Careers have been on my mind a lot lately. I recently gave up a job accompanying a choir full-time and a job teaching piano in favor of a full-time, assistant manager retail job. And I really don’t know why I did that.
It certainly wasn’t for the pay and probably not for the experience. I fell back on retail because the places where music took me weren’t a good fit.
The short of it is that I don’t enjoy practicing that much repertoire all at once, so a job in piano performance is not suited to me. I also don’t enjoy teaching, at least not from the very beginning. One thing I do love is giving presentations, which is teaching in a way, but it targets a specific audience with a predetermined level of knowledge in a subject.
My dislike for teaching baffles me. Growing up, people always told me I was so good at teaching, so I thought that’s what I had to do. I gave it a try, and here I am at square one again.
Perhaps I’m not starting completely over though.
At least I know where not to go. One thing to consider is the skills that make me a good teacher. These run deeper in each individual than the public is likely to notice. Thus, when I ask friends and family why they think I make a good teacher, their answer lies somewhere around, “You just have the personality for it.”
But what, in that personality, makes me a good teacher?
Through the experience of trying a multitude of jobs, I have come to the conclusion that I am an effective communicator. I possess the ability to present any idea, regardless of complexity, in a way that anyone can understand. That skill lends easily to public speaking, management, publishing, writing, music, and yes, teaching.
That’s the point of this lesson: skills are transferable.
A kid that’s good at soccer doesn’t have to find their career in athletics. Perhaps that person is a good forward in the game due to their aggressive nature: they go after what their team needs. In this example, it’s the ball. In their future, the target might be a merger in the business world, or a bigger budget for a school arts program. It might even be a flight to the next destination.
Most of the time, we have to identify these skills on our own. We are the only ones who can answer the deep “Why?” underneath people’s accolades of our so-called talents.
Now that I understand the reason why people tell me to teach, I can confidently say, “Teaching is not for me.” I no longer feel obligated to teach. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on my true calling, whatever that might mean.
I could write stories, make music, pursue business, become a scientist that publishes sound papers of discovery, and so much more. I feel like a kid again, the whole world before me like a map with so many paths to discover and many more skills to understand. Even though I have yet to find my fit in the world, I am hopeful that I will find it.
Never stop asking why. It’s never too late. Become that kid again. Maybe you won’t find your place immediately, but you’ll begin the journey to finding your role in the world.
If you have any advice regarding careers or finding one’s place in the world, please share below! You’ll help many people by sharing your story.
About the Author
Amy King is a music theory and piano instructor currently residing in the Chicago area.
She holds a Master of Music in Music Theory and Cognition from Northwestern University (June 2020) and a Bachelor of Arts in Piano Performance and English Literature from High Point University (May 2016), where she received the Outstanding Senior Music Major Award, which is awarded to one single graduating music student per year.
Amy has been teaching private piano lessons for 12+ years, taught classroom music theory for 5 years, directed choirs spanning ages 4–25, led and arranged for a university a capella group, and composed and arranged music for various soloists and ensembles.