From university to dream job: Succeed like Radio 1’s Greg James

Greg James (photo used with permission)

I enjoyed reading about Greg James in the Independent on Monday.  From a student at the University of East Anglia, he’s been given a DJing job at Radio 1.  You couldn’t get a much quicker move from uni to national radio!

Greg studied Drama at UEA and has this to say about his time there:

“I had a brilliant time at UEA, I loved every minute of my course and my time at the student radio station in particular was fantastic and set me up so well for my chosen career path. It is a great place to discover your talents and develop your skills.” – from UEA website

After devouring the Indy’s article, I looked for clues to highlight what he had to do to get him where he is now.  Here are 8 winning ways to fulfilling your dreams like Greg James has (with a bit of Ricky Gervais thrown in for good measure…):

Greg James

  1. Be passionate – The Programme Controller of Radio 1 saw a combination of talents shining through in Greg James.  He says, “Greg has something I haven’t heard in a demo for a year and a half.  It’s not just about good voice, humour, intelligence or love of Radio 1, but it’s a combination of all of those”.  Only a true passion can express all these qualities at once.
  2. Take part – Greg James hasn’t broken through ‘overnight’, even if it looks that way.  He may be young, but he’s already worked on hospital radio, student radio, local radio during the holidays, and so on.  When you get out there, opportunities should present themselves all over the place.  It may not be straight into the big time and it may not be much – if any – money.  But the sky’s the limit and you’ll be following your dreams.
  3. Enjoy the competition – Through avidly listening to other radio shows, Greg developed an understanding of what takes place for the listener.  He also considered how the show was being made and what it all meant.  That’s certainly a step up from listening out for a few good tunes.
  4. Practice – When you do take part (see Point 2), you’re practicing.  Bit by bit, your confidence grows and your knowledge increases.  As Greg moved up to greater climes, he became more accomplished at the relevant work required.
  5. Network, enter competitions, make yourself known – Or in Greg’s case, he made himself heard.  He won Best Male DJ at the 2005 Student Radio Awards.  The prize was a one-off show on Radio 1.  Over and above this, Greg kept in touch with the producer.  Talent alone is a great start, but contacts open the possibilities up much further.
  6. Ride the negativity – For someone so young, Greg understandably found initial digs and negative comments tough.  As he says, “It can take over your thoughts”.  But it appears that he’s been philosophical about it and, sad though it may be, Greg isn’t going to let the comments drag him down.
  7. Don’t be concerned about comparisons – Practically all of us are walking contradictions.  We want to blend in with the crowd just as much as we want to show off our unique voice.  We want to follow in helpful footsteps, but we want to do it our own way.  From the outset, Greg was compared with fellow Radio 1 DJ, Scott Mills.  That must be annoying when you’ve been given the opportunity to shine with a fresh, new voice.  But through that annoyance, Greg comes out the other end with a defiant, “so what?”
  8. Stay fresh & exciting and keep looking to improve – Even landing a big job like the Early Breakfast Show on a national radio station requires further ambition.  If you get to a brilliant place in life, the last thing you want to do is go stale as soon as you’ve settled down.  Focus on renewed vigour and drive in order to give yourself the right attitude to move even further forward.  Just look to Ricky Gervais, who’s been able to follow his passions for a while now.  Once he achieved groundbreaking success with TV show, The Office, Gervais hasn’t stood still to bask in the sunshine around that.  He’s moved on to so much more.  Another wonderful TV prog, stand-up gigs, books, movie roles, writing an episode of The Simpsons, radio & podcast fame, the man doesn’t stop!  Even if you don’t appreciate his work yourself, you have to admire a person who wants to enjoys the present and looks to the future with so many exciting ideas that push him further each time.