VOICE OF A GENERATION
Megan Tan struggled to land a job in journalism, so she recorded her own PODCAST, telling TALES of the much-maligned MILLENNIAL, and created a start-up in the process.
When Megan Tan was looking for a job in radio journalism, she didn’t have any experience to speak of. As a photojournalism major who had originally set her sights on gracing the pages of National Geographic, she had switched her focus to radio, only to find herself in a classic Millennial pickle. The 24-year-old from Portland, Maine, wanted a job in the industry, but had no hands-on experience. And she couldn’t get any experience until she had a job in the industry. Her coming-of-age autobiographical podcast, Millennial, was the answer.
“You almost have to show people that you can do what it is they are hiring you to do, instead of them believing in you that you’ll be teachable,” says Megan. “In that way, I think it’s harder to break into jobs, into industries, if you’re not self-sufficient right off the bat.”
With no experience in podcasting whatsoever, Megan wrote a syllabus, gave herself a crash course in all things audio production and began recording in her closet.
“I know I can easily get wrapped up in my head, so if I don’t have plans of action then it’s really easy to sit in front of your computer and spin your wheels, and not necessarily know where to start,” she says.
Without any idea of what the second episode would even look like, she launched Millennial in January of 2015, with a view to using it as a portfolio for future job applications. The deeply personal and insightful discussions of her daily life over a two-year period, however, became something else entirely.
“I was just constantly collecting audio,” says Megan. “I was in a place in my life where I would be hanging out with my friends and I would just feel this visceral reaction of, ‘Do I need to record this? Yes. No. Yes.’ I really wouldn’t know where it was going to go, but I was constantly recording.”
Five months in, The Guardian called to discuss her podcast while she was clocking on at her waitressing job. By episode nine, which was released in October that year, Megan had landed her first sponsor – the website publishing giant Squarespace – after using free data available on Facebook and Twitter (visible once you hit 1000 followers) to create her own media kit.
“This is a part of our generation,” she explains, “where you can have your ‘internet life’, then you have your real life, and it’s very different. It’s really hard to know which one is real and which one is not. The Guardian [profile] was a really big deal. I think that was the first time Millennial had ever received any kind of recognition, but that didn’t necessarily mean that anything was happening in my real life, right? I was going back to being a waitress. I think, if anything, it just encouraged me to continue to do this thing that I was doing.”
It was a welcome encouragement following the rollercoaster of being shortlisted for, but ultimately missing out on, NPR’s Kroc Fellowship that year. But a month later, her disappointment was eclipsed by landing a producer role, thanks to her experience with Millennial, at New Hampshire Public Radio.
Although Megan had finally landed the job she had craved, she felt torn. Sleep deprived thanks to waking up at 3am to record Millennial, and working on content she wasn’t passionate about at the station, she decided to quit her full-time gig and give her passion project a real go. Just a week later indie podcasting network Radiotopia, founded by podcast host Roman Mars, called to say they were interested in on-boarding Millennial to their network. After a string of successful meetings in Boston to thrash out the details, five months later, in May 2016 – almost a year since being turned down for the fellowship with NPR – it was official. >