Guest post by Daniel Harding, Deputy Director of Music – Where’er you Work: employment for musical students after Kent

I wrote recently about the transferable skills we find in student musicians at the University, and their suitability for careers not necessarily in the music industry. In order to illustrate the rich variety of career paths which they have gone on to follow in Life After Kent, I conducted a short survey (for which read ‘Put a question up on Facebook’ – well, these social media tools can be very useful!) asking Kent graduates, who had been involved in music here, what they’d been up to vocationally since leaving. Here’s how they replied:

As the feedback shows, students have gone on to be involved in a range of careers, often not involving music at all; everything from working in finance and insurance to jobs in the creative sector. Quite a few have gone into teaching, and also run musical activities alongside classroom delivery of other subjects such as Maths and Religious Education. There’s also voluntary work, festival stewarding, administration and insurance.

It would be interesting to know if those students who have gone into teaching, and are also involved in music at their school, were offered their posts because of their ability to offer some musical activity alongside classroom delivery. Having an additional string to one’s bow (no pun intended, all you string-players…) can be crucial in applying for jobs, the ability to offer another facility putting one ahead of other applicants.

I looked at the ‘Knowledge, Skills and Experience Required’ section of a job application from a major company recently, under which the following abilities were listed:

  • Able to plan, prioritise and co-ordinate own work effectively
  • Able to work with own initiative to solve problems when required
  • Ability to meet deadlines
  • Ability to communicate appropriately and effectively with a broad range of people
  • Enthusiastic and interested in people
  • Accurate, thorough and organised
  • Conscientious and thorough approach to work

These abilities are often listed on job specifications as qualities expected from an applicant. It goes without saying that if you’ve been successfully involved in studying and performing at a high level as a musician, you’ll have all these skills already.

One thing is clear, though: all the jobs in which these students are now involved will be using skills they developed as musicians – problem-solving, dealing with others, time-management, prioritising tasks and meeting deadlines. Whilst many of them may not have moved into sectors in the industry directly related to the arts or to music in particular, each of them will be deploying key skills learned, developed and practiced through their years of instrumental or singing study and performing. They’ll be used to working under pressure (the white-heat of performing in front of audiences in the concert-hall, and the Nave or the Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral); they will be good at interacting with others, whether colleagues, clients or the public; they will accustomed to having high expectations of themselves, and being asked to deliver critical targets at key moments.

In the next post, I’ll be looking at one way in which we’ve started to help students find a foothold in the jobs market, using a digital resource to point them in the right direction.

*With apologies to Handel for liberties with the title of this post…

Dan Harding is Deputy Director of Music at the University of Kent. He writes about music on the department blog, Music Matters. Follow the department on Twitter.


One thought on “Guest post by Daniel Harding, Deputy Director of Music – Where’er you Work: employment for musical students after Kent

  1. I work in the software development industry and it seems to be a common trend that candidates for developer or engineer roles frequently have played or continue to play musical instruments. Indeed, in our small team of four at the moment we have two people (including myself) that play the trumpet and another is learning the play the guitar!

    I’d even go so far as to suggest that someone who is involved with music is more employable in this industry, possibly because of transferable aptitudes. I think there must be some reason due to the way that the brain works that means that music and software development go together well!


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