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Robbie James. The moment I knew a career in radio was for me...

I started to have an interest for radio when I was about 14. I used to listen religiously to the radio on the school bus every day. I thought it was a really cool way of communicating, and I loved how one little bit of content could stick with me for the coming day and even week. I loved that I felt I could have a beer (or an apple juice at that age) with a person I’d never even met.

When I chose my degree I always thought ‘’well doing the radio seems cool, but I’ll never be any good of it, so it’s an unrealistic long shot’’ – so I chose the opposite of radio…. Economics! 

I started student radio up in Edinburgh at FreshAir, and over the space of a year I started to think to myself, ‘’I really like this, it’s something I feel very comfortable doing’’. Over my second year of university I gradually started to build up more confidence and more of a passion towards being on the radio. The chance to make someone’s day that little bit better was what drove me, and I absolutely loved it. There came a time where I realised to myself...’’I find it 100 times easier to get up at 4am to go in for a breakfast show than getting up at 8am for a lecture’’…this was a big turning point for me.

I got told pretty honestly (and I’m forever grateful for this) I wouldn’t get any on-air work in Scotland with an English accent. This was tough to take, but I understood it. Cue months of thinking and the decision to make the move from Edinburgh to Hampshire to pursue what had become a thriving love of mine. It was the hardest decision of my life to move away from my favourite place in the world and settle into another university, but opportunities don’t get handed to you, you have to search for them.

I planned the move for about 4 months and when I saw the Express FM drive show advertised by The Pips I applied within about 3 and a half minutes of seeing it.

Six weeks, a lot of meetings and many pleads later I did my first drive show. I’m nowhere near where I want to be as a presenter, but I cannot stress how important getting hours under your belt and learning skills is for working in any part of radio, and any industry for that matter. It’s more than worth the three-hour round commute, the travel expenses, and the disgustingly long days when I start at Winchester University in September (I was trying not to think about that).

So my top tips for giving yourself the best chance of getting where you want to get to.

Be a good person.

Absolutely essential. Kindness is the most underrated quality in the world. Some people see it as weakness, but you don’t want to work with those people, chances are they’ll use you and you’ll be miserable. The radio industry is small. Word will get around if you’re a *insert not radio friendly language*.

Enjoy absolutely everything you do.

Even the bad bits. You’ll have really boring and seemingly pointless jobs, rubbish hours and no pay. You can choose to make it a slog, or you can just have a laugh and enjoy it. When you look back on it you’ll just laugh and be proud that you did it.

Be in it for the right reasons.

Working in radio is one of the luckiest jobs you could have. You have an opportunity to make someone’s day a bit better, make people laugh, give them something to take their mind off their rubbish day or personal life. It’s really important to do it because you believe in doing that, it’s not a place for selfishness.

Make it happen.

Be really proactive. Learn skills, not just technically but learn people skills, and use them. Being a good communicator is the first step to being proactive.

Do everything.

It’s easy to make excuses for why you can’t do something. You might think it’s not where you want to go, but why wouldn’t you want to learn some different skills to add to your collection? You don’t need to be there forever! Why wouldn’t you want to know as much about everything as possible!? Building a wide spectrum of knowledge could be very beneficial in the future. Watch Love Island yer but also watch Newsnight, be rounded!

About the author

Robbie James

Presenter, DJ & Event Host on Express FM, weekdays 3-7pm. Intern at Capital South Coast.

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