Career Advisor or Career Coach? How to Maximize Your Music Students’ Success by Being Both

As a music educator, career advisor, or music mentor, you have a deep passion for helping your students succeed.

But it’s easy to feel fenced in by the traditional methodology and rigid expectations of what it means to support your students.

You’ve probably found that your students require more than a list of job opportunities, interview tips, and professional contacts. They need your support, advice, and guidance to help them navigate their careers.

It’s at those times that you must shift from being an advisor to a coach.

Advising and coaching are two very different things. To help your students succeed, you need to know when to wear which hat.

Advising and coaching are two very different things. To help your students succeed, you need to know when to wear which hat. Click To Tweet

Beyond that, you must understand what it really means to coach your students. (No, it’s not just cheering them on!)

Here’s how to use coaching conversations to become a more effective teacher and mentor—starting today.

The benefits of improving your coaching skills

I recently returned from a week in residence at the Peabody Institute, as well as a visit to Eastman School of Music.

At both conservatories, I introduced students and career advisors to the unique brand of coaching we at iCadenza offer to emerging and seasoned musicians.

You might be surprised to hear that music career coaching benefits both educators and their students.

The benefits to educators

Embracing your role as coach is often an important milestone in your career. All your experiences, challenges, wins, and losses allow you to help students and mentees on a deeper level.

The benefits to students

For students, coaching provides an extra layer of support and empowerment. Coaches help students develop new skills, practice negotiation techniques, overcome their fears, and take action.

It’s powerful! (This is why we love to do this work with our clients!)

How to get into a career coaching mindset

Before we dive in, note that we don’t see coaching as better or more important than advising.

We at iCadenza do a large amount of advising as well!

Advising is necessary when students require specific information, like job market and career opportunities, guidelines on how to improve their resume, tips for how to interview effectively, and more.

All of this information is extremely important, and an experienced advisor can provide invaluable, personalized guidance.

Coaching is different. It’s about creating a space where you invite your student to explore their own thoughts, questions, and ideas and come to their own conclusions.

Through coaching, you help your students by:

  • Facilitating a breakthrough or lift a limiting assumption.
  • Helping them find clarity in the midst of confusion or uncertainty.
  • Encouraging them to hear their own inner voice in the midst of a lot of people influencing them (teachers, family, etc).
  • Listening and providing a space for them to think through complicated feelings or emotions.

As an educator, teacher, or advisor we think it’s vital to draw from both tool kits and assess your student’s needs moment by moment.

Do they need specific information or feedback on a particular document? If so, advise them as you see fit—no need to dig deeper (unless you see a valid reason to).

Do they need someone to listen to them, to help them expand their thinking, or to help them remove a block? Then shift into a coaching role.

The power of career coaching

An experienced coach asks questions that are carefully designed to help remove limiting assumptions and enable your student to step into action.

Think about students you’ve had who have all the information they need but still don’t act on it.

It’s because something (usually a fear or belief) is standing in their way.

Maybe they don’t have a clear idea of what they want. Or they believe that their many dreams are impossible and conflicting so they can’t fully pursue any of them. Or that they have to achieve a certain level of success before they’re “ready” to take a bold step.

All of these things can get in the way of doing the one thing that truly makes a difference: taking action.

How can you help your students see what’s really holding them back?

Going beyond the surface

Try this the next time a musician wants to talk to you about their career:

Before reviewing their resume ask them, “Where would you like to be in 5 years? Specifically, where would you like to be in your wildest dreams if you weren’t worried about constraints or practicalities?”

We at iCadenza ask this question to all the musicians we work with for a few reasons:

First, it helps us understand the bigger picture beyond a person’s resume.

Second, it helps us assess the level of clarity they have about their future.

Is this something they have thought about before? More often than not, this is a question that catches people off-guard.

By asking them to imagine the ideal version of their life, you can assess if they currently can allow themselves to dream big or if it’s a skill they need to learn.

In many cases, as someone starts to describe their dream future, they begin to qualify certain things they want in terms of what is practical or not. Gently remind them that this is the dream and practicalities don’t matter.

But here’s the most important reason to ask this question:

I firmly believe that a person can only go as far as the vision they can imagine for themselves.

You can only go as far as the vision you can imagine for yourself. Click To Tweet

Musicians hire iCadenza to help them achieve a professional reality that they deeply desire. But if the picture of what they want is blurry it’s harder to “get there.”

The more specific their vision of success, the more effective we can be as their coach, consultant, and in some cases, manager. I can’t help a client get to a destination that they can’t identify or imagine.

The same goes for you and your students.

If you see it as your job to support musicians in achieving their big, bold dreams—and you want to nurture and strengthen the dreams that they may struggle to believe in—it’s crucial to engage in coaching conversations to help them ignite the spark within.

Your turn

How do you think about the distinction between coaching and career advising?

Have you ever worked with a coach for your career? What was your experience like?

Would you like to experience coaching for yourself or learn how to provide it to your students? If so, contact us for a complimentary session.

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