My Graduate Life: Leanne Hanafin

My name is Leanne Hanafin. I hail from the beautiful county of Kerry but work predominantly across Dublin and Limerick (but sometimes Kerry too!). I work full-time as an Alumni Relations Officer in Dublin City University, but I am also a Radio DJ with SPIN1038 and SPIN South West.

What course did I choose and why?

For many of my teenage years, I spent my time upskilling in media and creating content on the side of my school studies, which is where I found my true passion for that industry. I always knew that I wanted to work in a job that I absolutely love, where no two days will be the same and I can continue to upskill every week. That was that – my mind was set on media…I just didn’t know which medium in particular. Cue Communication Studies in DCU…

My DCU journey…

The idea of being around 4 hours away from home didn’t even cross my mind, once I knew I would be doing something that I loved. Communication Studies was the perfect mix of everything I wanted to learn about – TV, radio, social media, performance and more, with a nice blend of theory and practical. I knew nobody going to DCU when I started in 2016, which in a way, was quite refreshing knowing that my experiences were going to be determined by how much I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. That’s exactly what I did, owing most of this to clubs and societies that I got involved in, such as the college newspaper, Fotosoc, the Media Production Society, and of course, I kept up the football too – it’s in my roots being from Kerry, sure! – playing on the college team for my three years.

The Media Production Society is where I found my love for radio. I hosted two radio shows in first year, two in second year and three in final year – yep, I kind of became a bit obsessed and very fast. In my final year, I was asked to become the Assigned Show Officer and Show Liaison Officer, where my role was to teach first years and also my peers all about DCUfm, the studio and desk and how to create their radio shows etc.

This is a picture of when I won Radio DJ of the Year at the DCU Hybrid Awards (judged and presented by a future colleague of mine!)
DCU Ambassadors

It was around this time that it hit that I would be leaving DCU, which I can only describe as a little home bubble of comfort, familiarity, friends and fun.

Life after college and getting into radio…

I knew of a radio station called FRQ.fm from past DCU graduates going on to present there. FRQ.fm is a station that trains up and coming radio DJs in Ireland. It is part of the Communicorp family, which also includes SPIN1038 and SPIN South West, TodayFM, Newstalk, 98FM and Off The Ball, so even to be in the same building as some of the amazing radio talent in Ireland would be a dream.

About a month out from finishing my degree, I saw an ad looking for new presenters for the station, so you can bet that I spruced up my CV and sent in a 3-minute up-to-date demo from my time on DCUfm incredibly fast. Two weeks later in May 2019, I was offered a trial on the station, and I was absolutely beaming with delight. I did my very first radio show on FRQ.fm the day before my 21st birthday in June, and even though I made a heap of mistakes, there was something about the thrill of radio that became addictive for me.

FRQ.fm

In July 2019, I got an email that put me very close to tears (but I was in a public place when I got it, so had to hold it together – also, happy tears, not sad thankfully!). An email inviting me to do some training on SPIN1038 (literally downstairs!), with a view to covering some of their shows when needed. I grew up listening to SPIN (South West) at home in Tralee, and all the presenters sounded like they were having so much fun – and also playing hit music that was my taste! Two weeks later, I was in SPIN, shadowing some of the great DJs who have been doing it for years.

I presented my very first show on SPIN1038 on 21st July, 2019 and to say I was nervous to hit that Top of Hour bed and slide up my microphone fader at 8am sharp would be an understatement. But I was so determined to learn more every week – I knew this was what I wanted to do.

I presented on Sundays from 8am-11am from that day in July, right up until Covid-19 hit Ireland in March. During the week when I wasn’t on air, I was working full-time in DCU – I couldn’t leave that place! I was able to work from home during the pandemic with my DCU work, where I am now an Alumni Relations Officer – another job I adore, and where I get to put the other sides of my degree to use, like interpersonal communications, marketing and event management.

Thankfully, I was back to radio after about 6 months, and got some amazing opportunities on SPIN & 98FM to finish off my 2020. I even got to host the 98FM New Year’s Eve Countdown Show, which was INSANE!! (I even got a fancy little promo for that show that ran on the station in the week leading up to it!)

This is me on my graduation day outside my office in DCU!

During this time, I also started doing cover work on SPIN South West. And just this month, after over a year of radio, I got my very own show! I’m now the new presenter of “Sunday Brunch” on SPIN Southwest from 11am-3pm!

Spin South West
Dublin’s 98FM

Parting Words and Advice…

There will never be a day that goes by where I don’t count myself extremely lucky for the position that I am in. The media, and radio in particular, can be a tough industry to break. Knowing that makes me work so hard every day that I am in the station, to prove myself and never take for granted a minute that I’m sitting in the studio doing what I love to do.

At the same time, I think that luck has a small percentage to do with getting to where you want to be in life. If you are determined and know exactly what you want, as well as a LOT of hard work, long hours and making connections at any given point, that will get you far.

Of course, the Covid-19 pandemic does not make it any easier to necessarily get where you might want to be right now. But my best advice for you if you’re looking to get into radio now or in the future is to keep working.

Keep upskilling in the area of radio – watch YouTube tutorials on audio editing, watch videos on voice training, read blogs on presenting skills, start your own podcast, put together a 2-3 minute demo each month to track your own progress, share snippets of your work online, make a blog/website/portfolio, make connections (social media is a blessing for this – especially LinkedIn and Instagram), ask radio DJs that you admire for advice or, if they have the time in their busy schedules, to listen to your demo and give you some feedback. Believe me, this stuff makes the world of difference in the long run and your hard efforts will not go unnoticed. Use this time to your advantage!

If you’re about to become a graduate in the next few months, best of luck with all your studies and cherish every moment you have left in college! And if you are already a graduate and have radio on your radar, I hope that this has been helpful for you! 🙂

Leanne Hanafin

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