This is specifically for people in and out of the industry under 35 because you are not yet stuck in your ways and afraid of change. While it may seem like it will take forever to get from the age of 35 to 50, it is actually only 15 years.
You would truly be amazed at what you can accomplish in that time if you make the right moves by the time you turn 35. Working in the music and radio industry, I’ve seen people go from wealthy to food stamps. I’ve seen people go from owning homes to renting an apartment or worse living In various missions. They usually choose to suffer in silence because they are humiliated by the circumstances. They didn’t use their “15 minutes” wisely and the most common mistake of all.. they thought it would last forever.
I’ve also seen incredibly successful people in the industry, they are always the “rolling stones” like Steve Harvey, Diddy, Dr Dre, Russell Simmons, Cathy Hughes, Jay Z etc and they always have one thing in common, they knew how to leverage their career assets to create ancillary products for themselves and either expanded their brands or used it as leverage by leaving on top to start something new. There are people who think that success means you can relax WRONG!!! That’s actually the time to go to WORK!
The music industry has a different set of rules than most other industries. First, you’re not really required to have a college degree or a lot of experience to work in the industry, at least that’s how it used to be. Many people became successful simply because they knew someone who worked in the industry. Those days are long gone and now industry people have to justify their value which has led our industry to be cut by more than 50% since 2000. The music and radio industries are great platforms to use for this story considering any and everything that we do has gone digital and online.
There are many other tips I can think of but these are the most important and the biggest mistakes I’ve seen people make, including myself … I mentor several younger people and these are the things I often tell them.
Finish College by 35
Truth be told, I don’t think most people are ready to go to college right after high school. It is your first time experiencing independence and at the same time you are under immense pressure to be responsible? That’s an anomaly, which is probably why many kids party so hard then get extremely stressed for midterms and finals. Even more unfortunate, I cannot even count how many people I have seen graduate from college after high school who never use their degree.
College is very different today for millennials and older students. There is access to online classes, which means you can pretty much go to school from anywhere in the world depending on what college you go to. Warning, do your homework, the national colleges that advertise online and TV are severely overpriced. Your local colleges probably offer online classes as well for a lot less. You do NOT want to get into great debt after 35.
If you wait until after 35 to go back it gets harder because at that point you should be reaching the height of your career. That degree may come in handy when you decide you want to do something else like start your own business or another career. This is the kind of insurance that would be of great benefit to you. If you haven’t finished, consider getting at least a Bachelor’s degree. For those over 45 it is still a good time for you to go back to college considering you have another 20 to 25 years to retire. The job market has broadened for workers over 40.
Find Older People who are ALREADY Successful at what you want to do
There’s a saying ‘everything lost can be found again, except wasted time.’ While it is okay to hang out with your friends and experience life together, imagine the time, pain, money and frustration you can save by avoiding the pitfalls and hard-core life lessons. The best way to do that is to find older people who are already successful in doing what you want to do.
As people get older, they often feel a need to give back especially after the age of 45 or 50. There are also others who become even more selfish and sinister at that point wanting to hold on to what they have at all cost. These, of course, are the people you want to avoid. Follow your gut, however, if you can find those who don’t mind going out to lunch with you and, giving you some great advice via letting you know about the mistakes they’ve made as well as their successes or even resources, that information is invaluable.
In addition, if they are wise, they are benefiting from the relationship too. Working in a progressive industry like music, you would be an idiot not to surround yourself with younger people It helps you to stay abreast on current trends. If you’re lucky, sometimes a mentor will find you but it’s rare because if they are still working they are probably too busy. So the onus is on you to find them. I would suggest at least three people male and female and I would suggest finding people who are currently working in your industry.
Always watch your ego
I’ve seen some of the most abrasive and hard-core egos working in the music and radio industry. Allow me to tell you those are usually the people that fall the hardest, from fanfare to welfare. In addition, there’s a saying in most industries “don’t burn any bridges.” This much is true. Some of the people who treated me the worst in my entire career in the industry have needed me years later and they never knew it. I’ll let you think about that for a minute. What I’m saying is, it’s best to treat people well, even if you don’t like them because you really don’t ever know where they’ll end up over they will become friends with.
