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Loving Your Work: Broadcaster Louise McSharry On Career Breakthroughs

DJ, broadcaster, journalist and author, Louise McSharry fills us in on her breakthrough moment, the biggest career setback she’s faced and what the day-to-day looks like when you’re an in-demand freelancer.

What was your “aha!” moment, the moment you knew you wanted to do in life / take the plunge in your career?

After school, I decided to do Arts in UCD, which was a mistake because I did not do well in massive lecture theatres and I wasn’t all that interested in my subjects. I did join the student radio station Belfield FM though, where the station manager was Dave Sherry who is now my colleague in 2fm. Dave let me hop on air for a couple of hours during a test broadcast and it just felt like I had found my place in the world. It was a real ‘aha!’ moment. I just thought “this is it!”

What were your biggest fears before striking out?

Well, I had dropped out of college and told my parents I wanted to do radio instead, so, to be honest, my biggest fear was my dad. I also had to get into a radio station for some experience, which in itself was a challenge. To be honest, though I never doubted that I was going to make it happen for myself in some capacity. Youthful naivety perhaps!

What was your biggest career fail and what did you learn from it?

Well, I wouldn’t really call it my fail, but being made redundant from a radio station I had helped to start was pretty tough. Perhaps my fail was the way I responded to it, which was by essentially staying in bed for several months. I applied for lots of jobs I wasn’t really interested in and took each and every rejection or total lack of response personally. I really sunk into the depths of unemployment, but I did eventually pull myself out of it. The biggest lesson, I think, was that very few things in life will come to you, for the most part you have to go out and make things happen for yourself. I also learned that if you work in media you really need to have several jobs on the go, because any one can go at any time. The industry is harsh and cut-throat, so you need to create your own security blanket.

What does your working day look like? 

My busiest working days are Mondays and Tuesdays because I have a minder for my baby so I have to cram everything in. I get up with Sam around 6:30, then feed and play with him while I do odd jobs until he goes down for his first nap around 9am. I have to get ready while he’s asleep which can be for as little as twenty minutes so my makeup standards have certainly slipped. Our babysitter arrives at 12, when I leave the house and head to whatever meetings I have. Sometimes they’re about work prospects, sometimes they’re just work. Today I interviewed some people for a newspaper feature I’m working on. I aim to be at RTE by 3:30 where I spend a couple of hours listening to prospective new songs for the show, planning my playlist and catching up on e-mail. From 5:30 I work on my writing, whether it’s my beauty column or something like the feature I mentioned. At 6:45 I have my dinner at my desk (I bring it in from home), and just after 7 I head to the studio to put the finishing touches on the playlist. My show kicks off at 8, I leave RTE at 10 pm and I’m home about a half an hour later. It’s pretty full on at the moment. The other days of the week are about trying to cram in work wherever I can while taking care of Sam.

What is your advice to anyone who feels unhappy in their career?

Work is too big a part of our lives to be miserable in it. I would encourage anyone who is unhappy in what they’re doing to try to think of something they think they would really enjoy, and then make a list of steps they could take toward it. That might mean getting a bit of experience in the field, or asking friends if they know anyone in the field who might be willing to have a chat and give you some advice, or it might simply mean applying for different jobs. Try to take a step toward the dream job each week, no matter how small, and see how you feel in three months. Big changes that might seem unrealistic feel a lot more possible when you have small goals and take things one step at a time.

Louise McSharry’s critically acclaimed memoir, Fat Chance: My Life in Ups, Downs and Crisp Sandwiches is available to buy here.

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