Checklist For Music Major Graduates
Graduation is such an exciting time. Years of hard work are finally culminating in a well-earned degree and credential. Plus, you know, the parties are pretty good.
There’s a reason though, why the graduation ceremony itself is called “commencement.” Graduation isn’t so much about the end of your educational career, as it’s about the start of an entirely new, possibly scary, phase of life.
Time to get a job.
The spring of graduation is already a crazy time. You're making sure you wrap up those last credits so that you can graduate. You're planning your graduation activities. You also need to start putting the pieces together to find and land that music job you want. Use this handy checklist to keep yourself on track.
Figuring out what sort of job you want
Perhaps you already know what job you want. You’ve dreamt of being a conductor since you were six! That’s great. You’re not going to get a conductor’s job out of school. Follow these steps to open as broad a pool of potential music jobs as possible.
- List your dream jobs. They can include those that are realistic right now, as well as those you want in the future.
- List jobs that are related to those jobs or work with those jobs. Hailey Rutledge, the young oboist from Mozart in the Jungle, wanted a job as a musician with a city orchestra. Her first job was as the personal assistant to the conductor. Think about what other jobs or internships will develop the skills you need for your goal job, as well as those that will grow your professional network.
- List ways you can start your own thing. Get creative. Do you have a project for which you might be able to get an artist’s grant?
The goal of this phase is to end up with a super-long list of music or music-adjacent jobs. Even if your first job isn't ideal (it probably won't be), it's the first step towards the one you do want. The sooner you get on that path, the faster you'll get there.
(Be sure to check out the music careers section of StringOvation to find posts exploring a variety of different music industry jobs for some inspiration.)
Figuring out where to look for jobs
Now that you have a working list of jobs, it’s time to put together a list of sources where you can find out about what’s available. Research:
- Music-specific job boards, like ThatsMyGig or MusiciansWay.
- Figure out which general job boards have music job listings that are relevant to you. Think sites like Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn.
- List what organizations you belong to that have print or online newsletters that share job postings. Your soon-to-be alumni organization is a perfect example.
- Do your social media research to find out which platforms and hashtags you should follow or create lists for, like #musicjob, which can lead you to specific postings as well as accounts you should follow to find more.
- Keep in mind that most job openings aren’t posted! That’s why networking is so important. One way to grow your network and learn about unposted opportunities is to schedule informational interviews. Talk to your school’s career center about how to set up some information interviews with alumni in the music industry.
There's an overwhelming number of online sources to find jobs. Fortunately, every online job board worth its salt will let you set-up automatic searches and alerts. When you're researching, identify which sources will be worth most of your time, so you don't make yourself crazy.
Getting your “hire me” materials together
Here’s your checklist of off- and online materials you want to put together before any potential employer asks for them.
- Create, or cleanup, your LinkedIn profile. Most every other job site will let you apply for jobs on their boards by using your LinkedIn profile. So make it good. Here are some tips to writing a music resume that you should follow for your resume and your LinkedIn profile.
- Get recommendations from professors and past employers. The strongest ones will be from those in the music field, but don't overlook those that aren't. They can still attest to your work ethic other in-demand skills, like communication and specific software skills. You definitely need some written recommendations. You can also ask some to post a recommendation on your LinkedIn profile.
- In addition to written recommendations, put together a list of people who agree to be a reference. Some people don't want to write letters, but they will agree to be contacted by a specific potential employer.
- Put together a top-notch demo reel. Demo reels don’t need to be too long. In fact, put your best performance first thing. Like resumes, viewers will decide in about 10 seconds if they want to continue listening. So open it with the best clip from your best performance. Show off the full range of your technical skill and genre experience.
- Be sure to “clean-up” your social media accounts. Potential employers are looking at them.
Looking for a job is a job in itself, no joke. Take it as seriously as you intend to take your first professional music position. Be thorough. Be professional. Be focused. And be patient – that helps too.