Career Corner: How to be a Radio Host

Library TakeoutTeens D.C.

Career Corner: How to be a Radio Host

Sheridan Waters talks to local radio personality Elizabethany

This fall, the Teen Council is interviewing local professionals for the"Career Corner" series. The goal of this series is to give teens the inside scoop on what it takes to get different jobs.

Ever wondered what it’s like to be a radio host? Check out Sheridan’s interview with Elizabethany, who currently is a radio personality and assistant director for local Top 40 radio station, HOT 99.5. 

What do you think about people saying that the radio industry is dying because of streaming? To you, what is keeping the radio as something that people will continue to turn to? 
Streaming services may give you on-demand music, but radio gives you local information. When people want to feel connected to their city and pop culture, and not just the specific music or artists that they're a fan of, they turn to the radio. You can't get that connection anywhere else. We also provide a connection between the fans and the artist that they can't get from streaming. Sure, some people will brag about how they don't listen to the radio anymore, but they do, even if they're not the biggest fans. Radio is easier. 

What is one habit that has helped you to be successful in your daily life?
Being a hustler. I don't like being bored. When I didn't have something to do, I was creating something for myself and my brand. It's a little exhausting, but it's the key to success -- always making yourself better. 
 
If you weren't a radio host what's something else you could see yourself doing?
Being a teacher. What I love most about my job is the connection I have with people. I like helping people, and radio gives me a platform. At some point in my life, I want to make the switch to helping people directly in the classroom. 

What do you love most about your job?
Well, I guess I already answered that.  But to be clear, it's not about connecting with celebrities and artists. Although that is a very cool perk, the best conversations and connections are normally made with "normal people."
 
As a radio host, does it feel like your personality is the marketable thing that draws people in to listen? How does that feel? If your personality is the thing that you're “selling” have you ever had any doubts about changing up your style or commentary or anything along those lines?
First of all, fantastic question. In all of the interviews I've done like this, no one has ever asked this question. Only my therapist has touched on this, lol. Yes, my personality is absolutely what I'm marketing... which is terrifying, but also relieving. The only thing in life that I can control is myself and my personality... but I've always known that being myself is the best thing to be. I don't ever want to change how I do anything, or how I act. [Unless, of course, I'm being a terrible person and need to apologize for something I've done.] One thing I really have to ask myself a lot is, "Is what I'm doing and what I'm saying worth getting fired for?" It seems extreme, but as long as I am being myself, saying what I believe in... I will always be okay with getting fired for it. I would never be okay with getting fired for doing something that someone else told me to do or for doing something I thought people would like but I didn't. Some people in this business are completely different people on the air than they are "in real life," and most of the time they're not as successful as others. Being your unique self... it's just the most important thing in life. 

What did your typical day at work look like before the pandemic?
I'm not just in charge of my on air show; I'm also in charge of scheduling all of the music and I'm the Assistant Program Director for the station, so I have a lot more "office work" than people assume. I would be in the office by 10 a.m. and leave around 7:30 p.m., even though I'm only in the studio from 2 - 7 p.m. There is a lot of music research, show prep, meetings, etc that happen throughout the day.
 
What does your typical day at work look like now?
It looks the same, except I'm doing office work from the couch and my show from the top of a dresser in my guest room. My "studio" is just a microphone I hold in my hand, with a tiny tablet, and a small board with a few volume knobs on it. It's amazing how technology has made it easy to put on a high quality sounding radio show from anywhere. 
 
The main things that have changed are outside of the usual day-to-day. We no longer have events or concerts or the "typical" way of connecting with our listeners. It's hard to get out and see my people that I'm talking to! I miss being able to help every single day. 

What's your favorite project that you've worked on?
Oh boy... this is hard, there are so many. At the beginning of this year, I gave a family a trip to Universal Studios. Someone wrote to me about how their child's stepmom had terminal cancer and loved Harry Potter... so I decided to gift them a trip. It wasn't a work project, though, I did it entirely on my own. I just hope that by posting it on my platform, I'm inspiring other people to help the world. Work projects... One girl had asked Justin Bieber to prom, and I was able to connect with his people to make sure he knew about it. In the end, he didn't go to prom, but I showed up to her prom with a video from him that invited her to be his date at the Billboard Music Awards. Pretty great. 

What's the next upcoming professional product that you are really excited about?
I wish I knew!!! We don't have much going on right now because it's too hard to predict the future! 

What motivates you to work?
I think that it's a combination of a lot of things. I'm naturally very motivated to work hard. I've always had big dreams, and I've always been very vocal about them. I don't want to not live up to my own expectations, especially when everyone knows about them. I also just have the motivation of helping people. I selfishly love the feeling of being helpful. 

What advice would you give to teens about choosing a career?
Find something that you like and find a way to make money doing it. I realized at 15 years old that what I loved most was annoying people by asking a lot of questions. I always want to know everything about everything. How could I make money doing that so that it's not considered annoying anymore? I tried internships in TV news and radio, while doing my own blog and connecting with reality TV people before I realized pop/music radio was my favorite avenue. This goes for anything though. Whatever you love... there are absolutely ways to make money doing it. The more you love what you do, the more you'll be willing to put in the effort to be successful! 
 
The interview was edited for clarity. 
 
I hope that everyone enjoyed this interview with Elizabethany! For articles on different careers, continue to check out dclibrary.org/teenscorner