Astrid Baumgardner – Photo Adrian Kinloch

5 questions to Astrid Baumgardner (lawyer, professional certified career coach)

I am very happy to announce that Astrid Baumgardner will soon start contributing to I CARE IF YOU LISTEN. Astrid is a lawyer, a professional certified career coach, and the coordinator of Career Strategies/Lecturer at Yale University, School of Music. We are extremely lucky to be able to publish her thoughts about what it means—and takes—to be a musician in the 21st century. I am sure that you will find her posts extremely valuable. But first, she agreed to answer our “5 questions…” -Thomas Deneuville, Editor-in-Chief

How did you transition from a successful career in law to a no-less successful career in coaching?

My career transition was a process that took a long time! I emphasize the word process because transitions do not happen overnight and one must be patient. In addition, successful transitions often involve taking a risk by trying out something new, taking small steps to experience yourself in a new role, discovering what works and then and building upon those experiences. I have developed a method in my coaching to help people initiate the process so that they can undertake the journey with the right attitude and the right skills.

For me, it started with the right mindset. I am blessed with a positive attitude and an optimistic disposition and I am very persistent! I had a fundamental belief that it is very important to find fulfillment in your professional, personal and creative lives and I was determined to figure out how to attain that fulfillment. I was always on the lookout for opportunities and did not wait for things to fall into my lap, but rather proactively pursued things.

In addition, I value my relationships with other people and over the years, I cultivated mentors as well as served as a mentor and resource for others. That made it a lot easier for me to build a wonderful mutually supportive network with which I credit much of my success. All but two of my many jobs came about because of my network.

Astrid Baumgardner - Photo Adrian Kinloch

Astrid Baumgardner – Photo Adrian Kinloch

In terms of how I made the transition, it was a process of combining my passions, my values and my strengths so that I have been able to align who I am with what I do. I started by following my passions. I love foreign languages and culture and was fortunate to learn French as a child, which led me to major in French and Spanish Romance Languages in college. I went to law school to be practical but after spending nine years at a series of traditional US law firms, I found that I longed for a better fit between my interests and my profession. Thanks to my network, I found an opportunity with a major French law firm that was opening an office in New York and spent 15 years at this firm.

Another passion of mine is music and the arts, which have played a vital role in my life since I grew up in a musical household and started piano when I was 5. Even though my work at the French law firm was more satisfying (as well as more balanced since I initially worked part-time and therefore had more time to raise my two children and spend time with family), there was still something missing. I realized that I needed to feel a sense of mission in my life. That inspired me to begin volunteering at arts organizations because I want to insure the place of the arts in our culture. My motivation was purely that of service but there was an important side-benefit: I developed a deep non-profit volunteer resume which enabled me to make a smooth transition from my French law firm to becoming the Deputy Executive Director of the French Institute /Alliance Française (another job that I got through my network!).

Another passion is learning. I need to feel that I am learning something every day, so I read a lot, take classes and listen to lectures in my spare time. That passion has informed my teaching, speaking and writing because I have picked up a lot of information along the way and I enjoy sharing it with my students, clients and friends.

In addition, I learned that you have a better shot at being successful if you play to your strengths and do what you are good at! I developed a whole new range of skills in my volunteer experiences with arts groups. Since transitions often involve taking risks, I took on leadership roles in these organizations with no prior experience. However, with my рcan-doс attitude, I figured out how to do things and learned a lot in the process. From my first experiences, I built up my leadership skills and when I was offered the Chair of the Board of the American Composers Orchestra, I had a fantastic opportunity to lead others around a mission I deeply believe in. I discovered that I could lead others with my positive outlook and my creative way of thinking strategically. I also thrive on creating new projects and programs and on making things better. Finally, I know what I do not know and welcome collaborating with others who have complimentary skills and talents.

Finally, I have a lot of interests, ranging from my family, friends, cultural activities, reading, travel and exercise. I used to wonder if I could ever combine my various interests and was perplexed at how I could unite these various strands of my life. The beauty of my current life is that I have been able to integrate these interests and align who I am with what I do.

In my current role as a faculty member and head of the career strategies office at Yale, together with my private business working with musicians and arts leaders, I feel that all of these elements have come together. I feel incredibly passionate about helping professional musicians and arts leaders to achieve success because that is my way of insuring that the world will be filled with great art. I am able to honor with my core values around relationships, learning, creativity and balance. And I get to play to my strengths every day in creating programs, teaching, coaching, writing and speaking. I feel truly blessed to have found my calling in life and I love helping other people to find their own calling.

What are the biggest challenges that your students face?

Today’s music students live in a complicated world. On the one hand, the traditional opportunities are not as plentiful as they once were and many of our major arts institutions are floundering. On the other hand, with the rise of the Internet, technology and new ways of doing business, there are tremendous opportunities for connecting with new audiences and creating one’s own opportunities. The reality for today’s musicians is that their careers consist of multiple activities and revenue streams and that they need to be proactive in creating and finding those opportunities.

Many students struggle in this environment, wishing that they could find a secure job like a tenured orchestra or a university teaching position. In addition, many students have been steeped in the notion that top conservatory graduates should pursue the traditional routes and they are not aware of the many other possibilities for making a living in today’s brave new world.

A common concern among students is how to make a living and earn money as a musician. In addition, like many young people, they are not aware of the basics of financial literacy, including how to avoid unnecessary debt, save money, plan for the future, obtain affordable insurance, invest and pay taxes.

Another common challenge is time management. Because musicians do so many things, ranging from rehearsing to performing to teaching to studying to building their networks and securing their finances, they often feel overwhelmed by all of these activities and experience stress and burnout from trying to manage too many things at one time.

Finally, while it may seem surprising to hear this about the students at Yale, many feel a lack of confidence and experience performance anxiety. Musicians as a group are trained to be perfect and while this can inspire them to perform at an extremely high level, it comes at a cost because the illusion of perfection can be crippling. Not only does perfectionism create a false standard that can never be met but it also often robs students of the confidence to be authentic, unique, creative and excellent.