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The current generation of social media-obsessed, tech savvy young job recruits who’d love a spot in an entertainment company would arguably find few opportunities better suited than radio. And while many are enticed by the industry’s ever-evolving job prospects, attracting the best future radio pros is still a challenge, and one that must be well met.

While today’s Millennials interested in media careers have far more platforms to pursue than previous generations, many are in fact interested in the medium and are actively listening to radio. “There is a myth that young talent today are not interested in radio; it’s not true,” says Dan Vallie, founder of Vallie Richards Donovan Consulting—and the founder/president of the National Radio Talent Institute, a 10-day workshop and tutorial in radio, driven to discover, coach and prepare the next generation of broadcasters. “There is plenty of young talent that are just as excited about getting into radio as when we got in.”

All the same, recruitment remains essential, according to Jacobs Media cofounder Fred Jacobs. “Because the farm team—small market radio and overnights—has all but evaporated, radio has to actively recruit young people, some of whom aren’t considering radio as a career path. Interestingly enough, there are teens who find radio attractive, but we need to connect with them. That means supporting organizations like Conclave, putting money and resources behind Dan Vallie’s Talent Institute and working with local high schools and colleges to nurture and attract talent.”

Add to those efforts the National Association of Broadcasting’s Education Foundation and the Broadcast Education Association (BEA) which, with the NAB, is also aligned for the very purpose of making sure radio continues to attract top talent. Michelle Duke, VP of the NAB Education Foundation, tells Inside Radio that all recruiters need to think like marketers “to attract the best and the brightest. That means ‘selling’ the attributes of working in radio and the benefits of building a career in this industry,” she says. “There’s definitely a great story to tell, but in order to reach the superstars you have to act early.”

Duke explains, “Entry-level ‘A’ players have typically had a number of internships by the time they complete college, and they are being wooed every step of the way by our competitors. And by that I mean any company that is seeking individuals to work in sales, marketing, engineering, digital, business and even those areas we might think are specific to radio like programming and on-air talent.”

Needless to say, Millennials are bull’s-eye candidates for radio. Adds Heather Birks, executive director of the BEA—who also serves as coordinator of the Radio Show’s Student Scholar Program—“Millennials have a strong sense that they can make things happen. They have grown up in a competitive world and know that if they want to succeed, not only is it on them to make it happen, but they are creative and think outside the box so they can make it happen.”

Birks adds that the demo makes for ideal radio career employees because they have a sense of community, “which is at the core of every successful radio station. So, we’re in luck if they match their sense of community with entrepreneurial tendencies in the radio world.”

From there a question the industry needs to ponder is: What do these young and able folks need to succeed? Let’s start with the basics, says Steve Goldstein, CEO of consultancy Amplifi Media: “The essentials are obviously still so important: authenticity and flexibility. Card readers will just hasten the demise of the business.”

For those looking to be on-air, Dom Theodore, founder/CEO of consultancy RadioAnimal Media Strategies, is reading from the same liner. “We need to allow them to be authentic personalities rather than ‘announcers,’ and we must give new talent the room to make mistakes,” he stresses. “Our industry has been very efficient in driving away interesting and unusual people over the past few years because many didn’t fit the corporate culture. Yet those people are the unique characters who create far more interesting content than most of what you hear on the radio today. We need to encourage more ‘show’ and less ‘business.’”

Mike McVay, executive VP, Content, Programming at Cumulus Media, shares this point of view. “I like talent that possess showmanship. They have to be outgoing, charismatic, communicative, possessing of a great work ethic, have a strong attention to detail, be a team player, understand who their audience is, be uniquely entertaining and smart. I’ve never met a winning talent that wasn’t intelligent.”

And for the candidate, follow the golden rule: Be prepared. Says Suzanne Montoya, general sales manager for Connoisseur Media’s hot AC WPST (94.5) /”Fox Sports Radio 920-AM” WNJE Trenton, NJ—a panelist at the upcoming Radio Show session “Whose Job is it Anyway?” “When you come in, know the station, who we are and who we appeal to. Bring ideas and how they can relate to our target,” she says. “I think that’s what we need most from a new generation…to understand their views, their likes and dislikes, and help us perfect the brand with fresh ideas. Show us your creativity.”

Flexibility and versatility are also key skills, according to Amy Stroud, senior VP at Forcht Broadcasting. “If you want to be a success in radio, you must know how to do more than one radio job. Learn how to perform multiple tasks during a given day and understand all the facets of day-to-day radio. On-air talent must be able to update and maintain social media, sales staff must be able to understand the programming needs of their station so that they can sell the station to their clients, and digital media staff must be excellent writers, communicators and almost all-knowing when it comes to understanding their station’s market.”

Recruiters Must Think Creatively

Finding new talent will also require radio recruiters to look beyond traditional means. “New talent is going to have to not only grow from our ranks but is also going to have to come from unconventional delivery platforms,” says Buzz Knight, VP of Programming for Beasley Media Group. “When it comes from our ranks we have to rebuild the priority of talent development from other non-prime day parts or even from our HD [side channels]. Additionally we have to find talent with their own audience, from blogs, podcasts, YouTube and loosen our thinking about ‘radio-trained’ as a qualification. Open-mindedness and boldness thru innovation will help attract the next successful generation.”

Adds Vallie—whose Radio Talent Institute graduates are now working for the likes of Beasley, Hubbard, iHeart, Entercom, CBS Radio, Mid-West Family, Cumulus, CNN, Commonwealth, Curtis Media and Alpha Media—once you’ve found that right guy or gal, remember the all-essential next step: helping him or her grow.

“Radio needs to provide what most people need when starting a career. They need to be set up for success, with nurturing along the way,” he says. “It’s been interesting for me to see so many carry themselves well, and are obviously smart and so impressive…that sometimes disguises how inexperienced they are. We need to coach them, train them, and make it easy for them to ask questions. If we commit to helping the next generation of successful radio professionals succeed, we are helping to make the station, the company—and our industry as a whole—to remain successful.”