If you told most young professionals that they’d have to do several dozen job interviews a year for a decade or so, you’d probably get stares of disbelief. Any serious job-hunter has to make his peace with the process of strutting his stuff for potential employers, but typically, he doesn’t have to do it a few hundred times. Professional singers know a different reality.
I’ve drawn this comparison before, mostly to point out the differences between the musician career track and other professional paths. But these days, I’ve been ruminating on the similarities.
Both kinds of job-seekers must demonstrate basic competencies. Office jockeys have resumes, work samples and recommendations that demonstrate essential computer skills, writing ability, numeracy, time management and more. Singers must show language competency, technical reliability, stylistic familiarity, Fach suitability, and an understanding of dramatic arc. These are compulsories. They are deal-breakers. They are rarely able to be overlooked. There is no short-cut past them. (Can I state this more unequivocally?) You don’t get to go to the next step unless you can check these boxes.
Seriousness of Intent
OK, so you’ve established yourself as someone with the fundamental skills to get the job done. The aspiring corporate climber must illustrate why she wants to work for a particular company and how she would be an asset to its team. While the task facing the singer isn’t quite as overt, the preparatory process is the same. Know your potential employer. What kind of singers do they hire? What kinds of careers or training do their previous or current artists share? What is their aesthetic? What does it value? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you are not spending your money or your time wisely. it doesn’t mean that you need to change who you are in order to fit someone else’s idea of success; it just means that you should align your efforts with those companies that are most predisposed to hire you.
That Je Ne Sais Quoi
After you’ve positioned yourself well according to the two areas above, you are ready for the real test. Both the successful job interviewee and auditionee will be able to convince the potential employer that although there are hundreds of other applicants who are also competent and serious, only she can offer a distinctive contribution that trumps the other candidates’. The interviewee will demonstrate that she can inspire colleagues, improve team performance, and offer a unique finely tuned skill set. And the singer will somehow transport the panel into a place where the music rises beyond mere technical facility, fooling them into believing that they are witnessing an inspirational performance and not an audition.
Gird your loins, dust off your audition clothes, and get ready for the fall 2014 season. I know it’s hard, but you can do it. Those of us who sit on the other side of the table have to believe that you can. Because that’s the only way forward for all of us. Coraggio!