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Bite-sized stories of failure and success. Failure bites. It’s painful, discouraging and embarrassing. Just the idea of failure, whether it’s a big messy fail or a small setback, can be hard to digest. It’s time to change the way we think about failure. Yes, failure may be all of those negative things, but failure is also a very important part of learning and growing. Behind every great success story is a long series of failures and challenges that were also learning experiences. Join host Dr. Kristin Brynteson as she talks with successful people about failure, growth and success to inspire you and take the bite out of failure.

Failure Bites - Risky Business with Monica Becker


Monica Becker: www.linkedin.com/in/monicatbecker


KB: Welcome to the Failure Bites podcast, where we are taking the bite out of failure, one story at a time. I'm your host, Dr. Kristin Brynteson. Are you a risk-taker or do you like the comfort of your comfort zone? We've all heard that those who take the big risks receive the biggest rewards. It might seem taking the big risk is the only way to find success, but that's not true. On this episode, we hear from radio host, media personality and digital specialist, Monica Becker. Listen as Monica tells her story about finding the right opportunities at the time.

MB: So, I don't have this like neat and tidy failure story. I figured the best thing for me to do was, was to talk about the journey and the struggle that has kind of gotten me to where I am now. And as I kind of reflected knowing that we were going to talk about this, I, uh, you know, I kind of reckoned with the fact that I'm a very risk averse person.

So, I think that's why I don't have this big failure story because I'm so afraid of failing. I've always been somebody that just overthinks everything. I try to envision all these different outcomes. And if I feel like it's not something I might succeed in, then I kind of tend to shy away from it. And if I'm being honest, I feel like I've missed out on what could have been some cool opportunities because of that failure and overthinking and like, Oh, just go on the easy path because I can better foresee what might happen there.

So, I guess that that might be the best place to start. Um, I guess my journey was, I remember towards the end of college, I went to Eastern, sorry, NIU. I had this choice towards the end of my college career to, you know, apply for an internship in my field, you know, in the Chicagoland area was what I was shooting for.

Or I could just continue getting the same experience that qualified for what I needed to graduate by working for my college radio station. What was nice about that option was they were paying me. And when somebody, when you're, you know, 20, 21 years old and someone's paying you to do something fun, you're like, well, yeah, this is, this is a nice option.

I was already well-versed with, with the faculty and the students and the staff there. So, I decided to, to kind of skip out on pursuing Chicago at that time. And I, I stayed in central Illinois, and it wasn't bad choice. You know, my experience at that college station offered me my first opportunity to host a morning show.

I was able to kind of start my very first podcast, which ended up winning an award from the Illinois Broadcasters Association. And, um, you know, eventually thanks to some faculty recommendations, I was able to land my first full-time, you know, big girl radio gig at a media company in a neighboring town to the college, right after graduation, which was awesome.

It gave me some really great experience, you know, right off the bat. You know, I stayed there for about… two years while also juggling… I was serving at three different restaurants while also doing the radio gig. Um, because that's, that's college life. You're just, what can you throw at me. And what can I juggle?

But it was, it was fun. You know, it was a way to pay the bills. I, uh, I met my boyfriend during this time and I really, we built up this great circle of friends and I had a ton of fun while I was down there, but I knew I didn't want to spend the rest of my life in central Illinois. It was a great platform for me to start, but I knew that wasn't forever for me.

You know, my family is up here, they're in the ‘burbs of the Chicago land area. So, I made the decision to leave everything that I had built down there behind so that I could, I could come back home. And that's where things got really difficult for me. I didn't have any professional connections here. I really didn't know where to start.

So, I ended up working as a bank teller for about two years while just trying to find my way back into the business, back into radio, or just really any sort of media facet that I could. And there were a lot of applications sent in those two years and there were a lot of just like empty replies. It wasn't even like I faced this, this outward rejection.

I never even had the opportunity. You know, there, there were a lot of moments where I thought, okay, you know, maybe, maybe I have to give up on the dream. You know, I understood that this is, this is a difficult business to get into. There, there are very few job opportunities, you know, it's not every day that they're like, yeah, let's get another radio person.

You know, people, when they get in the business, they kind of hang around until their last breath. And I kind of had to reckon with something, I think a lot of people do, is not everyone gets to work in the field that they went to school for, but I kept, I kept trying and I, and I kept myself invested by, by deciding to do some freelance voice-over work.

So, it was like, okay, I'll be a bank teller during the day. And then at night I would pull myself in my closet with a, with this here, microphone, you know, this is my O.G. microphone here, me and my Yeti in my closet doing these, these freelance voiceover gigs. And I guess, I guess that was my way of trying to avoid getting rusty.

