Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Radio DJ

Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.

Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.

Occupation: Radio (Broadcast) DJ

Overview: Radio, or broadcast, DJs work for community or college radio stations. We mostly associate them with music, but DJs can be hired for any type of radio show, including those that focus on sports, news, politics, pop culture, or another specific area of interest.  Either way, the DJ is the one that does the talking between songs or clips. If the station does provide music to its listeners, the DJ may have some say in what’s being played, or those decisions could be made by the station higher-ups. While most DJs are employed by a station, some are self-employed, recording their shows on their own and pitching them to stations.

As budgets shrink and the industry becomes more automated, DJs are required to do more than play music and talk on air. They also may need to take on the social media promotion, do live events in the community, create content, or help with sales for the station.

Necessary Training: Some stations require only a high school diploma, but most are looking for DJs with a bachelor’s degree in communications, broadcast journalism, or a similar field. Experience can always be gained by volunteering at a college station or even working on a high school station. Because of the amount of technology involved, it also helps to have training or expertise in this area.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: Charm, good listening skills, making people laugh, mechanically inclined, multitasking, promotion, reading people, writing

Helpful Character Traits:

POSITIVE: Adaptable, charming, confident, cooperative, creative, curious, diplomatic, efficient, enthusiastic, friendly, funny, observant, optimistic, organized, passionate, persuasive, playful, socially aware, spontaneous, spunky, studious, uninhibited, wise, witty

NEGATIVE: Confrontational, gossipy, manipulative, melodramatic, mischievous, nosy, pushy, workaholic

Sources of Friction: Out-of-touch members of management who want something for the show that the DJ disagrees with, budget cuts, outdated equipment, integration of new technology the DJ is unfamiliar with, saying something on-air that gets one in trouble with the bosses, saying something troublesome when one thought one wasn’t on-air, being required to do things one isn’t comfortable doing (sales, promotion, in-person events, etc.), an interviewee who turns argumentative or combative, an interview or segment falling flat, pitching an idea that the executives aren’t interested in, difficult work hours (particular at the start of one’s career) messing with one’s schedule and making it difficult to connect with others, negative public opinion being brought to bear on the station due to one’s personal beliefs coming through on-air, physical ailments that threaten one’s career (a chronic illness that changes one’s voice, vocal nodules, throat or mouth cancer, etc.), being censored, other positions being eliminated that result in one having to take on unwanted duties, stalkers, and overly zealous fans

People They Might Interact With: Station managers and executives, other DJs, a producer, guests (being interviewed in person or over the phone), janitorial and administrative staff, celebrities or politicians

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Self-Actualization: As this industry changes, jobs may become scarcer, making it difficult for radio DJs to get the jobs they want. Someone stuck on a show they’re not passionate about may find this need impacted.
  • Esteem and Recognition: This could become an issue for someone who wants more recognition than they’re likely to get from the job.
  • Love and Belonging: A DJ working the night shift (out of necessity or choice) may fall short in the love and belonging department when those around them grow tired of the difficult schedule.
  • Safety and Security: Any person working a job that makes them well-known, even in small circles, will have fans. If one of those fans is psychotic or imbalanced, they could become a danger for the DJ.

Common Work-Related Settings: Big city street, green room, parking lot, public restroom, recording studio, rock concert, university quad

Twisting the Fictional Stereotype: People are often surprised when they see someone whose voice they’ve heard on air, because their physical appearance doesn’t match the image in their minds. Play on this by considering what unusual characteristics a radio personality might have that wouldn’t be known unless they were seen in person.

You can also make your DJ memorable by figuring out what personality traits might set him or her apart from the crowd. Howard Stern’s shock jock persona and Frasier Crane’s snooty and ambitious character makes them memorable standouts.

Visit the other Occupations in our collection HERE.


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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3 Responses to Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Radio DJ

  1. Dylan says:

    Since you and Angela are authors how about doing an entry on authors

    • Hi, Dylan! That one’s on our list (it’s a long list); I’ve kind of been putting that one off because our readers would be fairly familiar with it, as opposed to some of these others. I did do a ghostwriter entry a few months back, since that one was a little more specialized. It’s possible that we’ll get around to this one, too :).

  2. :Donna says:

    This is a cool, different type occupation. Never really consider it!

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