Tuning Up a Career in Music Making

After a reorganization that eliminated his job, Chris Anderson wondered if he could turn his hobby of guitar playing into his work.


A lifelong musician, Chris Anderson had always kept his personal interests and his professional life separate, until a layoff gave 49-year-old Anderson the opportunity to combine his passion for music and the guitar with his extensive management skills.

In October 2008, Anderson was the national director of shopper marketing for Pepsi Co. and based in Danbury, Conn. In a reorganization, Anderson’s job was eliminated and he found himself without work just a few short weeks before the hectic holiday season.

A sour note

“Myself, my boss and my colleagues were all let go effective November 1,” Anderson said. With the holidays approaching and many organizations reluctant to hire, he felt he should take time to reconnect with family; friends; and hobbies, including his guitar playing.

“I did update my resume and submit it to various online job-aggregation sites, but it was rough,” Anderson said, “I took a lot of time over Thanksgiving and Christmas to get my thoughts together and decide how I was going to attack the job market after the new year.”

Anderson’s decided to resist the urge to jump at the first position he could find; instead, he said, he thought long and hard about the type of work he wanted to do and how he could integrate aspects of his interests with that work.

Striking a chord

“The first thing I did was assess my skill set and not look to find the same kind of job I had before,” he said. “My thought process was, ‘What can I take from my life experiences and my previous jobs? How can I apply those skills and interests to other industries?’ ”

His second step was to reach out to his community. Anderson and others who’d recently become unemployed formed a social network of people that would meet each week.

“Quite a few people in my area were affected, and we’d have informal meetings to provide not just networking and swap leads and connections, but to support each other,” Anderson said. The job search was infinitely more difficult than any project Anderson had ever tackled at work, he said, and he quickly amassed a variety of different resumes and cover letters for a wide variety of marketing and management jobs.

He also continued reaching out to recruiters and networking within his personal circles, as well as joining MktgLadder. Anderson used Ladders’ resume-critique service and found that the advice he read on the site was applicable to other online job sites he frequented. He said he was able to extrapolate many of the lessons learned from Ladders and use them to differentiate himself from other job candidates both on his resume, cover letter and during interviews.

“You know that so many other people are affected by job losses, and they’re also out searching,” Anderson said. “It’s going to be really difficult for your name to pop unless you can elevate yourself above the rest of the pack.”

A smash hit

Anderson’s diligence paid off when he landed his dream job, global product manager for Gibson Guitars, based in Nashville, Tenn. Anderson said it was a position well worth waiting for and that it will allow him to incorporate his management and marketing skills with his passion for music and his lifelong hobby.

“This is an opportunity to get paid for something I love, and I’m so glad I had the patience to really think my priorities through before I got into the search,” he said. “I had the patience to wait and make sure I was getting the right job for me, not just taking the first thing that comes along.”

Though Gibson Guitars went through a downsizing of its own in late 2008, Anderson said he feels the company’s long-term prospects are still good. From his perspective, with more guitarists and hobbyists spending time at home, demand will remain steady. Anderson also said that Gibson is finding new business opportunities in emerging markets like China.

In April 2009, Gibson introduced its Raw Power series, which offers stripped-down versions of the company’s most popular guitar models. The series comes at a great time for the company and is aimed at boosting sales in a slumping economy.
Anderson will relocate to Nashville to begin his new position in April.

“I know I can work hard, make a good impression and work my way up,” he said. “I am thrilled but also aware that in this economy, I am one of the lucky ones.”