Whether you're studying Music Education now or hope to become a music teacher soon, chances are you're facing a highly competitive job market. Every year, universities across the country turn out thousands of Music Education majors to fill what seems to be an ever-dwindling number of jobs. Although it's good to know the latest in Orff methodology and keyboard pedagogy, unfortunately, knowing the difference between a boom-whacker and a Bassoon is not going to help you nail down a teaching gig. And now, brace yourself: your musicianship skills have almost no bearing on your employability. You might be thinking, "That's absurd!" but I assure you, it is not. If you really want to get your foot in the door at Sometown Middle School, you need to have these four assets:
1) Boss Networking Skills
Tell me, what's the best way to have your name stand out from a pile of 20, 40, or 200 resumes? That's right: an inside recommendation. When a job opens up and school administrators are fishing for applicants, receiving a recommendation from a colleague they trust is good as gold. The good news is that if you receive a recommendation from someone currently working in the district where you want to be hired, you might not even need a resume to get called in for an interview. Networking is an easy way to get your foot in the door. So the new question you might be asking is, "How can I develop my networking skills?" Keeping reading. We'll get there in point 4.
2) An Eye-Popping Resume
So you've emailed your resume to a school administrator. If you're lucky, your resume is in a pile of 12. If you're unlucky, it's a pile of 200. But the good news is you can level the playing field by having an eye-popping resume.
Unless you have extremely sought-after credentials, the standard black-and-white resume with an objective statement simply won't get the job done. Use your creative skills to make your resume stand out! Attention to visual detail is a must. Vary font styles and sizes and create a unique layout that will guide the reader's eye to the information you want to highlight. Use shading and subtle outline effects to create the illusion of depth on the page.
But this article isn't about how to build a resume. Unless you have a personal reference, your resume is likely the first impression your potential new employer will have of you. Taking the time to be sure that you are delivering your content in a vibrant, original, and visually appealing way while using a concise and professional layout is one of the most important investments you can make in your job search.
3) Effective Communication Skills
Emmanuel Kant was one of the most brilliant philosophers who ever lived. You can probably quote Lincoln, Einstein, and Twain, but can you quote a single line of Kant? Probably not. Brilliant as he may have been, Kant's writing style was so opaque that his message got continually muddled in excessive verbiage. As a music educator, your success in almost every aspect of your job will depend on your ability to communicate effectively. Emailing parents, meeting with supervisors, and teaching a class –all of these activities (and more) depend on your ability to communicate in a clear, concise way. Whether or not you can communicate effectively will be determined from your initial contact with the school. Does your cover letter have a clear point? Do you use dry clichés? Is your tone appropriate? Both strengths and deficiencies will be quickly noted by school administrators. But the good news, again, is that there is an easy way to develop this skill (see point 4).
4) The Ability to Let Go of Your Ego and be Genuinely Kind to Everyone All the Time.
Okay, maybe this one seems obvious. But the truth is that people screw this one up all the time. In fact, so many people make the mistake of letting their egos get in their own way that if you can master this one skill, being genuinely kind all the time and putting other people first, I guarantee you will truly stand apart from the crowd. Kindness makes networking easy because when you put other people first, they will be drawn to you. It also enables you to understand what other people are thinking, which is a key component of effective communication. True, kindness won't write your eye-popping resume, but uncommon kindness will certainly help lead to opportunities that will fill up that resume. While music is universal, the jury is still out as to whether it is a language or not. So until the day when you can win a teaching job with your polished Chopin etudes alone, for now it's probably best to work on being the kindest person you can be. As Mark Twain said:
"Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear, and the blind can see."
This article was edited by Linday Kramer