If you think you’ve exhausted all options when progressing your career, there is always something else you can try. That’s what I took away from the Star 100’s ‘In Conversation’ session with TV and KissFM radio presenter Melvin Odoom and Sky TV newsreader Claudia-Liza Armah on 25 February.
You couldn’t pick more wildly different personalities if you tried. Melvin, who has Ga and Fante roots, had me gripped even before the session started. He mixed easily with the audience, renewed my faith that some celebrities are down to earth, and effortlessly had us ‘catchin joke’ throughout his talk.
Claudia-Liza exposed her nerdy side and had me enthralled at how years of parent-enforced incarceration (the story of my life as the daughter of immigrant Ghanaian parents) had resulted in her becoming somewhat of a TV expert.
At one stage during her talk I swear she didn’t take a breath between listing all the programmes she watched as a teenager and reeling off cast members names! I was this 👌🏿close to giving her a standing ovation.
This unconscious training stood her in good stead because when she pursued potential employers she could give them chapter and verse on programming, the history of certain shows and industry developments.
Brighten your corner
Becoming an expert in your field was an overarching theme during the talks. We learnt that Melvin practically works around the clock from his 4am start for KissFM through to his DJing late into the night. Straight after his talk, the former Strictly Come Dancing contestant was off to another gig.
Claudia-Liza, who has Ga heritage, shared a career strategy she used to net her first job after becoming a mum at age 23. In the days before the internet was so widely accessible, Claudia-Liza would collect contacts of all the media stations in London and approach them. She used her 10% rule, which hinged on the assumption that at least 10% of the companies she has approached would respond to her.
This was how she secured her first job in radio. But that research can start even earlier, she explained. Follow the path experts in your field trod, if that means going to a specialised school, college or university, she advised.
Identify where recruiters tend to source new intakes from and when employed, look at employee promotion patterns and how that fits into your five-year plan, she said. Don’t be complacent. When you secure a new job, use each position as a stepping stone to gain new skills and move up the ladder. Just don’t give up! …Or in the words of Melvin: “Keep going, don’t stop until no one is interested.”
One resounding ‘no no’ from both speakers was not to dwell on mistakes. This – I thought – was apt coming from two professionals constantly in the public eye. Don’t think that the people you see on the TV now emerged as perfect presenters, said Claudia-Liza. They had to practise!
Roots and culture
What both speakers shared was a deep appreciation of their Ghanaian heritage (even though Claudia-Liza revealed she eats banku with ketchup 👀) and the values of working hard that are ingrained in our culture.
In Melvin’s case, being a presenter was not his mum’s first choice for him, but the security she gave him while he followed his passion and worked in low paid TV jobs showed how supportive she was during his journey.
Similarly, the buy-in Claudia-Liza got from her mother-in-law was really heart-warming. When Claudia-Liza was contemplating a career on the screen with a small child in tow, it was her mum-in-law that said: ‘Let’s do it’ – showing that they were in it together.
I have to applaud both speakers for being so frank about their journeys. Both took bold steps to move from established industry names in broadcasting to relatively unknown players to secure more experience and responsibility.
Those leaps of faith paid off because without them we would not be able to add their names to the burgeoning list of British-Ghanaian TV personalities in the UK. By Kirsty Osei-Bempong
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