How Busking Made me a Better Interviewer

How Busking is Like a Job Interview

In my secret other life, I am a musician. (Or, at least until I had a baby, wrote a book, and starting working a second part-time job, I was a musician.) I have two CDs out and used to perform in coffeehouses, festivals, and bars. I used to have serious stage fright, and still sometimes do, but one thing I did very early in my musical career helped me become a much better performer: busking.

Busking is the act of performing music in a non-musical setting, like a farmer’s market, street corner, or subway station. By its nature, busking is an intrusion into others’ lives. You don’t have permission to be singing on the street corner. In fact, you can sometimes get ticketed by the police for doing so. In some cases, you are also performing to a captive audience that hasn’t asked you to be there. Remarkably, even top musicians don’t always make good buskers, as was discovered by Joshua Bell inWashington,DC, who only got 7 people out of 1,070 to stop and listen to him.

Because of the many challenges you have to overcome as a busker, you learn quickly:

  • Not to take criticism too personally
  • Not to be too worried if people pass you by without tipping
  • How to reach out, using your voice, body language, musical instrument, and eye contact, to each person walking by, in such a way that they feel irresistibly compelled to connect with you
  • How to project your voice and musical instrument loudly enough to be heard in a noisy environment—and without electronic amplification
  • How to entice people to donate to you—by “seeding” your musical instrument case with a few dollar bills to make people think others have already donated to you.

How is this relevant to prepping for an interview?

By pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, you will become much more comfortable in interviews. For instance, once I did enough busking, I was much more confident in settings where I actually was  invited, like a concert performance or coffeehouse. After all, those people had actually paid to see me! I could be their friend! Similarly, if you do some cold calling, public speaking, theatre improve classes, etc., then when you actually go on a job interview you will be much more comfortable. After all, the interviewer has invited you in to the interview—they asked you to be there, and they must think you’re a good enough candidate to at least speak to.

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