How Gary Dell’Abate Got His Perfect Job

From the September / October edition of The Quarter Roll

What do you think the perfect job is? What is it that makes it so perfect? Money, freedom, enjoyable work, an exciting industry? Have you ever thought you would get the perfect job? Everyone's perfect job is different.

You may not think that a man nicknamed “Baba Booey” by his boss, because of a mistake he made, is at the perfect job! However, Gary Dell’Abate realized what his perfect job would look like the day he walked by a college radio studio. Dell’Abate’s book “They Call Me Baba Booey” details his career from college internships all the way to the celebrity status of executive producer of the Howard Stern Show, a job that he absolutely loves.

His story shows that you can come from extremely humble career beginnings and not only get your perfect job, but achieve success beyond your wildest dreams. Of course, it doesn’t happen without the same qualities Dell’Abate had to demonstrate many times throughout his career: guts, persistence, hard work, study, and a clear definition of the work you want.

Clear definition of the work you want
Even though music was a passion of Dell’Abate’s, as a senior in high school he believed he wanted to be a professional photographer. When looking for a college to attend Dell’Abate ended up at a college open house where a representative told him that being a Communications major would be equivalent to studying photography because, “Communications is just like photography. They have cameras, they have lights. It is the same thing.” Based on that information Dell’Abate enrolled.

However, it was during the orientation for new Communications majors that Dell’Abate discovered his calling. When he walked by the college’s radio station he decided that was what he wanted to do. He immediately signed up to work in the radio station and was hired. Dell’Abate wrote this about his first effort as an on air personality: “God, it was awful, I mean really horrible. I don’t know if a single person was listening. But I was on the radio, hanging with other people who liked doing exactly what I liked to do.” At this point Dell’Abate was enjoying radio so much that he was convinced this was what he needed to focus on as a career. He sold his photography equipment; he was ready to commit to radio.

Internships are a traditional way for students to learn the ins and outs of a specific industry. This is how Dell’Abate got his first peek into the professional world of radio and was able to study experts in the field he desperately wanted to work in. Getting an internship was not automatic, however. Students had to be interviewed and selected for the program.

Getting an internship at WLIR was a prized accomplishment for many of the students. Dell’Abate had a little help in standing out from the other applicants though, and it was at this point in his story that we learn about one of Dell’Abate’s traits that would really help him throughout the rest of his career.

In a sense Dell’Abate created his own luck. Because Dell’Abate loved the music and radio industry so much he was always willing to do the harder, less attractive work that teachers and bosses assigned, without any expectation of personal gain other than a chance to somehow be involved. In fact Dell’Abate showed his true commitment when rather than complaining about the lower level jobs he was assigned, he expressed frustration that there weren’t enough hours in the week to learn all the things he wanted to learn. This attitude often led to influential people doing favors for him. In the case of this prized internship it was the reference and full support of a grateful teacher for whom he had spent time completing a long, involved chore that gave Dell’Abate an advantage in getting the internship.

Getting that internship at WLIR turned out to be one of the best things that could have happened for Dell’Abate’s career early on. It was there that he met his new boss, Steve North. Steve gave Dell’Abate lots of the worst chores to do, but as Dell’Abate noted, if you do the worst jobs well and without an attitude someone will give you better jobs to do. That certainly turned out to be true in Dell’Abate’s case.

Because Dell’Abate did any and every job he was assigned as an intern without complaint and exactly as he was instructed he was assigned better jobs, including interviewing and reporting. This is where he learned that sometimes you are going to have to step far out of your comfort zone in order to accomplish the things that will push you further toward your perfect career.

In one example he was supposed to interview the Yankees catcher Rick Cerone. He worked his way up to Cerone at the autograph session he was at, pushing his way through hundreds of fans. When Cerone agreed to an interview after the session, Dell’Abate stepped aside and waited. However, after the event Cerone disappeared. Dell’Abate frantically ran around the building, finally begging a security guard to tell him where Cerone was. He found Cerone in a room, but his companion initially refused to admit Dell’Abate and tried to close the door. Dell’Abate put his foot in the door and pleaded his case. Cerone intervened and did the interview, which was aired on the radio for a week. Dell’Abate had learned to show guts in the face of adversity, and his determination allowed him to finish the job.

On another occasion after he had graduated from college Dell’Abate showed guts by approaching a stranger at the NBC radio station where he was applying for work. Steve North had mentioned that he had a friend named Nell at the station and that if he ran into her he should say Steve says hi. As it happened he did overhear a woman in the elevator call her companion “Nell”. Dell’Abate then approached her and asked if she was the same Nell, Steve’s friend. This introduction led Nell, a senior manager at the station, to personally escort Dell’Abate to his interview and tell the hiring manager, “If Steve North recommends him he must be good.” He got the job at NBC.

The path to your perfect job may be rocky, and getting through all the challenges you will face will take persistence. Even though Dell’Abate had a clear definition of what he wanted to do he faced several economic challenges as well. Even with a job at a prestigious radio station, he was broke.

Dell’Abate still wasn’t working full-time. In fact at NBC he was working 15 hours a week, which meant he need to work 2 other part-time jobs in order to afford his rent and living expenses. However, the silver lining around the cloud was that all of his jobs were music related: one job at a music store and another watching over the automated music selections during the night at another station. Why did he take a job that wouldn’t even allow him to pay his rent? He knew that job at NBC would eventually be a spring board that would propel him closer to his dream job.

Hard Work
Doing the hard stuff is what formed the foundation of an excellent career for Dell’Abate. The fact that he wasn’t a clock watcher and did all the stuff that no one else wanted to do, or refused to do, demonstrated that he was 100% committed to his work. It also showed that he loved what he did. When you are truly passionate about something even the typical, daily stuff doesn’t seem like work.

Throughout college, his internships, and his early jobs Dell’Abate gained a reputation as someone who loved music and the radio industry and could be counted on to do all of the things that lead to a job well done. When an opening for the Howard Stern Show caught Dell’Abate’s attention at NBC and he decided to apply. It was all of his past work and determination that put him in a position to interview for that job. He got that job and nearly 30 years later he was still working at his perfect job.

Your Perfect Job
Getting your perfect job doesn't happen by accident. Moving your career forward takes strategic planning and hard work. Of course, being in the right place at the right time doesn't hurt either. However, the problem with that adage is that on the surface it implies being lucky. Luck didn’t play a role in Dell’Abate’s story. Successful people know that being in the right place at the right time is more about controlling and managing your circumstances versus simply being lucky. Remember that Dell’Abate created his own “luck” by being prepared, doing the hard stuff without complaint, being persistent, and showing guts. How will you create your own luck today and get your perfect job?

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