And I'm glad... I'm glad that I did it because all the freelance work really helped me to… to hone my skills. I got to learn more about kind of doing my own production and doing my own recording. I became a better copywriter. And I think doing that is what eventually led me to the job that I have now. I had come across a job posting on a, a message board for like radio nerds.

It wasn't like, Ooh, LinkedIn or any of the like go-to places. It was like, wait, what's that? Oh, that's a job. So, and it was for a station in DeKalb. And I had spent so much of my time hunting for this, this dream job in Chicago that I didn't even think to look out the other way, to look out West. Um, so I sent in my application and I received a response pretty quickly, which was exciting.

And, um, I did eventually get the gig hosting mid-days for what was B95. You know, fast forward five years later, and in hindsight, I totally get why I must have been appealing to my boss at that time because his wife was also doing freelance voice-over work. So, I'm sure when he saw that on my application, it piqued his interest a little bit.

And then obviously, you know, other things led to, to, to me actually landing the job. But, you know, I think me doing that little thing was enough to maybe set me, set me apart. Just, just, uh, just a little bit. But once I got, once I joined B95, You know, I, I worked really, really hard. I was the youngest person and a staff of people that have been in radio for decades.

Um, I knew the experience that they had. So, I felt that I had, I had a lot that I had to prove to them as this little itty-bitty radio person. So, that's when I really began to take the reins on our online presence. Um, I taught myself a lot of basic website maintenance. I learned to play with tools to really kind of help me create content for social media platforms.

I also started to explore video production and just kind of all these little multimedia things that I felt, you know, the rest of them hadn't explored yet. So, okay, this can be the, the gap that I'm filling for you guys. And then eventually two years ago, B95 was sold to a media company in Rockford.

And that's when I was promoted to the morning show. And I also became the official digital specialist for the station. And it's been, it's been a crazy two years, kind of just adjusting to the changes and all the added responsibilities, but I'm grateful, you know, for kind of the journey that, that got me to now.

KB: It's interesting that you say, you're a little risk averse, and you could hear that in kind of the initial staying within your comfort zone, but I love the message of flexibility that you had. And I think that's something that a lot of people don't always do. They get focused in on this is the career path I want, and they stop looking for those other opportunities that are related to help them build their skills. And it's finding, it sounds like you latched onto those opportunities and it really helped to get you where you are today. 

MB: Absolutely. You know, and I think if there's, there's, there's a few big takeaways, I guess, from kind of the journey so far. I have, I have two siblings that are about 10 years younger than me. So, they're kind of at the beginning of this, this launch into their careers. So, I'm kind of watching now where I was 10 years ago and trying to offer them similar advice. And I think one of those is, you know, there's a, there's a reason why things don't work out. You know, you, you might just not be ready for that specific job yet.

You know, when you're faced with that constant rejection, just keep pushing yourself to, to grow and, and keep bettering yourself. Um, you know, in ways maybe you didn't, you didn't know you needed to, gosh, I, um, I look back at the applications that I sent out fresh out of college and I'm like, okay, I get it. I know why I never heard back. 

KB: Same, same.

MB: So, um, Yeah. I'm like, Oh, precious, precious, little Monica. She thought she had everything going for her. Um, but as you said, also kind of like being open to changing your life plan. You know, I never thought that I'd be hosting a morning show in DeKalb. I didn't even know it was an option, but you know, I've kind of ridden the wave that brought me here and I have grown so much both professionally and personally, and yeah, there, there are times where I still wonder what my life would have looked like if I had been more willing to take the bigger risks earlier on, you know, what if I had interned in Chicago, what if I looked for jobs out of state? You know, there was a time I was like, should I move to California? Do I want to live the LA life? That's where this all is, isn't it?

You know, you kind of prioritize what's, what's important to you personally, and what you're willing to kind of give up for things like that. And, you know, I am where I am now, I guess I'll never know what could have happened if I had gone down the, the other fork in the road, but I'm grateful that it's still worked out for me.

KB: I think it's inspiring to hear your story because I think so many people are faced with that, those choices and figuring out how to make the best of every situation and seeing it as a growth opportunity. And I'm glad you're the morning host because you brighten my commute every morning on the way to DeKalb. It's always a joy to listen to. 

MB: You’re the best.

KB: Thank you so much for sharing your story. I really appreciate it. 

MB: Oh, of course it was a pleasure. Thanks, Kristin.

KB: Passing up the big, risky opportunity might feel like you've passed up on your only chance for success. But as Monica’s story demonstrates, sometimes we're just not ready for the big risk. Yet, we can still find success. If we work hard, build our skills and be flexible, that route might lead to a bigger win, or even get you the dream job you thought you missed when you passed on the big risk. Thank you for listening to Failure Bites. Join us next time for another failure to success story. Be sure to subscribe or you risk missing an episode. Thanks for listening. This podcast was produced by NIU STEAM at Northern Illinois University. Your future, our focus.  

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