As some of our readers know, I lead a double life. On the one hand, I’m a respectable solo practitioner. I spend a fair portion of my day drafting contracts, reviewing complaints, and negotiating settlements. On the other hand, I’m also a record label owner and music blogger with a penchant for listening to underground “indie rock” music. On the surface, the two jobs appear to be very different from one another, but recently I’ve come to realize that many of the lessons I’ve learned working in one industry applies equally to the other.
For example, on any given day I receive between 20-80 new music submissions from artists who’d like to be featured on my music blog or represented by my record label. Nonetheless, I normally only post one new artist a day and release only one record a month. I try to give each artist/band a fair listen, but considering the volume of submissions I receive on any given day, I have to make judgments about the music very quickly. In other words, it’s a process not that different than the one conducted by a law firm when sorting through the hundreds of resumes they receive in response to a job opening. In fact, a good submission to my site would mirror a good resume submission to a law firm in nearly every important way. With that in mind, here are a few tips from a music blogger and record label owner to attorneys applying for a new job.
Albums (and Resumes) Are Often Judged By Their Covers
When I receive new music submissions in my inbox, I form my first impressions of the music by the visual elements of the submission. For example, when I’ve received emails written in hard to read yellow and pink fonts set against white backgrounds, I’ve deleted them without listening to the music. Similarly, I’ve received submissions with really uninteresting, bland album covers, and, although I wish I could say otherwise, I nonetheless immediately presume that the corresponding music will be just as boring. Conversely, when I receive engaging and well designed submissions, I’m often intrigued before I’ve even clicked play.
For me, a good album submission doesn’t need to be beautiful; it doesn’t need to appear professionally designed; and it doesn’t need to be loud or bold. It does, however, need to stand out in some way. It should immediately catch my eye and make me want to hear the music. Similarly, your resume should stand out and make the hiring partner want to take a look at your qualifications. If you are applying for an entry level associate position, there is a good chance that your resume will find itself sitting in a pile among hundreds of other resumes. There are no hard and fast rules, but I’d personally recommend avoiding the use of templates (unless you plan to modify the template), hard to read fonts, and any layouts that might cause your resume to simply get lost in the pile. You need to look like a competent professional, but you also need your resume to standout. It’s not easy, but you should strive to find a good balance between those two interests.
Lead With Your Hit Single
The music submissions I receive can vary wildly in length. Some new music submissions are incredibly long while some are no more than a link to where I can hear the artist’s music. Although I suspect some of my colleagues would warn against long emails, I’m not personally opposed to lengthy submissions. However, I do believe that the good stuff should be at the top. I want an easily identifiable link to the music at the beginning and, if the submission is lengthy, the most interesting and relevant information should be the first thing I read. That’s because I’ll probably only take the time to read the entire submission after I’ve decided that I’m interested. If I get bored, I’ll probably stop reading and move on to the next one. Similarly, an artist should never presume I’ll listen to their entire album. I won’t. I will almost certainly judge their entire album based on the first track that I listen to. In fact, I’ll only listen to the rest of the album if I like what I hear on the first track I listen to.
Likewise, you should always have your most interesting and relevant experience and information at the very beginning of both your cover letter and resume. I’d recommend mentally ranking every aspect of your resume from the most interesting aspects down through to the least interesting aspects. The most interesting and relevant portions of your resume should always be near the top. The least interesting aspects of your resume should be cut entirely or reserved for the end. Presume that the person reviewing your resume will only initially skim it before deciding whether they want to read it more carefully.
Do Your Research Before You Click Send
Aside from writing my own site, I read dozens of other music blogs on a regular basis. Each music blogger has their own unique focus and niche. For example, some music bloggers love music videos and share them regularly on their site. Similarly, some music bloggers love dance remixes of well known songs. And, other music bloggers love experimental music while others prefer pop songs. Bands will be well served to research a blog’s preferences before submitting. For example, I’m not really a fan of music videos and I can’t remember the last time I featured one on my site. In fact, when I go through my inbox each morning, the first thing I do is delete all of the music video submissions I’ve received. I don’t read the emails and I don’t watch the videos. I simply delete those emails in batches. I also feature very few remixes on my site. I’d rather feature an original song over a remix. So, with that in mind, it’s clear that bands that take the time to determine my interests and preferences have a higher chance of getting me to listen to their music in the first place.
Similarly, each law firm is unique. In fact, in my experience, each practice group within a firm is unique and has may have its own character. Before submitting your resume, take the time to learn about the firm and, if possible, the practice group you are applying to. Visit the firm’s website and, if they have one, their blog. Use tools like LinkedIn to research the team you’d be working with and the partner in charge of the team. Use the information you find to specifically tailor your resume to the position you are applying for.
There’s no question that it takes more time to prepare a thoughtful and well-written resume and cover letter. Nonetheless, it’s definitely worth the time. In my experience, bland and thoughtless resumes die in a filing cabinet, whereas a thoughtful and engaging resume can make you look like a total rockstar.
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