I got my license and a radio, now what?

AK9R

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I heard another story today about a newly-licensed amateur radio operator who had gotten their license but never got on the air because they didn't know how.

One way to address this is to find a local club. Contact the club, ask for help, and, hopefully, someone will volunteer to show you the ropes. In amateur radio, these mentors are called "elmers". You can find a list of clubs near you using Google or the club search feature on the ARRL website: Search for ARRL Affiliated Clubs

There are also a few YouTube videos that might help with making that first contact. Here's one from Kevin Loughlin KB9RLW that covers the basics:
 

n5ims

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I totally agree that finding a local club is a great start. First off, you'll get to know some local hams and by asking them about the club, the club's and other local repeaters, etc. you'll both show you're interested and make your first contact may like talking to a friend rather than a total stranger.

I also thing that a new ham should listen to the area repeaters. This will help them learn how the locals talk on the various repeaters (and note that how they talk on one repeater, may not match how they talk on another - or during different time periods for that matter), what topics they like, what topics they don't like, and other clues to help you with your first (and other early) contact(s). Also, listen for scheduled "nets" (regularly held events where specific topics are often discussed, or perhaps when a group of folks simply get together to discuss what's on their mind at the time). Many allow newcomers to join and may be a good opportunity for that first contact. Other nets are "closed nets" where only specific people are welcome. Often a closed net will be obvious to those that listen from the beginning (e.g. "this net is the monthly xxxx club 'meeting on the air' and only members of the xxxx club should participate") or they ask for a registration number or something similar, or indicate that the net is a "RACES Net" where you must be a certified RACES member to participate (per FCC rules).

Listening can also help you know how "the locals" invite others to talk. Often calling "CQ" is not appreciated on the FM repeaters. Asking for a "radio check" may be how many folks do it, but this may or may not be appreciated. A "radio check" may be reserved for a short contact where you'll simply get "sounds good here, 73".

Some repeaters may be linked to one or more other repeaters, either long term or for specific times and/or for specific reasons. While using a linked repeater system is often allowed, they may frown on a user just chatting to another local user (read "local to each other") where another repeater may be a better choice. Often these linked repeater systems require some time to setup or tear down the link(s) and you should leave a second or two after pressing your PTT before you start talking. You should also leave time for others in-between transmissions to allow others (that may be several links away) to join in.
 

WB9YBM

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I heard another story today about a newly-licensed amateur radio operator who had gotten their license but never got on the air because they didn't know how.
What happened to the volunteer examiners / Elmer who helped with the studying? Sounds like they may have dropped the ball...when I got my license, the gentleman who helped me study & administered the exam did a great job--helped me set up the station & was even my first contact.
 

ka3aaa

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join the local clubs ,if you can key up any of the local repeaters then key them up and put your call out and see if anyone comes back to you, and try to join in some of the conversations, it may take some time, just don't get discouraged right off the bat.
 

AK9R

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What happened to the volunteer examiners / Elmer who helped with the studying?
In this case, the individual studied on their own and took their test at one of the many online test sessions that have become available this year. I wouldn't say that anyone dropped the ball. However, the whole license study and testing process has become even more depersonalized.

Heck, 30 years ago when I got my license, I studied independently and I don't recall the VE team following up with me after the test, so I don't think this lack of contact is anything new. That's why I started off my post with "find a club, look for an elmer".
 

WB9YBM

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Heck, 30 years ago when I got my license, I studied independently and I don't recall the VE team following up with me after the test, so I don't think this lack of contact is anything new.
Well, I got licensed back in '75 before all of the modern VE stuff was developed--back then anyone with a general class or higher could administer the novice class license, so the whole thing was a more one-on-one thing. I wonder if that could be the reason I had a good elmer, and things have changed over the years?
 
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