Entertainment Jobs Q&A: Are Media Sales Careers the Way to Break in?

media sales jobsThere are many great questions coming in from our audience all looking for advice on finding the right entertainment jobs, and we promise to answer every single one of them.

This week’s question from Nathan in Pennsylvania follows a similar theme to many we receive…frustration.

Frustration in the job search strikes us all, which makes this such an important subject to discuss, so let’s get to it – here’s this week’s Entertainment Jobs Q&A:

The Q:

Hi Brian, I graduated from a good school last year with a degree in Communication, but have been unable to find work. While in school, in addition to my core classwork, I learned skills that I thought would help me find employment quickly like audio and video editing, operating a radio board, camera work etc…but I’m struggling to break in. There seem to be many jobs in media sales available, should I shift towards that goal just to break in the business, or stay focused on my goal of working in TV or Radio production?


Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Entertainment Jobs Q&A: Are sales jobs the way to break into the entertainment industry? Click To Tweet

The A:

Nathan, thanks for a great question. I appreciate your willingness to adapt and thrive rather than blaming some other factor for your lack of employment. I get tired of people blaming their major, or school, or the economy – blaming doesn’t help change anything, but adapting can, so I commend you.

Enough with the puffery since I’m making myself uncomfortable, let’s get to your question.

entertainment jobs in sales

Self-Analysis First

While there may be more jobs in media sales, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right fit for you. The first thing you need to do is analyze your personality and see if you will be comfortable in a role that requires relationship building, problem-solving and delivering on client needs.

Sales careers are not for everyone, despite their prevalence, and that is why sales managers have a hard time finding talented people.

“Without a doubt the hardest job I have to fill is sales people,” says 5-star radio General Manager Katie Gambill. “Some reps come in thinking that selling radio is an easy job and working at a radio station will be entertaining. However, the first few months of radio sales are difficult because there is so much to learn.

Without a doubt the hardest job I have to fill is sales people - @KatieGambill Click To Tweet

“It takes someone with a great attitude and strong work ethic to be successful in radio sales. We can teach them radio; we can’t teach them to have a positive attitude.”

There is a common perception that surfaces when you say the word “sales”, for most it is the proverbial door-knocker during dinner, or cold caller when you don’t have the time or patience. That is not the type of sales we are discussing. Media sales require business savvy, an innate ability to connect with people while building trust and beyond anything else, work ethic.

Media Sales Jobs, Work in Media Sales entertainment jobs

There are great opportunities in media sales according to Bart Foley, VP/General Sales Manager of ROOT Sports Northwest

“There is no secret sauce to being a good salesperson but if you don’t have a work-ethic, forget it,” says ROOT Sports Northwest General Sales Manager Bart Foley. “In media sales, you see all types of approaches have success. I’ve seen the cliche ‘cheesy approach’ have success, as well as the ‘laid-back easy-going’ style work well, but the bottom line is always work ethic and being willing and able to go the extra mile for your client relationship.”

So what makes a successful sales person? According to Foley, these are the steps to success:

  1. Make a good first impression
  2. Find a common trait with people
  3. Always make it about your client, more than about you
  4. Listen more than you talk
  5. Discover your comfort personality, know yourself

But Is This The Right Move?

Now that you’ve taken a moment to figure out if you fit in the sales world, the question is…should you go for it?

The answer to me is a simple one, YES!  But let’s dig deeper into why.

If you graduate college with a vision of who you want to be and where you want to go, but it hasn’t materialized yet, you need to change your approach. I was lucky to be hired by CNN as a Production Assistant about 2-3 months after graduating, but you better believe if that job hadn’t come soon I would have been adjusting my technique to gaining employment.

Ask yourself this question: Which of these scenarios provides your best chance of reaching your stated goal of a job in Radio and/or TV production:

Situation A:

Working in retail at the Mall while continuing to send out resumes hoping for a different result this time, even as you get further and further away from your college experience and feel the heavy burden of parental dependence grow every day?

working in media sales entertainment jobs

Sorry, but working in media sales, even if it’s not your dream job, brings you much closer to success than working at the mall

Situation B:

Get in the industry as a sales rep, which isn’t your dream position, but allows you to rub elbows with people on the production side, volunteer to put in extra time, prove your worth to the internal hiring managers and start building an industry report?

The answer should be clear (since it was kind of a leading question).

Taking a media sales job may not be the position of your dreams, but it affords you opportunities dead end jobs at the mall don’t.

So the headline is, start considering sales jobs, it will not hurt you to travel this road even if just for a few years in your career journey. Truth be told, you may find out a career in media sales is your perfect match.

“I had every intention of pursuing a career in front of the camera while attending Washington State University,” recalls Foley. “In fact, I had already landed some work, announcing Pac-10 Volleyball on Prime Sports Northwest while still in school. The sales manager at the Fox affiliate in Seattle, KCPQ, asked me if I would be interested in a summer internship in the sales department. ‘You can see how the other side of the business works,’ was his suggestion which sounded good to me, so I took the internship.

When I was back at school finishing my fall semester, I got a call with a job offer to be an Account Executive! The job market wasn’t so great in 1992, so I jumped at the opportunity. I cut my teeth selling for about 6.5 years at KCPQ and have never looked back. I got lucky because my career path found me!”

If you have any further advice for Nathan, or have a question you’d like us to take a deep dive into just add it to the comments below and we will answer it in an upcoming Entertainment Jobs Q&A!

About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the broadcast media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, you should.


  1. I Am Romilda Teixeira, a Brazilian actress live in the city of Rio de Janeiro. I have Dramatic Arts degree from Mackenzie Presbyterian University.
    Actress in Brazil.
    Seeking an opportunity to work in film Los angeles. .
    I would like to get a scholarship in Film & Television. What I need to do to win this scholarship?

  2. I have friend who made a lucrative career out of a tv sales job. She now tells me that the market has changed drastically and with so many digital opportunities for clients to buy their ads, her market is no longer worth going into for those first jobs. She makes most of her money maintaing the clinets who signed on in the past, and very little money attracting new clients. Wouldn’t his run counter to you advice?

    • Thanks for your comment Caron – What you explain is one person’s experience, and I can’t invalidate it. What I would say is the majority of TV stations and media networks also have digital outlets and their sales forces often sell for the broadcast and for the digital space…so I don’t believe they are mutually exclusive. I would also add, sports are one sector that has not been as affected by the rise of the DVR because people still watch sports live, commercials and all. Therefore jobs in media sales at stations or networks that produce sports events can be a well-insulated side of the industry. Online outlets for music like Pandora are another growing medium for media sales… the opportunities (and the money) are out there! – Brian

  3. I want to eventually get on the air with the local rock station here in Greensboro,N.C.I feel the best way to do this is to send my email and ask for an internship or part time job doing whatever they ask me to do whether it be sales or eventually learning to operate the sound boards.I’m going to send a resume to the local sales manager and wanted some tips on how to impress this person to at least get a face to face interview.Can you help me in anyway.I have a bag full of characters/imitations,love sports and all news(isis) etc and world issues.I guess thats all for now.Hope to hear from ya!

    Dave Sowers