Managing Transitions for Music Entrepreneurs: Articulate Your Fears To Generate Solutions


clock-speaking-of-changeWith the end of the school year fast approaching, our students are leaving Yale to pursue new ventures, including doctoral programs, joining a military band, studying abroad, and starting their new careers in the freelance world. These external changes signal the process of transition: an internal process that people go through and the emotions that they experience when faced with change. While change is exciting and presents new opportunities, it is also scary and can also generate feelings of fear, sadness, frustration, uncertainty, disorientation, a sense of loss and even denial.

This was the subject of a recent discussion in our coaching groups at Yale where we discussed how to handle those feelings in order to manage their transition process. I have also had a lot of private sessions with students who are planning their futures as they leave the security of school to face the challenges and opportunities of the freelance world.

Managing transition is a process that can be converted into an exercise of planning and problem solving. Here is a 4-step process that our students found helpful:

  1. Articulate your fears
  2. Zero in on what specifically you are afraid of
  3. Discuss and brainstorm solutions
  4. Take action

Let’s see how this process helped to allay the fears and generate actionable solutions for managing transition.

Managing transition is part of being a music entrepreneur. Music entrepreneurs live in a world of constant change and are able to manage those changes by

  • facing challenges and persevering;
  • using context to respond rapidly to changes in the environment;
  • learning from experience;
  • consistently taking action, and
  • reaching out to others to ask for support and to offer help.

Our coaching groups and one-on-one coaching sessions provide a vehicle for exploring how to manage one’s fears around transition and act with the mindset of a music entrepreneur.

Here’s how:

1. Articulate and Narrow Your Fears

The fears that often rattle around in our heads may seem impossible to deal with. That’s why it is important to articulate your fears. By taking the fears out of your head and onto a piece of paper or sharing them with trusted colleagues, the fears do not seem so insurmountable.  And just by naming what you are worried about, you have taken the first step in solving your problem!

Moreover, if you zero in on what you fear specifically, the fear lessens even more. You can stare it in the face and then figure out what to do.

Our graduating students are grappling with a number of challenges but found that by sharing what they feared, the situation became a problem to solve as opposed to something pervasive, intangible and amorphous.

  • Finding a new community 

It often takes time to make new friends and feel comfortable in a new place. And even for gregarious extroverts who love new situations and making new friends, it still is an adjustment. You have established your identity and people know who you are. When you move to a new community, the fear is that you have to start from scratch.

  • Finances

Yale students are fortunate to benefit from a scholarship that covers tuition and provides a stipend. Some students who are continuing in school will now have to pay for part of their education. The students who are planning to freelance need to figure out how they are going to make enough money to cover their living expenses.

  • Logistics 

Closely related to finances is the overwhelming prospect of having to recreate your life. You need to find new housing, perhaps new roommates, new doctors, and different insurance plans.  You have to figure out what to keep from your old life and what to toss out. You will need to arrange for moving.  This generates a long and sometimes harrowing to-do list!

  • Being overcommitted as I explore new opportunities

Some students are excited about the opportunities presented by a new situation. Yet they are afraid of missing out on the “right” opportunities and feel that they have to explore and accept everything that comes their way.  This makes moving to a new city feel all the more overwhelming.

  • Not knowing how to jumpstart my career

Yet other students were unsure of how to jumpstart their careers. Their fear was that they were not doing the right things or even doing enough to get a their careers going.

2. Brainstorm Solutions

One of the benefits of talking to others about your worries —whether in a coaching group or in a one-to-one conversation– is that you have a partner with whom you can brainstorm solutions. This is particularly true in a group coaching situation where you have the benefit of multiple points of view. Here is how our students came up with some solutions:

  • Reach out to people you already know

When moving to a new city (or in some cases, back to the city where you previously studied), reach out to people whom you already know, even if you have not been in touch for the last few years. In every case, our students knew a few people whom they felt comfortable contacting simply to say, “I’m moving to New York after graduation. It would be great to get together.” If you make a list of the people you already know, you are likely to be pleasantly surprised by how many people you know. This is most helpful in allaying the fears that you will be alone and friendless. Moreover, you can ask those people for suggestions about housing, roommates, career opportunities in the new city, information about the music scene and other logistical questions that may, at first blush, seem baffling.

  • Create Your Career Plan

For students who worry that they do not have a sustainable career plan, it helps to go through the career planning process for music entrepreneurs.  Be sure to write down your goals and your plans. Not only does it make good sense but a recent study shows that people who write their goals are more likely to accomplish them!

  • Start by creating an inspiring goal—one that you are excited to accomplish;
  • Then, break that goal down using the SMART goal process;
  • Take weekly action steps towards that goal;
  • Identify your challenges and take actions to overcome the challenges;
  • Learn from what is not working, as well as build on what is succeeding;
  • Make corrections to the things that are not working; and
  • Examine what you enjoy doing and what you are good at and see how you can do more of that

By following a process, you convert the fear of creating your career into a tangible series of action steps that you can oversee and take charge of.

  • Make a Financial Plan

The same idea applies to the fear around one’s finances. Students found it very helpful to make a financial plan.

Start with your budget to assess how much money you need to make. Then, figure out your various revenue streams and how much income you can generate from each stream. Finally, make your plan based on your best assumptions and stick closely to your plan to see how well your estimates and assumptions match up to reality.

  • Zero in on your best opportunities

For those eager beavers who feared getting overcommitted by accepting every opportunity and being overcommitted, they realized that the fear was both a financial fear, as well as a fear of letting go of the “right” opportunities.

With respect to the financial fear, it helps to make the financial plan to see what you must earn. Then, evaluate prospective opportunities and accept those that satisfy 2 of the following 3 criteria:

    • Money
    • Career Advancement
    • Artistic Fulfillment
  • Learn to Say No

As for the fear of being overcommitted, just say no when

    • the opportunity does not advance your goals;
    • the opportunity does not align with your values,
    • the opportunity does not represent your passions.
  • Be patient

Sometimes, you need to let time take its course. This can help to manage the expectations in creating your new situation.

It takes time to create a network. Start now and expect that it will take a few months before you are settled in and know more people.

It also helps to make a timeline for your move to your new city. If you are anxious about your living situation, when do you need to be in a new place? If you are tied up this summer and will not be moving until the fall, you can make some initial inquiries now but it is premature to rent a new apartment now.

3. Take Action

After discussing these strategies, students felt a lot better! And they were committed to taking actions. Here is what they said:

  • I have more contacts in my new city than I realize so I will send out a few emails and schedule some calls over the next few weeks to touch base with the people I know.
  • I actually have a plan in place; now I just need to execute on my plan! My first step will be to contacting agents in my new city to create some career opportunities.
  • I will write down my objectives for the next phase of my life and commit to pursuing those goals so that I do not feel that I will be wasting my time next year.
  • I am committed to learning how to say no so that I concentrate on what I really want to accomplish.

I am proud of our music entrepreneurs and am thrilled that they feel equipped to handle the ups and downs of their transitions.

How about you? What can you learn about handling your own transition? If you think of transition as a problem to solve, it can go a long way to allaying those fears.