I was talking to a young woman a couple of days ago who was looking for work as a horn player in an orchestra. She complained to me of her lack of experience, and how the orchestral industry was too traditional, stuck in its ways and wouldn’t give her a chance.
My suggestion was that she try something different: figure out a new arrangement on an old piece, or a new (or at least rare) way to show off her skill with the instrument, and youtube it. In other words, create something different, of value, and get it out there for people to see.
Her response was full of fear: oh no, the industry wouldn’t care, nobody would listen, it would make her look weird. We had a bit of back-and-forth about this, but there was no changing her mind…at least for now.
I hope she reconsiders someday soon. Seeing the lack of hope in someone so youthful was depressing. When you’re looking for work, you are not hoping to appeal to everyone. You simply cannot. You are trying to appeal to the 10 or 20% of the market that will not be prejudiced against you (for your age, your skill level, or what have you–too little or too much in their opinion), and will be interested in the unique (or rare) attributes you have to offer. If you look and sound like everyone else, you’re going to be treated like everyone else: a commodity.
To get the good job, or the promotion, or the key spot ahead of everyone else, you must have some special attribute that makes you stand out. Experience, skill, personal qualities…could be anything, really, but it has to be what that 10 or 20% of potential employers in your market are searching for. And believe me, they are desperately searching for it.
If you develop a rare or unique talent, get the word out there: show it, let people see. Sure, they’ll judge. I hope you won’t be too afraid of that judgment. Most of their judgments will be off-the-cuff, by people who aren’t qualified to say anything, who would never be brave enough to do something so unique themselves–and they aren’t your target audience anyway. Remember, you’re speaking to the focused minority that is out there, just waiting to stumble onto someone like you.
If you find you need some help defining what is rare or unique about what you do, drop me a line.
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