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Rock-'n'-Roll Career Management

When I'm not dispensing career advice for TheLadders, I spend some of my free time working on Che Underground: The Blog, a site my friends and I founded to revisit our teenage years playing music in San Diego.

I recently did a bit of a mashup with an essay called "What I Learned from Bands" that comprises career lessons I took away from those formative musical experiences. Parents: Take note if your kid asks for an electric guitar or drum kit ... It could be her route to the C-suite!

Here's my list:

  • Human resources. I learned quickly that a drummer with space to practice was worth about a dozen aspiring guitarists, and I took up the bass because I realized there was far more demand for four strings than six. At school, the teachers assigned the places; you had to build a band from scratch and find the right person for each job.
  • Personnel management. Keeping instruments from flying took a lot of negotiation, and there weren't any adult referees to dictate manners.
  • Networking. Talking to club owners or the leaders of other bands required guts; you needed to have your elevator pitch down cold.
  • Operations. Overlooking a detail like spare strings could spoil a gig. It was one thing to cut corners on schoolwork, but the stakes were a lot higher when you were in front of a crowd of peers who'd paid upwards of $2 to see you play!
  • Financial planning. How to divide your $25 share of the door among five band members? Even-steven, or more for the guy gassing the van?
  • Exit strategies. Shows could get a lot rougher than school; playing while things were getting weird -- and knowing when to make a quick exit with all your gear -- was way higher stakes than any classroom education.