By Shane Griffin

I know many people have been keeping tabs on my career shift as of late, and I’l like to update you all. I’ve accepted a position as a Sales Representative with Dale Carnegie Training, and will be starting this week. As I progress into my new career, I plan on writing a series of posts regarding the transferability of skills acquired during a music degree that directly apply to the business world. As I am new to this career, I will be waiting to write a good deal of these posts in order to keep them credible and based on experience, rather than speculation. However, there is one element of the transition that I can credibly address already, the interview. Many of the skills you have learned during your matriculation as a music student will prove to be quite helpful during the interview process.

The first one I’d like to address is poise. Musicians, good ones anyway, have the ability to experience a tremendous amount of stress, and display no outward manifestations of that stress. Think about it, you are on a stage in front of hundreds of people, who are all focused on you, yet your job is to entertain them and not distract them with the stressful feelings you are probably experiencing. Everyone knows that interviews are supposedly “stressful,” but I approach them the same way as I do performances. In performance, if I’ve done my work, and am qualified to present a performance, then people will enjoy listening to me, and the stress gradually melts away due to my preparations. Sure, there will be some butterflies at first, but they’ll go away if I dive in enthusiastically. In interviews, if I’m a qualified candidate, then why should I be nervous? Shouldn’t I be excited to display my ability to benefit the company? Just like an audience member chose to come to my concert, the individual in charge of hiring has looked at my resume, and decided I COULD be a qualified candidate. If we approach interviews the same way as we approach performances, as an opportunity to share our abilities with an already interested party, we will carry ourselves with much better poise than the other candidates, something that we have learned through our hundreds of performances.

During an interview, you always have to think on your feet. I’ll be the first to confess that I’ve improvised during a recital when I was lost. I’ve also invented repeats to give my memory the running start it needed when experiencing a memory slip. So what? Artistically, I may not be happy with it, but did the audience know? Only if the composer was there, or perhaps some colleagues who knew the piece well. Part of the interview is the process of reacting to questions that you didn’t see coming, and somehow hiding the fact that your mind is racing the entire time. Again, our performance practice is handy for this application.

Now, let’s address one very elusive element of the interview. It is critical that the other person be interested in you, and in your abilities. You must appeal to their wants and needs more so than your own. This is basic, but so many people ignore it. It doesn’t matter if you think that your time served as president of an organization is relevant if the INTERVIEWER is more interested in your work experience and its importance. Ignore what YOU think is important from your past, and focus on what will benefit THEM, and what they like about you. Now, tying this one to music is a little trickier, but I see this the same as programming a concert or recital. You must think of the audience. Are you a Stockhausen aficionado? Great. Don’t program an entire concert of his music for a general audience recital. It’s not what your audience wants to hear. It’s not in their best interest. If you’re playing for a Stockhausen convention, then great. Program it. It IS what your audience want to hear. Get my picture? The interviewer must see what they want in you, regardless of what you think is importance from your past.

What transferable interview skills have I missed? What are your interview stories, and did your any element of your musical training help you get through it? Discuss it in the comments.

Originally posted on DrumChattr on January 1, 2011 by Shane Griffin.


The photo in this post is used under the Creative Commons License: Attribution – NonCommercial – No Derivs 2.0 by r-hol on

Dave Gerhart

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