What's wrong with "throwing your hat in"?

This is a pet peeve of mine. I can’t stand it when I hear musicians say, when referring to applying for jobs as ‘throwing their hat into the ring.’”

It’s a common enough phrase, a harmless cliché, but it connotes a certain casual attitude—a kind of devil-may-care, what-the-hell last minute approach to acting on your career goals. It’s the equivalent of saying, “Yeah, I applied but I really don’t care about this.”

Spoiler alert: You’re not fooling anyone

What drives me crazy about this hat-throwing phrase is that it’s such an obvious lie, a cover-up to try to save face. It’s a preemptive move to avoid feeling the disappointment of rejection by saying in advance “I don’t give a sh*t—I just applied to this on a whim.”

This is all too often a lame excuse for sending in last-minute half-baked materials, telling yourself that you’re simply ‘throwing your hat into the ring.’”

It’s a protective move because then, when you don’t get an interview you can say to yourself, “See? the system is rigged.” Or you can console yourself with the fact that you really didn’t apply your best effort, but if you had, perhaps the results would have gone in your favor.

It’s yet another way we humans protect our fragile egos by giving into Resistance and fear. It’s a way to stay stuck in the comfort zone of now instead of truly going for what we want. Been there, done that.

What’s the alternative?

Imagine for a moment taking positive action to get your act together and truly go for what you want.

This means doing the real work of overhauling your application materials so that they showcase your most relevant strengths and reflect what the search committee is actually looking for. It means learning how to convey what is distinctive about your teaching and bringing it to life in your CV, cover letter, and EDI statement. It also means making sure that the audio and video clips you submit represent you at your best.

And yes, it means doing the hard work knowing full well that the market is glutted and there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to get the job of your dreams. It takes an investment of courage and more to really be . . .

Going “all in”

But at least you will know that you truly gave it your all. At least you’ll know for sure that your application materials are not at fault.

And from my stance, the even bigger win of doing the work comes in the confidence you can gain in the process of articulating who you really are and what you have to offer. That’s the same confidence needed to network effectively, to book more performances, to build your private studio, and to find your path forward no matter what happens with any particular job search.

If you’re curious about how to upgrade your college teaching materials and want to get my most in-depth help, with detailed instruction, examples, and support, check out my Land the Job program.

Looking forward,


Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well

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