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If you want to make a living as an audio engineer you need three things: a good ear, the latest skills, and a steady job that pays you to do what you love. It’s that last part that’s tricky. Listening is fun. Learning is hard work, but rewarding. Looking for a job? That’s just depressing. But before you give up, keep reading—because you may have been doing it wrong.
When you want to make the leap from being creative to being a creative professional, there are a lot of pitfalls. Sometimes the things we want to do actually make it harder for us to find work, pushing our dreams out of reach. But it’s not too late. Stop doing these three things today, and you’ll start making progress towards making the career you really want.
You’re getting serious about recording and mixing. You’re looking to up your game, and do something big. Your friend has a band looking to record an album, and they need an audio engineer to help produce it. Just one catch—and by now, you know what it is: there isn’t any money. They tell you it will give you exposure. You tell yourself it will be a good thing to put on your resume. You even imagine if they make it big, it will lead to connections in the music industry. And it will: for them, not you.
If your friends sign with a major label, their next album is going to be produced by someone else. Meanwhile, you’re still looking for a job. They probably don’t even realize how much you contributed to their sound, because you did your work seamlessly, and they didn’t pay for it. The only kind of job that leads to paying jobs is a paying job. People who pay audio engineers understand the value of their work, and are the kind of people who will recommend you to other people. You can still help out your friend’s garage band, but do it on the weekends, and don’t stop looking for real audio engineering jobs.
Everyone knows the catch-22 of the industry is that you need experience to get a job, and you need a job to get experience. How do you break in? The answer is: think small. You have skills, you may even have a degree, so you think you need to aim high, and taking a lowly job as an assistant will set your career back. But that’s exactly how most careers are launched, no matter how good you are. Even if your title’s not prestigious and the pay isn’t where you’d love it to be, it’s important to get a job that does pay so that you can get your proverbial foot in the proverbial door.
Working as an assistant, even if it is just backing up files or moving mic stands, is the way you start making connections with the people who can advance your career, and it gives you a chance to learn the ropes in a way you can only do on the job. The job may not seem important, but if someone is willing to pay you, that means it’s important enough to start meeting the right people, and making the right impression. If you want to climb the ladder, you’ve got to start at the bottom, but don’t worry, things only get better from here on up!
Everyone’s got a dream. That’s why you get into this business. That’s why you work hard, and study harder. Dreams can be powerful motivators, but they can also become obstacles, if you become so focused on one thing that you overlook other options around you.
You might have started studying audio engineering because you wanted to work on mixing sound for award-winning movies, not jingles for commercials or soundtracks for video games. These might not be “your thing” and they certainly aren’t your dream, but they’ll give you a chance to launch your career. They also provide a good opportunity for you to expand your own skill set, since different jobs force you to pay attention to different details.
If you’re really serious about a career in audio engineering, or even if you’re just an audiophile, you might want to check out the professional audio engineering program at BEAU, where you can earn an Associate of Applied Science working with professional audio engineers using the latest technology. If you want to learn more about the programs BEAU has to offer, you can read more at the BEAU website, check out our YouTube channel, and don’t forget to follow the BEAU Blog.