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“As a member of So Percussion, I am well aware of the struggles of the student musician leaving the “nest” of the university educational system. Most of what I learned on how to develop a career in the music field came from trial and error and first-hand experience. After speaking as a guest in Astrid’s class at Yale University, it became apparent to me that she was filling a void that needed filled desperately. Finally, someone was saying out loud what needed to be said to university students: “Your career depends on much more than just practicing and talent.” I wish her class existed when I was in school. Students taking her class are emerging from Yale armed for the real world ahead of them. Aside from her practical and hands-on approach to building a brand, she explodes with energy at every turn, inspiring you to sit up and take notice of every word she says. I have to say, I work with passionate people in the arts on a daily basis, and I have never come across anyone so genuinely excited to help people seek their highest potential. Yes, my experience with Astrid has been tied to the music business side of the world, but her energy, skills, and practices can and should be applied to anyone seeking to be employed doing the thing they love to do. If you have a job in mind that you couldn’t believe someone would pay you to do, Astrid can help you get there.”
— Josh Quillen, So Percussion; Bard College; New York University
I was very fortunate to make the acquaintance of career coach Astrid Baumgardner in the June 2014 Encore Transition Program at Pace University. All of us Encore students were exploring how we might create meaningful “second act careers for social good” for ourselves, and Astrid served as a wise, compassionate and enthusiastic counselor in the process. She guided us through many valuable reflective exercises to help us discover our personal strengths, identify our transferable skills, understand our core values, and identify our areas of life passions. Astrid’s open and direct style challenged us all, made us less afraid of the unknowns, and affirmed our new uncharted directions. We all gained a deeper self understanding and established life purpose statements and action plans through Astrid’s work. I wholeheartedly recommend Astrid for her career coaching skills. Her respect and love for people will become evident early in your introduction.
—Diane Coleman, Strategic Account Director, New York, NY
"Just at the moment I discovered that the field of life coaching existed a friend of mine referred me to Astrid and I was very happy to be among her first clients. Similarly the coaching sessions themselves have opened me to lot of synchronicity in my life. So often I have entered sessions with Astrid feeling overwhelmed and conflicted, and so often I come out of a session feeling aligned and empowered. It's wonderful how she can slice through so much of my confusion and assist in creating a sense of clarity. Astrid has boundless positive energy and at the same time is an acute listener. Though I feel I have a ways to go, I am quite aware that since I have been coaching with Astrid, I have maintained more consistent focus and spent more time doing the things I love than before. I have recommended her to friends and will continue to do so."
— KG, New York, NY
One of the most important tools for advancing your career is defining and using your personal brand. A brand is your vision of who you are and what you do for your audiences. It is a message that distinguishes you from your competition by expressing what makes you unique and memorable, so that your target audience connects with you emotionally and wants to work with you.
Defining your personal brand is simple using this four-step process:
Step One: How am I unique?
A personal brand articulates the specific qualities you possess that make you stand out from the competition. To begin, therefore, you must start by defining what is unique or unusual about you by answering these 3 questions:
1. What is your essence?
2. What are you like to work with?
3. What do people remember most about you and how would they describe the experience of working with you?
A duo-pianist couple I know are a good example. One is a solo pianist who enjoys the flash of being in the limelight; the other is a collaborative pianist who knows how to create powerful ensemble playing. They combine their essences to create thrilling, passionate and highly coordinated performances.
Step Two: How is what I do distinctive?
The next step is to look at how yourself as a whole and figure out how which you do is unique. Look at your interests, hobbies and preferences. For example, what do your three favorite books, movies or songs say about you? What would someone learn by knowing your taste in music, food or sports?
1. What are your favorite interests? What do they say about you?
2. How does what you do, combined with what makes you unique, distinguish you from your peers in your profession or field of expertise?
As an example, a professor friend of mine is a wonderful pianist and also a tri-athlete. Being a tri-athlete means that he brings intensity, passion and razor-sharp focus to his training; it also motivate him to train with a team since he loves connecting with other people. Those same qualities spill over into everything he does professionally and enable him to connect with and inspire his students and his audiences.
Step Three: Who is my target audience and why I am the best person to satisfy their needs?
Because creative artists do not work in a vacuum, the third step in creating a personal brand is identifying your target audience. This step is critical for two reasons: first, it validates that your unique gifts are commercially viable, and second, it helps clarify your objectives so you can map your career path as efficiently as possible. To complete step 3, answer these questions:
1. Who is your ideal target audience? Create a profile of one individual who exemplifies the qualities of the audience you would most want to perform, teach or work for in your creative profession. Write down a list of these qualities.
2. Rank these qualities in their order of importance to you.
3. Why are you are uniquely positioned to satisfy the needs of this audience?
Another pianist friend performs for small groups of music lovers in private home concerts in furtherance of his a goal to create the modern-day version of the Romantic-era salon. His target audience includes highly educated music-lovers who enjoy the intimacy of a salon recital experience. His outgoing personality combined with his expressive and deeply emotional performance style are uniquely suited to this venue and enable him to build his network of salon concert lovers.
Step Four: Why do I do what I do?
The last – and probably most important -- step in creating your personal brand is to commit to your brand on an emotional level in order to connect deeply with your target audience.
Ask yourself the following questions:
If the world were a perfect place, what work would I be doing?
In this perfect world, what am I achieving through my work?
In this perfect world, how am I impacting audiences?
These answers are your life purpose!
Our final example is a musician who is passionate about the importance of music in our world. In his Step 4, he saw himself in a perfect world creating lasting experiences for audiences who would in turn share their musical insights with their communities, thus expanding the reach of his music. This musician is fulfilling his purpose by producing intimate music festivals with many opportunities for education and interaction between the performers and their audiences.
Create Your Brand Statement
Put these elements together into the following template to create your brand statement:
I am a_______________________________
(musician/artist/lawyer etc – how you see yourself professionally)
(describe how you use your unique talents)
(describe your target audience)
so they can ____________________________.
(describe the desired experience you want your audience to have)
Here is an example of a brand statement:
I am a passionate, creative and inspirational musician who brings excitement, focus and leadership to open-minded, engaged and curious audiences (or students) in order to create a memorable experience they will want to share with their communities.
Congratulations! You now have a statement that crystalizes the essence of who you are and makes it clear to your target audience why they need you.
(C) Astrid Baumgardner 2010
I would be delighted if you should wish to reprint (for free) any part of this article in your newsletters, blogs, websites, and message boards. Please include the following attribution:
Astrid Baumgardner, JD, PCC is a professional life coach and lawyer, Coordinator of Career Strategies and Lecturer at the Yale School of Music and the founder and President of Astrid Baumgardner Coaching + Training, which is dedicated to helping musicians, lawyers and creative professionals take charge of their lives and experience authentic success. In addition to her work at YSM and her individual coaching practice, Astrid presents workshops at leading conservatories and law firms on topics including Career Planning, Goal-Setting, Time Management, Dynamic Communication, Conflict Management and Personal Branding and Networking. She is the author of numerous articles on the various aspects of how to achieve and live authentic success.