Prospective Music Teachers: Why Personal Branding Might Help You Land a Job!
“A brand is anything—a symbol, design, name, sound, reputation, emotion, employees, tone, and much more—that separates one thing from another.”
– Neil Patel and Aaron Agius
This is one of the most common job interview questions. In my past blogs on the subject of getting a music teaching job (see https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/category/marketing-professionalism/), we explored preparing for interviews, planning portfolios, developing stories/personal anecdotes of your strengths, defining criteria for the ideal music teacher candidate, and understanding the term “professionalism” as it applies to music education. Now to wrap-up your “marketing plan,” it is time to dive into “personal branding” as it is presented by quite a few experts in the field.
Branding is critical to help you “stand above the rest,” showing you have what it takes and would be a major asset to a prospective employer, and marketing your own unique qualities that would make you “a good fit” for the specific job opening. But you don’t have to take my word on this… a quick search on the Internet yields numerous articles on branding and marketing yourself.
The question is no longer IF you have a personal brand, but whether you choose to guide and cultivate the brand or to let it be defined (or assumed) by others on your behalf.
According to Shama Hyder, bestselling author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing, “The term branding has long been relegated to companies, but today almost every individual has a personal brand. Not many of us have consciously cultivated these brands, but they exist nonetheless. A digital footprint in the sands of time and space crowd sourced by friends, colleagues, and bosses. According to an AVG study, 92 percent of children under the age of two already have a digital footprint.”
- Start thinking of yourself as a brand
- Audit your online presence
- Secure a personal website
- Find ways to produce value
- Be purposeful in what you share
- Associate with other strong brands
You can learn something about branding from an accountant. In “Five Tips on Branding Yourself” (by the American Institute of CPAs) at http://www.aicpa.org/InterestAreas/YoungCPANetwork/Resources/Career/Pages/FiveTipsToBrandingYourself.aspx, steps are offered to help build a positive image and promote your professionalism. Branding helps “to remain current in your field, opens doors for you, and creates a lasting impression…”
- Define your brand and become an expert.
- Establish a presence.
- Generate brand awareness through networking.
- Remember the 3 Cs of branding – clarity, consistency, constancy.
- Get feedback from those who know you best—at work, at home, anywhere.
For #1 above, hopefully you have already read my epistle (see https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/marketing-yourself-and-your-k-12-music-certification/) on not limiting your options or selling yourself short as a music specialist (e.g. band director or elementary vocal teacher). If you want a job with a Pennsylvania Music K-12 Instructional certificate or equivalent, you have to be “expert” on all types and grade levels of public school music.
The music curriculum leader/department chair/lead teacher involved in the employment screening will want to know your mastery of creating lessons in everything from the foundations of “steady beat” and “matching pitch” to developing advanced technique and musicianship in any/all instrumental and vocal ensembles, including jazz improvisation, a cappella singing, and string chamber music.
However, principals, HR staff, and other administrators will likely care more about your classroom management skills, ability to communicate and work with others, personal initiative and willingness to work after school and in the evenings, record of consistent attendance (low incidence of absenteeism or tardiness re: college classes and other work history), and other personality characteristics. Believe it or not, at more than one interview, I was asked, “Since you call yourself trained as a musician, are you temperamental?”
The single most comprehensive publication on branding (and it looks like it is provided as a free service!) is The Complete Guide to Building Your Personal Brand by Neil Patel and Aaron Agius” at https://www.quicksprout.com/the-complete-guide-to-building-your-personal-brand/.
- How to Create Your Personal Brand Vision
- How to Define Your Target Audience
- How to Build Up Your Online and Offline Assets
- How to Build Your Brand Through Outreach
- How to Get Free Press Coverage
- How to Connect with Mentors
- How to Monitor your Brand
- Be Yourself Because Everyone Else Is Taken
After you peruse all of the above material on personal branding, here are my top ten “takeaways” specific to every budding music teacher.
- Your personal brand is everything about you – your values, attitudes, integrity, initiative, work ethic, skills, and personality traits.
- Remember, a career in public/private school education is based on very conservative values. Be cognizant of what you say, how you look and act, and the overall image you portray. “Everything you say and do (or have ever said or done) may be used against you…”
- In this profession, there’s no place for too much levity or a lack of respect for conformity, longstanding traditions, and the orthodox. At my first job interview, I carelessly made a crack about signing an outdated “loyalty” oath (“I promise I am not a communist and will not try to overthrow the government…”), the result of which the superintendent gave me a major tongue-lashing and a 20-minute lecture on patriotism (but, somehow I still got the job!).
- Clean up your social media sites (Facebook, etc.). A photo of you and your college buddies drinking “adult beverages” in bathing suits at a beach may be misinterpreted. Google your name to see what comes up. How would you define the content you see of yourself online?
- Create a personal website to warehouse the elements of your “professional brand,” including your philosophy of music education, mission, goals, and a digital resume of your education, experience, and accomplishments. If your college/university does not set you up with a free online site, explore “doing-it-yourself” with WordPress, Wix, or Weebly.com.
- The only social medium I can recommend without reservation is LinkedIn. Create and optimize your professional identity on LinkedIn, everything from getting an excellent photo of yourself to providing copious samples of your references, writing, hands-on teaching experiences, etc.
- If you have personal essays on your educational philosophy and vision, share your priorities as they relate to music curriculum, lesson targets, concert programming, assertive discipline, collaborative projects, and professional development, and always be ready for the most commonly asked interview questions (beat them to the punch by posting in writing your thoughts): Why is music essential to a child’s education? Why did you choose to become a music educator? Who had the greatest influence on you and why? What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses in this field?
- If you have time, design a personal logo, a symbol of you wherever you go on websites, e-mail footer, digital and printed portfolios, business cards, etc. Although I retired in 2013, I created the illustration at the above right. It implies that I am “a happy fox” (my last name), involved in music, and especially love a certain Beethoven symphony, reinforcing that I am an orchestral musician.
- Better than providing quick one or two-sentence answers to the interviewers’ questions, try to assemble a collection of personal anecdotes that dramatically illustrate your musical and teaching skills, critical thinking and problem solving, personality traits like patience, compassion, self-control, and thoughtfulness, and past successes. (For more information on developing story-telling skills, go to https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/08/02/when-it-comes-to-getting-a-job-s-is-for-successful-storytelling/).
- Whenever possible, archive your student teaching and other field experiences. “A picture says a thousands words!” Post short online video, audio, and photo examples of your positive interactions in music and with students in all kinds of settings.
One final thought. The best advice I have learned about branding is that it is all about “work in progress.” According to Adii Pienaar in “How to Build Your Personal Brand: The Next Step to Anything” (http://thenextweb.com/entrepreneur/2013/08/18/your-personal-brand-the-next-step-to-anything/), “Your brand is a living organism just like you are as a human and it needs to mirror the same kind of progression, evolution and maturation that you experience in your own life. Whilst legacy is important (as it gives context to your brand), continuous improvement and change should be part of how you shape your brand over time.”
He adds, “Your brand should make mistakes and you should have the opportunity to learn from them.” Just like a model college-entrance essay relating how you have persevered and adapted to life’s challenges and solved problems, your online presence should reveal your dedication to and steps towards self-improvement.
Finally, I echo Pienaar’s conclusion that there is no time like the present to get to work on personal branding: “Start today and brand shamelessly.”
© 2015 Paul K. Fox