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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Hanst

How Does *THAT* Work?

"Have a good time. All the time."

-- Viv Savage, in Spinal Tap

This quote is probably not the most obvious choice to kick off a blog about career goals, but essentially- it was the gist of the advice I got from my parents. They were regularly emphasizing how important it is to love your job and look forward to going to work.

In one variation or another, Mom and Dad reinforced this philosophy all through my school years. In fact, like a lot of lessons that we hear repeated in childhood, I began to take it for granted that ALL kids must hear something like this from their parents. It began to seem like basic common sense-- why WOULDN'T you go after a job that you loved? Isn't that what a job is for?

It's only over the last 5 years or so that I've begun to ask people what the predominant message was about career in their household. A few folks have echoed what I was taught, but for many the goals were different. Like financial security. Or a chance to continue learning in their job. Maybe the child was expected to follow in the mother or father's footsteps... or (misery alert!) pursue a parent's dream that was never realized. And sometimes, work lessons were unspoken or work was rarely discussed at all.

Because of my parents' advice, I knew going into Emerson College that I was going to give radio a try, because it seemed like fun. Emerson actually had two stations: WECB-AM, which was like a minor league team that got you ready for the big time at WERS-FM which still is a powerful publicly supported station in Boston.

In essence, anybody could get on the air at 'ECB, so even as a freshman I was spinning battered vinyl and hosting a show. Though the station barely went 8 blocks down Beacon Street to the dorms, I still got super nervous anytime I cracked the mic at 'ECB. It felt like the Real Deal. I AM ON THE AIR. I AM LIVING THE DREAM!

Eventually, though, my air-shifts became little peaks of excitement (doing a live break) and periods of tedium (playing 30 minutes of music...zzzzz) and I started to wonder whether being a DJ was really what I wanted to do. But next to the air studio at WECB was a production room. In this slightly larger room, there was another control board, a mic, some "cart" decks (sort of like 8 track players and recorders), and 2 reel to reel machines. As I hung around the station during my first year at college, I began to become curious about all that equipment. What does THAT do? How does THAT work? What goes on in this room?

The space was aptly named a production room because that's where "production" was made. In radio, "production" or "imaging" is the term for short recorded messages that brand the station and give it personality. Production will tell you what kind of music the station plays, who the jocks are, what shows air when, and what events the station is sponsoring. Before long, I became the production director for WECB and, thus, a career path was born.

I spent 13 years in radio doing production: writing promos and goofy jokes, fiddling with knobs, and searching for sound effects. It all happened because I suspected radio would be a fun job and because I followed my curiosity about all that equipment.

26 years after my first full time radio gig, I'm not following the same path, but I do follow the same instinct by asking: what would be a creatively enriching thing for me to do? What am I curious about? What seems FUN?

The lesson that my parents taught me about work is deeply ingrained. I can't ever see myself pursuing a career that didn't excite me. If I remain open to learning new things, I know there will always be a new version of the production room at WECB to explore.

What sort of lessons did you parents teach you about work? Share your stories in the comments.

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