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Updates from the Real World: Turning Down Work?!

0 Zachary Preucil

imgres-25Greetings, everyone! This is the latest installment of my irregular, infinite-part quasi-series, “Updates from the Real World.” Things have gotten quite busy out in these here parts-a spring concert is already on the horizon in one of the programs I teach at (ironically, our last rehearsal had to be cancelled due to a snow day) and workshops, solo recitals and more are soon to follow. The busyness is further increased owing to the fact that I am now teaching in five different locations, none of which are in the same town. As a result, I’ve spent lots of quality time in my 2015 Honda Fit, becoming intimately familiar with Chicago’s main expressways and the WBBM radio station. It’s not always an ideal schedule, but it most definitely beats living in a box outside the Eastman School of Music (a prospect I had nightmares about last year).

With everything going on teaching-wise, plus my ongoing work for my baby, Musicovation.com, I’ve found myself having to actually turn down work. Back in August, I never would have imagined doing such a thing-with debts miles deep to my cherished alma maters, how could I possibly turn down anything?!-but when considering the impact an added commitment would have on my already hectic schedule, I’ve come to recognize that there are only so many hours in a day. Sure, maybe in theory I could get from one end of Chicago to the other in time for a rehearsal or meeting, but at the cost of skipping dinner, racking up additional fuel costs (despite the Fit’s stellar mileage), and rescheduling three students. I could agree to teach a few students one day a week in yet another location, but could run into a scheduling gridlock if my other students had an important concert that same day. I could commit to serving in an organizational capacity for an upcoming concert, but things could get dicey when I’d have to prepare for the event in addition to my own projects and classes. These are the questions and scenarios I’ve had to consider, and I admit that it hasn’t always been easy opening up my iPad to write the “thanks, but no thanks” response.

That said, I’m happy with where I’m at, and don’t regret having not pursued the offers I’ve said no to thus far. I learned in college that maintaining balance in one’s life, both mentally and physically, is critical to success. More than once, I’ve witnessed a colleague succumb to the fallacious “sleep is for the weak” principle and dive headfirst into a multitude of various activities, only to emerge completely exhausted and having done a half-job on everything. It’s important to allow time for breaks and recreation, because you will do a much better job at whichever tasks you find yourself engaged in as a result. Loading up on caffeine and other stimulants might give you a boost in the short term, but down the road, you’ll thank yourself for not becoming dependent on them. Trust me, you don’t want to run on Dunkin.

Of course, when you do turn someone down, you want to do it tactfully and respectfully-after all, you never know when you’ll revert to “starving artist” state in the future and be in need of assistance from this very prospective employer. An appropriate “rejection” email or phone call should express your gratitude that the person thought of you, explain the busyness of your present schedule, recommend some other people to try (who will instantly become your new best friends), and indicate your interest in possibly working with the person in the future (unless it seems like a really sketchy gig, in which case a simple “Best wishes” will suffice-for more on this type of etiquette, see my recent post, “The Email Protocols“). Take the time to write it well; a quick, abbreviated reply from your iPhone will guarantee your placement on the person’s “never ask again” list (and believe me, those do exist!).

Screen shot 2015-02-24 at 6.54.23 PM

How NOT to respond to a prospective employer.

Well, that’s it for this latest update. Check back next time to learn about how I survived the spring concerts, workshops and/or taking the Fit to the car wash.

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