Is becoming "Professor So-and-so" the dream?

When becoming “Professor So-and-so” is the dream, and you apply and apply and apply for jobs you’re actually qualified for, but aren’t getting interviews — and you’re becoming demoralized because of this — what do you do?

This isn’t a riddle. I’ve heard MANY musicians describe this scenario to me. And then they explain how they see things:

Some tell themselves it’s just a matter of luck. So they keep on hoping that one day they’ll get lucky.

Other musicians blame it on not going to the “right” school and not having the “right” connections.

And still others complain that the whole system is rigged. They say that even the jobs themselves aren’t what they used to be, so why even bother.

Whatever you tell yourself, the odds for getting one of these jobs just aren’t in your favor.

There are WAY more candidates than there are college teaching job openings.

Typically, 200+ qualified applicants compete for one opening. And what with live performances on hold and higher ed itself in major transition, the job market is now more strained than ever.

So what DO you do? How do you respond?

After all, you trained all these years and you’ve had the dream for so long—the dream of finally becoming “Professor So-and-so”—so what’s it going to be?

The way I see it, you’ve got 3 options:

1. Keep doing what you’ve been doing

Sending the same old CV, cover letter, teaching philosophy and diversity statements, recordings and videos. You’ve worked hard on your application materials and you’ve got NO reason to believe that they could be improved. That is, no reason other than the fact that you’re not getting interviews.

If you keep going, though, there IS that notion that Albert Einstein is credited with, that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

If keeping on with the same old isn’t working for you there’s another choice. You can . . .

2. Quit applying for college jobs—give up the dream

Yep: you can walk away. Why put yourself through all this?

No one ever said this is the only kind of success there is for you. Except maybe you said that to yourself while you were getting the doctorate.

Let’s face it, many musicians fall in love with the idea of teaching at the college level based on their own experience in grad school. Surrounded by accomplished, talented, and motivated fellow students and inspiring teachers, we all think, “Wouldn’t this be grand?”  (I know I did.)

But chances are the schools you graduated from are not the schools you’ll be offered a teaching job at—at least early in your career.

And the reality of these jobs includes much more ‘administrivia,’ politics, heavy teaching loads, and budget cuts—than we ever knew about as grad students.

Now that you’re out of school maybe you’re seeing you have other options to consider? So maybe it IS time to get yourself a new dream?

Or, if you truly still want a college teaching job, there’s one more option. You can . . .

3. Find out if your application materials themselves are the problem

I know, this can seem crazy. Maybe you’ve reworked you CV and cover letter multiple times and you modeled your materials on those of your doctoral adviser or your best friend who landed her dream job.

You may be resistant to even the IDEA that your materials aren’t representing you at your best. Maybe you can’t conceive that you might be mistaken about what search committees really want to see in your CV, teaching and diversity statements, and in your cover letter.

Who is ever going to tell you that your materials are holding you back?

Not the search committees—they don’t have time. Not your best friend. Because what worked for her might not work for you—you have a very different set of experiences, right?

And excuse me, but the application materials that worked for your grad advisor 20 years ago might not work for you now.

If you are curious about how a new approach you could take your materials and your job search to the next level, check out my Land the Job program — in-depth training for musicians seeking college teaching jobs.

Looking forward,

Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well

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