and ought to be treated as such. Most of my colleagues won’t spend five minutes to help someone just because they asked. Some days, I can see the wisdom in that!