I didn't get into brodcast journalism right away. I dabbled in radio during university, but I wasn't sure that I wanted to make a career out of the competitive and generally low-waged profession. Instead, my English degree, student debt and I went the way of administrative work which gave me the financial and career stability that I wanted. However, I could never shake the idea of being the voice that people would turn to for entertainment and information. Five years after graduating university, I returned to school for a broadcasting diploma.
It was difficult to leave a good-paying job for an industry that my classmates and I were told on day one was “not the one to be in if you wanted to make money”, but at the same time it was exhilarating to follow my dreams. With a few exceptions, the common (and arguably best) career path out of school leads to remote communities where you practice all aspects of your craft at small radio and television stations. I travelled to far flung, remote locations that were anything but urban to land the jobs I wanted. These were difficult moves both personally and financially, but also were amazing and transformative experiences.
My plan was to make my way closer to my home city each year and end up on a major market station in the city. I thought my job in a little town nearby would be the last stop before that end point, but it was here that my career stalled. The broadcasting industry is plagued by layoffs and cutbacks, and is getting increasingly harder to move forward, particularly in a timely manner. While I commuted 45 minutes along mountainous roads at four in the morning to report the news, the opportunities for raises and promotions faded away. Two years of doing everything I could to move up in the company were proving fruitless.
The question then became do I change trajectory within the industry- move away or try my luck at a different broadcasting company? But there were so many other factors to consider; I was now married, and my husband would have to quit his job and start over again, and my salary would barely be enough to support the two of us. I was also burnt out. The inter-station politics, the long hours, the huge workload had all worn me down. It was a very difficult decision to leave my dream career. It took me months to accept that I needed to do it, and a few more months before I finally applied for a job outside the industry. Even in the final interview for my new job, which I was excited about, I had to resist the temptation to run for the door!
The day I accepted my new job, a radio station from out of town called to offer me a job and I declined. It wasn’t even a hard decision to turn them down, and it reaffirmed to me that switching careers was the right move for this point in my life. My new job returns me to administrative work, but employs some of the skills I learned through my broadcasting education including marketing. It feels good to be using the skills I perfected in my broadcasting career. It’s also in my home city –a terrific, vibrant location- where I’ve always wanted to be. The best part is that I feel amazing; I’m more energetic, healthy and happier than I have been in a long time with the stresses of money, long hours and commuting gone.
What I’ve learned through this process is that you must be happy. I don’t regret following my dreams to become a journalist, because I would have been unhappy had I not given it a try. I also don’t regret throwing in the towel after five years, because I tried my best. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, but I also accept that the broadcasting industry does not support what is important to me in life, in particular financial stability and work-life balance. It all comes down to the fact that if you’re unhappy, you need to figure out why and change it. Your happiness is worth it!