Trading the Radio Mic for the Gavel
Jason Khay had been working his dream job for over a decade, but the dream was no longer as fulfilling as it once was. Khay was a radio “all-rounder”; an announcer, panel operator and producer. It was a career that he really enjoyed, but he felt that new opportunities for him were fast drying up.
“In the beginning,” Khay says, “Radio was dynamic and always stimulating; I had to think very quickly on my feet.” He had clocked up hours at some of Sydney’s highest rating radio stations, including Sydney’s 2DayFM, Mix 106.5 and Nova 969, but after ten years in the industry it was getting harder and harder to find job opportunities that were going to ensure his future and allow him to stay in Sydney.
“Industries change.” Khay says, “The amount of work available for me was limited, and I felt that I wasn’t doing something that filled my full potential. I was in an industry that was unstable, and no matter how much work I put in, I felt that my career path was in other people’s hands.”
Khay is now an auctioneer with a boutique agency in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs, doing up to 10 auctions per week and, according to him, earning double the amount he did in radio. He feels that he’s finally found his niche and wants to let people know that a total career turnaround is not impossible, no matter how entrenched you might feel in your current situation, or how unsure you are about the direction you should head in.
Radio announcing is difficult to get into and despite the perception that it’s a glamorous industry the announcers you listen to are not often very highly paid. Wages are often on par with most white-collar office jobs unless you’re the big name act at your particular station. The supporting team members and casual staff are often earning less money than you may think.
“I put in many years in the radio industry, but I found myself feeling unrewarded both financially and personally, but for me it was a case of ‘better the devil you know’.” Khay says he feels that one of the hurdles to changing careers is finding something that will fulfil you, and making the decision to change.
“After 6 months of travelling and soul searching, I found that I didn’t want to do radio anymore, but I didn’t know what else to do. I was hoping it would just come to me.” Khay says that he even read new age books such as The Secret to help him find his dream career.
“I wanted to do something I was passionate about, but I wasn’t passionate about anything.” The radio announcer finally wrote himself a list to help him to identify exactly what skills he had, and what he really enjoyed doing. He says that once he compiled this list his mind started to move in a new direction about how he might be able to transfer his announcing skills into a totally different industry.
“One day I was walking past a house that was being auctioned off and I went in to watch the sale. I thought, ‘Wow, I could do that.’” It was still months and months before Jason actually took the plunge. The hardest part was actually making the decision to do it. Once he had decided that, everything else fell into place, step by step. “Once I decided that I wanted to become an auctioneer, it became something I wanted to do, rather than something I had to do, so it didn’t really feel like work.”
There were qualifications and studies he had to complete in order to become a fully accredited auctioneer. He had to attain his real estate license, and then his auctioneer’s license. He then found a mentor in the industry and worked for some time in a real estate office in the sales department, so he could get a feel for how things worked. He then went on to compete in the NSW Novice Auctioneers Competition, winning his division. This was the first step towards being noticed by important people in the industry.
“People don’t realise that we have so many skills that are attributable to industries that are completely foreign to what we were initially doing.” Jason says. “Once you’ve found a path, you’ll be surprised at how many of the things that you’ve learned along the way are actually very transferrable.”
So what does it take to be a good auctioneer? Jason says it’s all down to personality. “The job I get booked for takes 12 minutes, but there can be hours of preparation in the lead up to manage that 12 minute performance.” There are also variations in the volume of work, sometimes Khay has 2 auctions on a Saturday, and sometimes it’s up to 10.
“You need to be able to handle the pressure, auction after auction, “remembering that you are often dealing with someone’s largest asset and a process that may be foreign or confronting for the client. It’s also important to love speaking in front of people, and being able to manage everyone on the day, from the vendor to the bidders to the agents. “You need to be able to get people relaxed – you are the manager of everyone on the day.”
Khay is now earning up to $400 per auction, with part of that going directly to his agency. On a good week he can earn up to two thousand dollars, but some weeks are less busy.
“You never know what’s out there until you start looking and I’ve managed to find a career out of some skills that I gained doing something I thought I loved into something that I know I’m going to be doing for at least the next 20 years. I absolutely adore what I do now and the only thing I wish is that I’d found it sooner.”
Photo by Gerard’s World