Whenever people ask me what I majored in in college, I can’t help but smile. I know what reaction is coming. “Music,” I reply. “Really? What instrument?” I smile again, here’s the kicker. . . “Euphonium.”
The conversation usually continues on to how I ended up in a marketing role for a nonprofit. I never thought I would be doing what I am today but I can see how my path has led me here. Music is often classified as a “useless” major. Most people can’t see the value in an undergraduate degree that is so specialized with so few career options. However, the further I get into my career, the more valuable the skills I learned in my music degree have become. Here are five lessons learned from my music degree that have helped me in my marketing career:
1) To Listen: When you’re a musician, you have to listen. And respond to what you are hearing. Whether it’s in class or playing with a group, music can’t be made without listening to what others are doing. Likewise, the professional world needs more listeners. The more you pay attention to what others are saying, the more you can truly understand other’s messages.
2) To Perform: Performing is part of being a musician. After all, part of the love of the art is being able to share your talent with others. But preforming is not always comfortable. Being a music major helped me learn how to preform under pressure and be comfortable presenting to groups.
3) To Embrace Mistakes: In music, you’re going to make mistakes. And, most likely, it will be in front of others. But musicians are trained to embrace making mistakes and to keep going when you make them. Making mistakes is how you learn what you need to work at and identify your weaknesses. In both the professional and music world, mistakes are learning opportunities, not stopping points.
4) To Work As a Team: When you play with a group of musicians, you quickly learn the importance of team work. Each instrument is necessary and needed in order to succeed. When playing music as a group, you won’t always be the center of attention or the most important part. Everyone has their role and time to shine. The same comes with any organization. Each person has a job to do. If we all work together effectively, there will be great outcomes.
5) To Communicate Creatively: Music teaches you to think outside the box when communicating with others. Frequently, there is emotion or meaning behind music that you want others to feel and understand. You learn that often you have to over-do your message. You may need to adjust the length of notes, the warmness of your tone, or the style in general, just to communicate to others what you are seeing on the page of your music. Communication professionals are required to adjust their messages to fit a variety of audiences and platforms. Sometimes that means making your message more simple or sometimes it means rephrasing it so that it pulls at the heart strings of a particular audience. Whatever the case is, communication does not belong in a box and professionals must think creatively to be effective.
Earning a music degree turned out to be a useful investment beyond the classroom. I have many, many amazing mentors and teachers to thank for teaching me these lessons and will always be thankful for the opportunities they gave me.
P.S. Comment below: What professional lessons have you learned from music or another hobby that has helped you in your career?