When Megan Tan decided it was time to look for a job in the field of radio journalism, she didn’t have any experience to speak of. As a photojournalism major who changed her mind, the Portland, Maine, native found herself in the classic “millennial” pickle: the now 26-year-old wanted a job in the industry, but had no experience… and she couldn’t get any experience until she had a job in the industry.
Her coming-of-age autobiographical podcast, Millennial, was the answer.
“I know with the podcast, that was a product of me wanting to break into an industry that I didn’t have any experience in at all, and so I had to teach myself everything,” Megan tells Collective Hub. “You almost have to show people that you can do what it is they are hiring you to do, instead of them believing in you that you’ll be teachable. In that way, I think it’s harder to break into jobs, to industries, if you’re not self-sufficient right off the bat.”
With no experience in podcasting whatsoever, Megan wrote herself a syllabus, gave herself a crash course, and began broadcasting from her closet. Millennial, which she launched in January 2015, would act as a portfolio for future positions. The deeply personal and insightful discussions of her daily life over a two year period, however, became something else entirely.
By episode five, The Guardian had called to discuss her podcast while she clocked onto her waitress job. By episode nine, which was released in October that year, Megan had landed her first sponsor – the website publishing giant Squarespace.
“This is also a part of our generation,” she explains. “Where you can have your ‘internet life’, then you have your real life and it’s very different. It’s really hard to know which one is real and which one is not. The Guardian [calling] was a really big deal. I think that was the first time Millennial had ever received any kind of recognition, but that didn’t necessarily mean that anything was happening in my real life, right? I was going back to being a waitress. I think, if anything, it just encouraged me to continue to do this thing that I was doing, right?”
Further encouragement would soon follow. Almost immediately after deciding to quit her side hustle and really give the podcast a real go, indie podcasting network Radiotopia called to say they were interested in onboarding Millennial to their network. Five months later, in May 2016, it was official.
“[Joining] Radiotopia was mostly because being able to own your own content and have complete creative control is really unheard of, I think, within the industry,” she explains. “I really felt at the time like that was such a huge luxury to be able to do that. That was kind of the thought process behind that route. Then to be asked by Radiotopia to join the network like that, they’re not usually recruiting people ever, and so, it was, like, a huge honour to be considered.”
Although the podcast continues to grow and gain wider recognition – her podcast was named 15th in the top 50 podcasts of 2015 by The Atlantic – the Millennial team has grown to three and continues to blossom and she now has the whole Radiotopia marketing and sales department on her side. Despite this, still records the podcast out of her Portland closet. But, as her perceptive podcast can attest, she’s always open to growing.
“I don’t think I’ll always be in my closet. Just because there is a point where you need to graduate a little bit, I think.”
Graduation from one setback to another, from one life path to another, is an important thread in her podcast – the 26-year-old is the first to say that’s she’s still learning, despite the fact she’s now the person whose advice is readily sought while on the stage in front of international audiences.
“Just because you’re in the front doesn’t mean you’ve got your shit together,” she laughs. “It just means that maybe you are at a different learning stage than other people, right?”