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.

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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. >

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