A disk jockey career path can be both fun and challenging. The thrills of the job are apparent to most people. DJs get the chance to talk with celebrities and with the general public. They get the chance to entertain, to inform and to educate large segments of the population. It’s the chance to let your unique personality shine for all to hear. A great DJ is a professional conversationalist, a dispenser of information, a communicator, and someone who can speak clearly and succinctly about a range of topics. It’s someone who can build a rapport with celebrities and the general public. But most of all, becoming a DJ means being someone who works hard and loves what they do.
Personality is a DJ’s calling card. A great DJ is talkative, friendly and trustworthy. Every DJ must be a bit of a performer and a professional. But no one is born a DJ, no matter how natural some may appear to be on the air. The DJ’s on-air persona is one that’s been developed and refined over years of practice and performance.
Having a successful disc jockey career also means being a professional and not letting the audience down. A DJ can’t let a bad day affect their on-air routine. And it’s also someone who won’t let the solitude affect them. Many would be surprised, but despite their upbeat and chatty nature, most DJs describe isolation as one of the toughest parts of their job. Being alone in a booth, often at odd hours, can be tough. But all professional DJs learn to be comfortable with that occasional solitude.
And while a disc jockey career depends on winning personality that gains favor with an audience, there are plenty of other qualities just as important to success. We all know a great DJ is someone who can communicate, but many forget that communication is a two-way street. A DJ is not just a skilled orator, but also a good listener. A great DJ will listen closely to their audience and their guests and know and react accordingly. That’s because a great DJ knows their audience. It’s someone who knows what interests the audience and knows what the audience cares or doesn’t care about. It’s someone who cares about the community he or she serves.
And when becoming a DJ, one must know the personality and goals of his or her station and be able to accurately reflect them. As the public face (or more appropriately, the public voice) of the station, the DJ must know how to act, on air and off, in a way that reflects the values of their broadcaster. So having a good disc jockey career means one should be just as comfortable outside of the studio, meeting the audience face-to-face, as inside the studio behind the mic.
A great DJ is also quick-witted, it’s someone who can think on their feet. The world of broadcasting is often fraught with last-minute changes and breaking news which means that the DJ often has to broadcast without a script. Winging it can be intense, but it can also be the most exciting part of the job. And it can make for memorable radio. But most of the time, the DJ must stick to a schedule. The DJ has to keep a close eye on the clock and know when a commercial is coming up or when an important interview will air. And let’s kill an old stereotype right here: a DJ is not just some empty, talking head. DJs must know about radio production and editing. They must learn how to handle the high tech studio and computer equipment. They must know how to create recorded segments and promos, as well as outside-of-the-studio field recordings.
Landing a hosting gig on a radio show is usually the crowning achievement to becoming a DJ. And that’s because it’s something that doesn’t happen overnight. It’s only the result of years of training and experience-gathering. Starting a disc jockey career and getting those first broadcasting jobs can be tough. Getting experience is vital. Many start out as announcers at their schools, often on college radio stations, sometimes at school sports events. Others go to broadcasting schools, where they gain experience while learning the ropes of the broadcasting world. The best broadcasting schools offer extensive in-studio time. But whatever one decides, one must be in for plenty of challenges, hard work and life-changing experiences.
Tim White is the director of admissions for the Ohio and Illinois Centers for Broadcasting, a top radio broadcasting school, and a manager of several national bands and artists. He has been FCC licensed since being a college radio DJ. Be On Air