Most of us will get lost in music from time to time whether it’s for dancing, relaxation, or pure entertainment. The television and films we watch are characterised by the soundtrack. The advertisements we see use music as a sophisticated persuader, giving us clues to the nature of a product, and shaping the action we take. Whether a candidate has a specialised music education, or whether they play for their own enjoyment, there is a lot we can learn about a person from the music they make. What’s more, arts subjects play a vital part in developing a highly skilled work force and should be considered with the same level of importance as the STEM subjects.
So, why should we take notice of music on a CV? The simple answer is that the skill set which enables a musician to do what they do is broadly transferrable, from communication skills to analytical ability. It’s not just creative students who carry these skills, in fact students in all kinds of disciplines continue to enjoy a musical life alongside their studies. This is not just a great demonstration that the person has a broad knowledge and interesting hobbies, but that they are likely to have honed some important transferable skills along the way.
Performers thrive in creative teams, working towards a common purpose. Playing in a band or an orchestra is an act of precise and detailed collaboration with other members of the team. Of course, the many hours spent in solitary determination to master their instrument goes a long way to demonstrate an ability to focus and fully commit to getting the job done.
Composers are adept at solving complex problems, unpacking organisational structures and sets of rules, and then, in their own musical fashion explaining them to the listener. Fast forward to a role in business and they have all the tools to examine complex situations, to think laterally and to find solutions which others may not see.
Find a conductor and you have yourself a natural born leader. It’s not just a question of waggling a stick about. The ability to get a whole team of people to do the same thing at the very same time without saying a word is notable, but so too is the agile mind which can read numerous lines of music at the same time without breaking a sweat. Add to that the forward planning, the decision making, the confidence to choose an approach, to defend it, to follow your ideas, and you have a pretty robust starting point for a leader.
A printed score is a beautiful mathematical construction, working with patterns and shapes not only to convey data, but to convey emotional signals. This intrinsic link between music and mathematics has supported the development of engineers, statisticians, and financiers for centuries. As a language, music provides a means to communicate in an emotionally intelligent way.
Next time you interview a candidate who has studied music, either full time or as an enjoyable pastime, spare a moment to consider the rich set of skills they carry with them.
Dr Paul Abbott, Head of Events and Enterprise, Leeds College of Music