Idea Formation, Entrepreneur or Career Exploration

Dear Taylor,
Last Monday, at the end of the class on entrepreneurship you asked a difficult question, how do I develop ideas? I have thought long and hard about this and have come up with suggestions for you – and others. And after I developed these suggestions, I realized that they can work whether you are seeking to develop a new idea (venture) or a new path for your career. Of course these could be the same thing! 

So here goes:
1. Zero in on your passion. Spend some time on this. What do you truly love about what you are doing now? Why are you doing it? What are the specific aspects about it that drive you, that give you energy every day?

2. Research related professions. Name 10 existing jobs that a person with your skills (piano in your case) can potentially do. Name 10 jobs that a person with your skills could potentially do.

3. Identify 5 reformers in your area of interest. Make sure that at least 3 of them are alive and accessible. Read about those who are deceased and interview those who are alive. Ask them what motivated them toward the reforms they are developing. Ask them for suggestions of others whom you could talk to.

4. Have at least one significant experience in another art form. Improvise for a dance class or performance. Accompany the theatre department’s musical. Study modern dance. Study improvisatory theatre. 

5. Interview 2 people who knew you when you were growing up: a parent or grandparent and a friend. Ask them what interested you when you were little, what you said you wanted to be when you grew up. Dig up your old school files and look them over. 

6. Go to live theatre. Go to the art museum. Go to art shows. Go to dance performances. Experience other LIVE arts other than music. Interact with the artists after the performances and exhibitions. Make friends outside of music.

7. Volunteer (more than once) at the SPCA, local food bank or other social service agency. Make friends there and invite them to your performances.

8. Find a mentor other than your piano teacher (although h/she is likely a wonderful mentor). Find a woman who has a successful career and life who is willing to meet with you and discuss your career thoughts. 

9. Pick an idea and try it on. Spend a week having decided on a career or entrepreneurial path. See how it feels when you tell your friends and parents what you have decided. Don’t wink at them in advance. Make the experience real.

10. Keep a journal, at least weekly, so that you can reflect and review how you have grown and changed. This growth pattern will teach you a lot about yourself and will help instruct you on your important choices.

Do ALL of these and you will find that you have plenty of ideas and thoughts about how to shape the next steps in your professional life.  Good luck!!

About the author

James Undercofler

Jim has been a Professor at Drexel University since May, 2009. His previous appointment - since August, 2007 - was as the President and CEO of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Jim was Dean of the Eastman School of Music from 1997 to 2007. He has played a prominent role in musical arts and music education throughout his career. Before joining Eastman in 1995 as associate director for academic affairs and professor of music education, he was an active, performing chamber musician as well as first horn in the New Haven Symphony. Jim serves as board president, American Music Center; advisory board member, Arts Education Policy Review; board member, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, New York State Association of College Music Programs and American Symphony Orchestra League, and is a founding member, NETWORK of Performing and Visual Arts Schools and Mercury Opera of Rochester.

Read James Undercofler's blog [l=]here[/l].