Front Row: Office Hours

This year, we partnered with Columbia College Chicago for our Office Hours Career Development series where students from Columbia College and other aspiring young professionals joined the music industry readiness series that provides exclusive access to music industry experts, coaching, mentorship, and internship opportunities. Student and program participant Desiree Sokolgz shares her experience below.

I had no idea what to expect before joining Music Forward’s Career Development spring cohort. After months of searching and applying for music opportunities, I was highly discouraged. My hope of breaking into the music industry seemed to be a distant reality. The COVID-19 pandemic certainly did not help the case.

One of my mentors, Andrew Surmani, recommended that I keep up with nonprofit organizations for future opportunities. Specifically, Music Forward Foundation. As a fan of the House of Blues and Live Nation, it was a perfect fit. Some time went by before I received a notice that applications were being accepted for the Office Hours Career Development Series. When I first applied, the cohort was at full capacity and then a week later I received an email that space had become available with a confirmation to join. I was ecstatic for the opportunity to learn from industry professionals and network with students who have similar career goals.

The Music Forward team, DeMarco and Chelsea, leading the series were always lively and inviting while presenting information which kept the webinars engaging. For all of us students, Zoom has become an integral part of our days and at some point, meetings overlap and staring at a screen becomes tiresome. However, my experiences in the Office Hours Career Development workshops were never dull. Every meeting was structured with a clear goal in mind and most of the time we wanted the meetings to go on longer because we had fun engaging with each other. I also appreciated receiving the emails with materials before our meetings because I was able to look-up the industry professionals before each workshop and prepare myself.

In Office Hours, I felt confident learning from successful industry professionals while comfortable enough to ask questions. This allowed me to get the most out of the workshops, such as “Professional Pitch”. I learned how to create and deliver my pitch with the help of PR expert Debra Olshan-Cooper. I learned what brief information to include in my pitch such as my current job, career goals, and highlights/awards. Constructing my resume is also something I’ve struggled with for years. After editing my peer’s resume and receiving feedback on my own, I realized the importance of how you tell your story. My old resume was vague, but my updated one is concise with an active tone and quantified accomplishments. Thanks to the critique from my peers and Music Forward, I’ve received two follow-up opportunities for music internships, less than a month after completing the series!

My most memorable moment was the final “Meet a Mentor” workshop.

Jai Dior Hawkins, an artist manager and music business maven, was my mentor. Jai shared his experience, from being a student at UCLA to working for Bad Boy Records and Blue Flame Agency. Jai had amazing words of wisdom to offer. He encouraged us to be as multifaceted as possible in the pursuit of finding our niche.

When I asked, “What is the determining factor for long-term success vs a short run in this business?,” Jai answered, “Remain authentic and be yourself.

In an industry where everyone wants to be next, this simple advice is key. It’s easy to forget who you are or your “why” which is what mentors like Kristen Juel, Founder/CEO of Juel Concepts, encouraged us to hold onto.

Overall, my experience in Music Forward’s Office Hours Career Development series this spring has been pivotal in the beginning stages of my music business career. Now I can confidently network, deliver an effective pitch, present a stronger resume, have a better understanding of what it takes to be successful in this industry, and be connected to a talented network of peers.

I am extremely grateful to have participated in this series. I’d recommend this program to any student or young professional with aspirations of breaking into the music scene.

One final piece of advice I’d offer to future cohort members is to take notes, take initiative, and always remember to thank those who pour into you along the way.

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