November 14, 2016

#MusicMonday // On Standing Out in a Competitive Field

I'm doing something a little different today. Something more along the lines of this post than an album review or a playlist, as would usually go up on a Monday. As I imagine most college students do, I think a lot about the future, especially in terms of my career. What can I do to be more prepared for what I want to do? Am I doing enough? What will help me stand out the most? I wish I knew the answers to these questions, but I can't say that I do.

The music industry is especially challenging to break into. I don't even mean for musicians, though that's the most obvious. It's so much about who you know that it can sometimes be intimidating. The field is so saturated with people who know other people. The same goes for much of the entertainment industry. Connections can give you an edge just about everywhere, but 99% of jobs look to skill and personality as the deciding factor (don't quote me on this— just generalizing here). All that aside, how do you stand out in a competitive field? 


Well, for one, get as much experience as you can without getting too much experience. What do I mean by that? I don't mean that you shouldn't join career-affiliated groups and organizations while you're interning for a local company. I mean that you shouldn't take an internship if your primary job and your other internship are nearly identical. You're clearly overworking yourself, and future employers might not see this as the demonstrated dedication that you perceive; instead, they might see this as trying to balance too many jobs and titles just to bulk up your resumé. They might question whether you gave each job or task the proper time and effort. 

Also, round out your other skills. While I don't envision writing to be my primary career (but who knows, really?), I would never put it on the back burner. Why? I love to write, and I do see it as part of my career and life in some way. And I'll be blunt about it: I'm proud of my writing ability. I've been honing my skill for as long as I can remember, and I love that I've found my writer's voice and that I can craft anything that I need to say into penned (or typed) words. If graphic design is a skill of yours, build up your portfolio. If photography is a hobby of yours, keep taking great pictures. Don't underestimate a skill you have because you think it's "just a hobby" or something that you won't use in the future because you can't know whether this is true.

Finally, just do the best you can. Don't compare yourself to other people. "But that guy in my copyright class had such an awesome internship last summer." "That girl lives in LA and has so many more awesome opportunities." Nix all that. All you can do is work with what you have, where you are, especially while you're still in school, whether that means working your butt off applying to internships or going to all your school's networking events. And, once you do get something, prove yourself. Do the best you can, ask questions, and work your hardest. And, once you meet someone who might be able to help you down the line, maintain that relationship. Send an email every now and then, reach out about grabbing coffee— don't let that connection get stale or slip through the cracks. 
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