When I graduated from Fort Valley State University on December 14, 2019, I was hopeful. I knew that I had my whole life ahead of me. HBCU Pulse had significantly grown its audience since the start of 2019 and just hit the all-important mark of 15,000 followers. Yet, within that hope was a sense of unhappiness. I didn’t feel the success. I didn’t feel the sense of validation that I was steering the brand in the right direction. My goal was always to do HBCU Pulse full-time. I even publicly announced it the week of my graduation. But, I didn’t fully believe I could do it. Well, at least not yet. What other choice did I have though?
My “dream career” has always been radio. I wanted to be an on-air jock and impact the community like Tom Joyner did before me. That opportunity wasn’t available in my hometown of Macon, Georgia. However, I wasn’t ready to leave. There was so much that I’d yet to discover about myself and my ambitions. I wanted to have a better concept of who Randall post-college was before I put myself in an unfamiliar place contending against hundreds of people with the same ambitions and more skills than I possess. As I looked for jobs, all I saw were news reporter gigs. I never wanted to be on TV, at least not the local news. I couldn’t see myself reading off the news topics of the day from a teleprompter. I went to school to be in the radio industry.
I knew as I started my post-grad job search the last couple of months at FVSU that there wasn’t a perfect position for me. I wanted freedom. I wanted to speak on what I thought was important and give my view on the world around us, hoping that I could educate and uplift people. I was already doing that with Pulse though. I wanted to interview celebrities and aid in the growth of the next generation of stars in our community. I do that with Pulse. I wanted to travel different places and meet new people. I did that with Pulse this year. What I soon realized was that every goal that I had for my career post graduation was fulfilled by what I’d already established with HBCU Pulse. My perfect match was already right in front of me. However, the money wasn’t there to justify working “full-time” on the dream.
Sure, we had some businesses that hit us up for advertising. Plus, the Student Leadership Academy Election Initiative of the early part of 2020 was lucrative as well as personally fulfilling. But, questions still lingered. How would I be able to afford an apartment when I finally moved out of my parents house? How could I afford my car note without guaranteed money? The Mazda dealership doesn’t accept the payments every other month if money comes in. The need to provide for myself as an adult as well as traumatizing business disputes that started the beginning of 2020 made me feel as if HBCU Pulse would only be a passion, not a career.
I made up in my mind that I was going to apply to be an Account Executive at the iHeartMedia station in Macon. Originally, I knew nothing about the job. I didn’t even know they were hiring. I happened to connect with an Account Executive that had FVSU assigned to them as an advertising client. He’d known me from my years of student leadership. We’d always exchange pleasantries when we’d see each other. Plus, he’d even put me on the radio during a Homecoming remote that 97.9 WIBB was doing back in 2017. I still cherish that.
In a visit to FVSU after my travels to different institutions with NBCAHOF, I saw him. Something told me to go talk to him and tell him about HBCU Pulse. So, I did. I told him what HBCU Pulse was, our business model and what I wanted to achieve with the brand. He was impressed. The first thing out of his mouth to me was “You should work for the station.”
My eyes widened. Was I close to finally getting in what I felt was the perfect position for me? Was I going to get that golden opportunity to be on the air? Spoiler alert: I haven’t yet. You couldn’t have told me that though. I thought I finally had that life-changing moment that’s only seen in celebrity biopics. I didn’t know what an Account Executive was. I thought they were the big whig at the station, almost like the General Manager. In actuality, they sell advertising for the station to local businesses and national entities. They make a lot of money but many don’t have on-air shifts. That’s not what I wanted. But, I knew I had to open my mind to any and all possibilities.
So, I nurtured the connect and was able to get an interview. I was excited, even though I felt as if I was giving up on the dream of doing Pulse full time. I still forged on, and even decided to take the Pulse audience along for the journey with me. We’d just hit 20,000 followers the day before so I felt that it would be cool to give the Pulse Family an update on where I was and how I was doing. I went to the interview and I aced it. I knew that I had the Account Executive job locked up. I just had to do one more interview and I’d know something . Then, the pandemic hit.
When everything went on lockdown, my job prospects were put on pause due to a hiring freeze. Even worse, the whole nation was in collective fear of the impacts of COVID-19 and how our lives would change. I didn’t have time to be down about the hiring freeze. I knew that I needed to step up and be a voice for the Pulse audience. It wasn’t the time for games and jokes. We had to inform the audience about what was happening and what was to come.
We started to grow tremendously as the pandemic raged on. People came to us for information, inspiration and entertainment during lockdown. Pretty Vee blessed us with the opportunity to interview her, then collaborated with us on a graduation celebration. Battle Of The DJs became a staple of HBCU Pulse. I started to reevaluate if I wanted to work a regular job. Maybe my ship had come. It still wasn’t time yet. The pandemic continued. I saw iHeartMedia continue their job freeze and lay off hundreds of employees. I became restless. The future wasn’t certain for me. What was my next move? Fortunately, I found out that I got the job at the start of June and that I’d start in in August.
It wasn’t a happy ending. I knew that this journey would still be complicated. I had to learn a whole new skillset to sell radio. It was almost as if I was going back to school. Meanwhile, I was missing FVSU. Even though the pandemic, I saw the sense of community that I longed for. I thought about how I would’ve helped the school using platform as a student leader. Then, I got back to focus. I’m grown now. My college days are behind me. I’m a student of life now. I have to figure out what my personal definition of success is.
My 2020 journey has been interesting. I feel a sense of peace in my life. I’m finally starting to get the hang of being an Account Executive. I’m seeing how HBCU Pulse is affecting a new generation of students that are hitting the yard at their respective institutions. And, I’ve grown. I no longer think that I’ve failed in my goal to be the self-sufficient business man or the second coming of Tom Joyner. All of these dreams are obtainable. I just have to keep pushing. Everyone’s journey to the top isn’t the same. Our life GPS takes us on different routes to get to the same destination: our dreams. And, although the road has been tough through 2020, I’m ready for what’s next in 2021.
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