Congratulations, you’re a graduate. After competing with thousands of others to land a spot at your chosen school, you’ve finally obtained that coveted degree that will help launch your career. But after all the glitter from commencement parties and graduation gifts settle, many music education grads find themselves at a loss over how to start the next phase. It’s a common feeling that overwhelms beginners in pretty much every industry so don’t panic, you’re not alone. Here’s a simple list of helpful tips and advice for new music school graduates to help guide you through the often daunting career search.
Know (roughly) what you want
The trick to kick-starting your career is honing in on what exactly where you think you may want to begin. After four years in a specialized school, chances are you have a pretty good idea what makes you tick by now. Focus on your skills but don’t ignore the things you dislike – it’s better to identify any potential problems in a career path before venturing down the wrong one.
Don’t know what you want? Don’t panic!
There’s a lot to be said for trial and error. You may have started school with the intention of launching your own band or act and left sold on the notion of teaching. The great news about studying anything to do with music is that it’s mostly all connected and skills can be easily transferred. Be brave enough to explore an option that may never have crossed your mind before. It may end up becoming the thing you love most and could lead to a long and successful career.
Talking to as many people as possible can be one of the most valuable ways to form a decision, so don’t be shy to ask for advice from anyone you feel could be qualified to give it. Don’t limit this to just the music industry, but seek expertise from anyone you think might be able to shed light on your search. The more you listen the more you learn about a variety of careers. Don’t be frightened if one person doesn’t give you the answer you were hoping for – not everyone’s experience is the same.
Pick a place
Picking a city, state, country or even continent is a great place to start. Maybe you can’t find your dream job straight away but honing in on one spot could help you lay the groundwork for the beginning of your career. If you narrow your search to a place where there is a good enough range of opportunities, you may find yourself having more success. Be sure to do your research and don’t look for possibilities where they don’t exist.
The trick to landing a job to move on to straight after graduation depends on how prepared you are. The most organized students will start looking for opportunities a year before commencement. This can feel like a daunting task when coupled with the mountainous workload expected of you in your final year, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to do both at once. After all, one job done well is better than two that are barely finished.
Internships and apprenticeships are often a great way to line up real opportunities for after graduation. If you’ve had a good experience somewhere on a more casual basis, ask if there are any role vacancies or spots to fill around the time you’re due to leave. Often these more casual roles turn into a permanent position if it’s a good fit.
If you land yourself a job interview or audition (yay!), don’t be tempted to bluff your way through it. Sure, there are moments when a little optimistic up-selling is needed, but it’s important to know the difference between having confidence in your ability to adapt to a role and having genuine concerns that its requirements may be beyond you. If something feels like it’s beyond your reach, think about the skills you may need to handle it and if your experience matches up. If not, is there a way you can get yourself there? If all else fails, honesty is always the best policy.
Have a little faith
You’ve come this far, what else can you achieve now? It’s daunting to leave a world of funded programs with dedicated tutors and constant support. Believe in your talents, whatever they are, and try to embrace the new normal. Being able to transform your passion and talent into a career is something many people only ever dream of. Be grateful to have found what it is that you love and persevere in the knowledge that you’ll soon figure out where you need to be and how to get there.
As Stephen Henderson, the 2017 Juilliard commencement speaker told his wide-eyed audience this year: ‘The ecstatic exhilaration shared with everyone who believes in you back then is back again.’