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Marketing Materials and Real Estate

MONDAY BYTES — September 15, 2014

Here’s a helpful tool for evaluating the effectiveness of résumés, cover letters, and other marketing materials: it’s what I call the “So What?” test (which is akin to the Who Cares? test). It’s to test whether or not what you are communicating will matter to the reader. Put yourself in their shoes.

If the employer has a stack of 150 resumes and cover letters to weed through, they are desperately trying to find who in the pile is a great fit for the job and to do this they need to understand what separates one candidate form the next.

In the case of applying for a teaching position, the So What? test question might be applied by asking: Do your materials make you sound like all the other candidates?

For example, do the bullets under your teaching positions listed on your résumé simply tell us:

the age range of your students and that they are beginners to intermediate or advanced levels
and that you focus on things like:
basic musicianship, good tone production, solid technique, and interpretation
and that you:
tailor lessons to individual student needs and interests

If so, the only thing you’re telling the employer is that you are a “generic teacher” because everyteacher does these things (or says they do it).

The challenge is to convey what’s distinctive about you and your teaching.

For this, it can be very helpful to think back to any of your specific students who faced particular challenges. What creative solutions did you use to help them overcome the problem?

What tactics, strategies, and approaches did you use? That’s what to work into your bullets.

Each point you cover, each phrase and sentence should add real value by communicating what is distinctive about the work you do. Each line should be worth the real estate it’s taking up on the page.

If you find your résumé, teaching philosophy statement, and/or bio read as generic or that they lack impact, you need to dig deeper!

Challenge for the week: Take a close look at any piece of your marketing materials (grant application, bio, LinkedIn profile, cover letter, etc.) and try asking “So What?”

For info on working with me: details are HERE.
Monday Bytes archived posts are HERE.

Getting to the Why?

MONDAY BYTES — September 8, 2014

With the start of the new season and academic year, it’s the perfect time to fine tune your elevator pitch—your concise and compelling introduction of yourself and your mission.

This past week in Florida I had a blast working with students at FSU on this in a workshop format: we asked people to come up and tell us their name, where they’re from, their major, and one thing they’re especially excited about this semester—something they are going to be doing, creating, or otherwise helping make happen.

The follow up question typically was WHY?

As in, why specifically do you love that repertoire? Or why are you so committed to teaching, or writing, recording, creating . . . The why is typically how it makes us feel, or how we see our work affecting others.

The challenge is most of us don’t get past using clichés and generic adjectives. We say we ‘love’ something or ‘are passionate about’ it, or that’s it’s ‘fantastic.’

So what?

These are empty words unless we amplify the meaning by explaining why we feel that way and what we are specifically fascinated by or obsessed with or motivated by. To have impact, we need to get down to what’s essential and real.

One of the musicians, in talking about her love of orchestral playing, described the feeling of power in performing with many others and the emotional journey which left her at the end of a performance with a feeling of loss.

Another musician, who was enthusiastic about teaching, spoke about his motivation to empower his students—and his looking for students’ faces to light up with the ”getting it.”

The WHYs of these musicians is what made their pitches memorable and distinctive. The WHY is needed in our bios, grant proposals, cover letters, interviews, as well as in our elevator pitches.

The WHY is our most powerful source for marketing material, and yet it’s routinely omitted — we leave out stating what motivates us, why we got involved in music in the first place, and what our actual mission is.

Re-connecting with the WHY also benefits us directly. It typically increases the energy flow that fuels our creative work, and is the source for contagious enthusiasm that gets other people interested in our projects.

Challenge for this week: Try inserting the WHY of what you do into your introductions and networking situations. This can be simply done when people ask about what you are up to these days, as in, “I’m excited to be working on X, because …”

See how this can transform your interactions with others and how it can transform how you feel about yourself, your work, and your week—once you’re plugged into the energy of your mission.

For an extra blast of the Why, watch (or re-watch) Simon Sinek’s terrific TED talk.

For info on working with me: details are HERE.
Monday Bytes archived posts are HERE.


Sept. 1: Ask Your Fairy Godmum?

MONDAY BYTE — Sept. 1, 2014

                               [Brit actor Jenny Eclair as the Fairy Godmother in 2011 production

of Cinderella at Richmond Theatre, Photo by Peter Schiazza]

Happy Labor Day!

In celebration, here is my favorite labor-related question (for clients and others):

“If a Fairy Godmother showed up, bonked you on the head with her wand, and said, ‘you can now have the life you want,’ what would you say?”

In other words, if money and logistics were no concern, how would you to choose to live and what kind of work would you want?

I love this question because it frees us up to dream instead of being limited by our current circumstances and perceived limitations.

But when invited to do this exercise some folks are reluctant to even think about what they’d really like to be doing. Some find this difficult because their ideal seems so far from what they think possible that they’re afraid to imagine this better life.

But I find the discussion about one’s ideal life helpful. It inevitably leads to discussing what practical steps we can take NOW to improve our current situation, and what we can set in motion to move toward our dream future.

For example, let’s say you tell the Fairy Godmother you’d like to be performing internationally with a contemporary ensemble. And let’s say that you already have a group but you haven’t yet performed much.

Next question would be: based on what you’d like to be doing with your group, what would help you towards this goal?

So, do you need to gain more performance experience first locally? Do you need to gain media attention and press quotes to upgrade your promotional materials?

If so, you can start working on these goals one step at a time. And yes, it’s important to get feedback and advice along the way to make sure your immediate action steps and goals are appropriately aligned with your future goal and your current abilities.

Too many people spend their lives complaining about jobs they hate, instead of doing something about what it is they want. And yes, anything worth doing takes time and effort. If you’re looking for a magic bullet or to get “discovered,” then you are believing in fairy tales.

So I advise people to daydream first and then take action: you learn as you go and though your destination may end up different from your original concept, YOU will be the one navigating the course!

For this week: First, let’s declare this week a complaint free zone, and with that freed up time and psychic space, consider what work you’d like to add, change, or delete from your life.  So, . . . if a Fairy Godmother shows up and bonks you on the head with her wand, saying you could have the life you want, what will you say?

For info on working with me: details are HERE.
Monday Bytes archived posts are HERE.