If life were a movie, we'd hear flighty music as we stroll down the street. When we give a powerful speech, elaborate orchestral strings would swell and people would probably break into applause. When we fall in love, soft acoustic guitar would strum while we gaze into our sweetheart's eyes.
Sadly, life isn't a movie. We're not as pretty as celebrities, we don't have their bank accounts and the only person who wants our signature is the delivery driver asking us to sign for a package. And our soundtracks? At work it's the random coughs and sneezes of the sick guy two rows over; the incessant ring of a phone; the boss yelling at you.
Luckily, plenty of jobs exist that let you put on some headphones or turn on the radio so you don't have to hear those mundane and distracting noises. And we're not just talking about a select group of people. Workers in a variety of fields are bringing a little music into the workplace to stay focused.
Soundtrack for your imagination
If anyone needs music, creative professionals are the ones. Although you might immediately think of painters and writers, jobs that require imagination and creativity can be found in some unexpected places.
"I am a landscape designer, and [music] really helped with the creative juices," says Rebecca Ives of Gardens by Rebecca. "A co-worker turned me in to [online radio service] Pandora, but depending on the 'theme' of the design I am working on, I may stick in a CD or just listen to a local radio station."
Of course, artistic workers need some inspiration, and music seems to be an expected component of the job.
"I am currently working as a marketing manager [as a designer, writer and PR person] where it seems to be accepted without any problem," says Elise Roy of Business Health Services. "However, I used to be a lawyer and definitely noticed that it raised more eyebrows in that field because you're supposed to always display a more serious and professional appearance."
While appearances definitely matter in all industries, some are more forgiving than others. Emily Coleman works for Obviouslee Marketing, where her colleagues use Pandora and their own portable music devices to listen to music or public radio. Luckily, her workplace has plenty of private offices so that one person's music doesn't disturb others. Or so Coleman thought.
"I like to sing in my office, and until recently thought that no one could hear me," she says. "Last week one of my interns told me that she liked my singing voice, so at least I try to keep it down on that front, now."
Creative types aren't the only ones using music to get through the workday. Eugene Smolenskiy is a software engineer who worked at a mobile handset corporation and now works at a financial software firm. In both positions he used music -- and even a shock jock's radio program -- to help get the job done.
"My musical preference always centered around death metal and '90s grunge [and] alternative," Smolenskiy says. When he needs to concentrate more, he puts on Mozart.
For other workers, music is a way to find solace in a workday that can be tough to get through. For Bonnie Gerard, a business development specialist at Knowledge Institute, music combats frustrating encounters during cold calls.
"As you may suspect, I come across some not-so-polite people on the other end of the phone when doing sales prospecting," Gerard explains. "If I wasn't able to listen to music through the Internet to offset some of the harassment I get, I'd go nuts." Instead of going the headset route, she's hooked up speakers to her computer and listens to whatever music suits her mood.
Cherie K. Miller works at an Atlanta-area university and has relied on Internet radio since she began working there. For her, music is a necessary way to maintain some order on a campus full of 22,800 students.
"I use the music to screen conversations I shouldn't be overhearing," she says. It also keeps her on task and helps her bond with other people in the office. "I've had many people comment when they've sat across the desk from me that it's been years since they heard that song. And they go all nostalgic, which is kind of nice."
What is everyone listening to?
As you might expect, there is no one act or genre that is universally enjoyed by all workers. Ask people what they listen to at work, and you'll get a variety of answers. Here is what some professionals throughout the country are listening to:
- Pink Floyd
- Van Halen
- Leonard Cohen
- Tom Waits
- Earth Wind & Fire
- Steely Dan
- Kings of Leon
- Grateful Dead
- Britney Spears
- Celtic music
- Classical composers
- Contemporary Christian artists
Anthony Balderrama is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job blog, The Work Buzz. He researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/abalderrama.
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