I’ve Been De-Regged

Richard Spencer

I used to work for Global as Managing Editor of Heart South West, a role I’d held for 9 years. On February 26th, Global announced that due to de-regulation of the radio industry they would be making big changes. This meant that many people would be losing their jobs, either because they were no longer needed, or because their site was closing, or both. I’m not sure what the total number of job losses among staff and freelancers was, but estimates put it between 150 and 250. I was one of them.

‘De-regulation’ has become the word of the industry over the past 12 months and has even been shortened to ‘De-reg’. ‘When I get de-regged’ is a sentence used on a daily basis and even Global’s owner sent a couple of update emails last year titled ‘De-reg Update’.

Almost exactly a year ago OFCOM published a consultation on these changes showing maps detailing their proposals. It was at this point that I knew I needed a plan. Like most people, I have responsibilities and bills to pay and therefore I couldn’t afford to sit around and just hope for the best. Reading through the consultation I couldn’t see how I would gain from the changes. I just knew I needed to be ready. I’d always had an interest in HR (yes, really) and so decided to become qualified in that profession and change career before I was too old to do so. My planning worked. I left Global on 31st May and started my new career on 3rd June.

In the past week Bauer have announced that they have been given permission to take advantage of the new OFCOM rules. Whether they do so remains to be seen but this year they have also purchased four radio groups, and if there’s one thing I know about business is that companies don’t buy other companies to just sit and let them carry on. There are bound to be changes. I don’t have any insider information, I just understand how owners think; if you are making a profit and have the opportunity to make more profit, you will take it. Whether you agree with that is a debate for another day but that’s business and growth is central to a healthy company, a healthy industry and a healthy economy. And yes, when people are negatively affected, it’s very sad.

If you work for Bauer, Celador, the Wireless local stations, UKRD or the Lincs FM group, what are you doing about the potential changes? If you think that nothing will change then you are wrong. I truly believe that Bauer did not buy Breeze South Devon, for example, to keep a studio in Torquay. (Sorry if that’s you, this is just my opinion.)

So, the point of this blog is to try and help you plan ahead. The CMA look like they might announce their decision on Bauer’s purchases by the end of this month. Bauer, as a privately owned company, can move quickly if they want to.

Here’s a 9 step plan that might help:

  1. Peace. If you’re probably going to leave radio, make peace with that first. I spent over 20 years in the industry and was lucky to spend 10 of that in London. I achieved everything I wanted to in my career. I worked with big presenters on big stations and had the immense pleasure of running a couple of huge regional stations. I also won a few awards. I can be proud of all of that and I am very content to look back with fondness on my radio career. I’m only sad that my children are too young to remember when Dad had a cool job!
  2. Transferable Skills. Think about what you do in your current job that you really enjoy. Take radio out of the equation, is there something there? For me, I love working with people, coaching, helping teams achieve better than before. HR is a world all about that so that seemed to fit for me.
  3. Passion. Is there something that has lived at the back of your mind for years that you’ve just not done anything about? I thought about HR from time to time and read a lot around the subject. I was always fascinated and decided to take the leap.
  4. Qualifications. I left school at 18 with two terrible A-Level results and 20 years on I didn’t have any qualifications so I paid to get properly HR qualified. Most HR jobs require it and whilst it is expensive (now is a good time to pay for a qualification, while you’re still getting a salary!), I saw it as a investment in my future that would hopefully repay itself many times over.
  5. Network. Put yourself out in the new world locally. In January I started networking in the HR community where I live. I met a dozen brilliant people who were happy to impart some wisdom in exchange for coffee and their advice helped guide me. LinkedIn is a great tool for networking too. I reworked my profile to make it HR friendly and connected with hundreds of HR people locally and nationally. When the time came, I posted that I was looking for opportunities and it was thanks to one person seeing that post that I now have a job!
  6. Be prepared to take a pay cut. As a manager of a regional radio station, I had a good salary, a company car, RAJAR bonus and all the benefits of being management. It’s unlikely that by changing career you will continue to earn the same. Accepting that helps. See a pay cut as an investment and in a couple of years you can be back to where you were. Global were very generous in their redundancy payouts for everyone, and that helps me support my career change. If you can, get some cash in the bank now too.
  7. Start applying for jobs. Make sure your CV and cover letters are designed to reflect your new career choice. There was no point in me talking about growing audiences and launching new breakfast shows, but I could talk about helping implement redundancy programmes, deliver coaching, or even carrying out disciplinary procedures. I hadn’t had a job interview for a few years and the world of radio is VERY different to the real world so its good to start getting used to it. Applying for jobs can feel like a job in itself so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  8. Rejection. You won’t get the first job you apply for. Or the ten after that, unless you’re lucky. I started applying for jobs in January and landed my role at the end of March. Try to remain positive and remember that rejection is part of the process. If you get a no, get feedback; it helps you evaluate how you’re applying for jobs and how you come across in interviews etc.
  9. It’s REALLY hard. Letting go of the one thing you’ve only ever wanted to do since a kid is hard, but accepting that actually helps keep you positive. There will be some good days and bad days and knowing that will help you come out the other side even stronger.

Being prepared for the change took all of the stress out of it for me. When the changes were announced I didn’t have anything to go to but I was already on the journey and that made a real difference. The feeling of relief and achievement when I finally got offered a new job was huge. It took me a week to come down from the high of it all!

I’m now six weeks into my new career and I’m really loving it! I probably should have done it years ago in reality, but that doesn’t matter. I know this second career is one that will hopefully last another 20 years.

Good luck!

Twitter: @rich__spencer

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