Written by Kathryn Wright, Career Center Practicum Student, Marketing Graduate Assistant, and Student Affairs in Higher Education graduate student
You’re proud to be a music major, and you should be. You get the thrilling opportunity to create, interpret, and inspire in ways that are reflective of your personality and tastes.
But what if you are looking at applying for a job outside the music field, or even considering a whole new career path? Sure, you can compose an eight-part choral arrangement of your favorite Latin text, but how will that help you land an entry-level job in business, law enforcement, or chocolatiering?
In many fields, employers are more concerned with how “career ready” you are than what your diploma says. You may be surprised to discover how well your music major experiences have prepared you for the workplace. Listed below are the eight career readiness competencies recognized by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) and some examples of how you may have developed these skills in your music program:
Critical thinking and problem-solving
Your music theory classes have served you well here. Is that a ii chord with a non-harmonic passing tone or a V/V chord? Either one could be technically correct, but thanks to your theory prof, you know how to critically evaluate context and function to determine the best solution.
Oral and written communications
As you write papers and give presentations, remember that you are developing a valuable skill worth mentioning on your resume later. Therefore, when you give your presentation on the historical context and analysis of Debussy’s “La Cathédral Engloutie”, give as much thought to how you present and communicate as you do to the content itself.
Teamwork and collaboration
Your involvement in choirs, orchestras, or theater productions isn’t just to grow your musicianship skills. It also helps you learn to be a team player. Working together with others for a common, clearly-defined goal is instrumental (pun intended) for workplace preparation in any field!
This can be a surprising tidbit to add on your resume as a musician. Most employers may not be looking for your skills in music arrangement with MIDI, notation in Sibelius, or soundboard work in your Audio Tech class, but showcasing your willingness and adeptness at picking up new technology can show initiative and the ability to learn quickly.
There are so many wonderful opportunities to develop leadership skills in your music program! On your resume, talk about how you led sectionals, acted as an Assistant Conductor for a semester, or served as President of your local NAfME Collegiate Chapter.
Professionalism and work ethic
This can be a hard one to talk about for music majors, not because we don’t excel in this area, but because it can be challenging to demonstrate. This is more likely to come out in a job interview than on a resume, as you share stories about how you had to change your workload management style once rehearsals for Gianni Schicchi started, or reflect on what image you projected when representing MSU at contests.
This is another which is easier to demonstrate in an interview setting. Talk about one of the experiences mentioned above (such as the music history presentation) and what you may do differently in this new field. Hint: If you’re struggling with knowing how to pursue job opportunities and advance yourself, this is exactly what the Career Center is here to do, so don’t hesitate to come see us!
Global and intercultural fluency
Not only have you had the opportunity to study the heart and soul (AKA music) of other cultures, you may have had the opportunity to study the language and history of where your music originated. Even better, if you had the opportunity to participate in a choir or orchestra international tour, elaborate on these experiences and the respect for diversity they instilled in you.
Music majors have exactly the skills employers are looking for. You may just have to help them see it! Once you know what they’re looking for, it’s easy to apply pieces of your musical journey to the entry-level job of your choice!
Have questions? To discuss your career readiness with a Career Resources Specialist, contact the Career Center and get career ready!