Getting out of the noise floor

December 1, 2008


Believe it or not, working in radio used to be fun! Those of us who got into the business in the 1970s and earlier were drawn in because there was some magic about having an association with a radio station. We ended up working alongside the same on-air personalities we listened to as kids. There was a time when people were actually impressed to know someone that worked in radio because radio was bigger than life. Memories were made listening to the radio.

A successful radio engineer needed a unique mixture of skills like creativity, problem solving, dealing with egos, dealing with non-technical managers and working long hours, in addition to an aptitude in audio and RF. Radio engineering in its most basic form always represented something new and something challenging. Looking back on all of it, I think many of us now see those situations as fun on some crazy and what we now call geeky level. Most people don't get to mix work with their hobbies.

I'm not sure when the fun left engineering. Perhaps it was deregulation; limiting the amount of stations a person could own seemed to make better owners. Maybe we can blame Wall Street and the point when radio owners figured out they could go public and suddenly needed to keep the stockholders happy. Or possibly it was the ever-improving automation technologies that took the personality out of radio.

But here we are. Many of us are now left with the responsibility of solely running the show, which doesn't really permit us to do what made us enjoy the business in the beginning. Perhaps the fundamental problem is simply the loss of control we once had. Or the lack of time we now have to complete those (once fun) tasks, or maybe responsibilities are taking us in a direction that seems less interesting.

You're not alone

Satisfaction usually equates to fun in the workplace. According to studies of many large organizations, employees are apparently having less fun at work. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor concluded that only about 23 percent of employees are satisfied in their work situations. Interestingly, the age group that expresses the least satisfaction is in people under 25. The percentage increased in the older age ranges.

The main reasons for job dissatisfaction include:

  • Get the fun back

    Excessive time and effort required at work takes away from personal time, particularly time with family and friends.

  • Excessive stress created by company policies, downsizing, economic conditions, unrealistic goals and expanding responsibilities.

  • Little significant income change as a result of increased responsibilities or excessive work hours.

Manage your time

While changing the way a company operates or its policies may be a little beyond your control, you can change the way you approach a job. Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, considered one of the best places to work, has many writings and statements that have become legendary quotes. I think one of those quotes sums up concisely the underlying source of an individual's satisfaction: Control your own destiny or someone else will.



The vast majority of people seem fine with being told what to do, how to do it, when it needs to be completed, etc. If this were not true, most people would leave their situation for another opportunity. The fact is most people don't work well outside their comfort zone. Combine that with the pressure of financial and family obligations and we have a society of people who will tolerate a job they hate. Interestingly, many research studies also indicate that the current generation of college graduates entering the workforce see themselves in a position for only a short time and feel no pressure to stay at any one position/company if a better opportunity is made available to them. These Millennials believe job-hopping is the key to growth and happiness. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than half of all 20- to 24-year-olds had been with their employer less than 12 months.

While this job-hopping approach may not work as well, particularly in this current economic downturn, with so many qualified and experienced employees seeking work, the take-away is that you always have the control to create a better experience for yourself.

Manage your time

Most companies advocate time management to employees, but their purpose is to make the company more efficient and profitable. But we can't forget personal needs. I am not aware of any company's time management processes that include things like “spend time with your family.”

What you need to do is utilize time management in both your work and personal life. Many books about happiness cite the need to have balance in life. Create a time management plan that takes into account all the things that will make you happy and satisfied. The hard part is making the time to follow through on these things.

Don't forget hobbies. Hobbies are like jobs that we get to do on our own terms. We get to set the expectations, how much money and time to spend doing it, etc. Whether playing golf, watching football, building sand castles, whatever, it's our time.

Embrace technology

Never has technology become more accessible to the general public. Years ago we were forced to design and build custom devices. This necessity was probably the most satisfying part of the job — seeing something you created, working flawlessly and solving the problem.

Even in a networked environment there is always a need to fix, modify or create something. The choice of hardware and software tools is almost limitless and so is your capacity to home-brew new solutions that will be far more fun and personally rewarding. As an added bonus, you will learn new skill sets that can make a transition into a new career easier. That goes a long way to controlling your own destiny.

The radio industry, like so many others, has gone through huge changes in the way business is done. Take a few steps back and look at how the change has impacted you and how your level of job satisfaction has changed over the years. You may see that proactively balancing your life with work will ultimately help bring some of the fun back into radio.


McNamara is president of Applied Wireless, Cape Coral, FL.


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