Invest in the stock market
You can pay rent and bills for the rest of your life but all that can buy you is another month. You can always find a place to live but what about opportunities to invest in yourself for YEARS? When you’re under 35, you rarely think about this but you would be amazed at how much wealth you can amass starting to put money away early on in the stock market and gaining control of your spending early on. Real estate in the BEST parts of town is another great investment. Once you get to be the age of 50, you want to make sure that you have various options and as many sources of income as possible. You never know what may fall through later on in life.
Diversify your skill set
The people who are blessed to work the longest in any industry that I know of are the ones who diversified their skills. They learned various aspects of the job or career and inevitably made themselves more valuable. Again, having something to fall back on his key. If the position that is your chosen career is suddenly discontinued or the corporation has layoffs the person with the most diversified skill set usually will have the most value and is the most difficult to let go.
Don’t wait for permission
I’m always amazed at how younger people are under the impression that they can’t make a move without discussing it and getting the approval of someone else especially older people at the company like a boss, who may not have your best interest in mind. You must know your value and if you’re black you will come across people, including other black people, who will try to convince you that you have NO value. Don’t ever fall for that, if it were true you wouldn’t be working there. If you work for a company that treats you like sh#t, the solution is pretty easy… leave! Plan out your career in advance and you’ll have a better chance of reaching your goals.
If you set a goal to work at each company for only two years, everything about you will reflect that, you won’t come up as needy, desperate or eager to be mistreated by a frustrated boss and flawed work system. Aim high to make sure each gig is a step-up from the last to create greater leverage and negotiating power faster.
Follow your Gut and/or Intuition
People over 35 are well aware that most of the danger in their lives or negative things that have happened came with a warning in advance. I like to call that the “yellow light.” An example of this is when you hit your brakes in your car and you feel them grinding, that’s a yellow light. If you don’t get it fixed as soon as possible it could lead to tragedy. There are also people you will come across you just get an uneasy feeling about. You may not trust them, for example. Chances are you’re being warned or getting the yellow light from your gut or intuition. Listen to your gut and intuition and do your best to follow what is telling you. It is your higher being looking out for your best interest.
I know a lot of people who worked hard to reach their goals got married and had kids and never get a chance to travel extensively. Then I know others who travel all the time. Many people wait till they’re older to travel, but you can easily do it while you’re younger. In fact, the opportunity for you live abroad is greater when you’re younger and can take chances or a couple of years off. It’s much easier to meet people when you’re younger, find work and climb the ladder. I cannot think of one black radio person in urban radio that ever worked at a station in Europe. The world is too big to sit in one space, especially the neighborhood you grew up in. Venture out of your comfort zones.
Start your own business
This may or may not be for everybody but is there something that you like to do and people are willing to pay you for it like making cheesecakes? If so, you have the makings of a small business. Yes, it’s very hard work, endless hours, doing things you don’t want to do, hiring and firing, and growth. Nevertheless, it never feels that way because it’s all YOURS. The likelihood of you getting fired is nonexistent provided you have clients and if you get tired of it you can sell your business and do something else. Make sure whatever you do in your small business is something that you are very passionate about. Money is secondary whatever you’re doing is always first. If you go into business thinking of making money first… you’ll usually fail.
Follow your dream
Jim Carrey said it all during a commencement speech recently when he said his father wanted to be a comedian and was very talented but he had to take care of his children so he took a job as an accountant. Carrey said his father lost the job when he was 12 years old and they struggled from that point on. He stated the greatest lesson he learned from his father was you can be a failure at doing something you DON’T want to do so you might as well go ahead and do what you really want.
Finally, don’t take life so seriously
Make sure you find time to do the things that you love to do, even if you have to do it alone. You will miss out on a lot of opportunities in life waiting for others to tag along. You have to find a way to laugh and ignite those feel-good receptors in the brain (of course with non-negative addictive substances, events, and situations…too often – joke)