The increasing precarity of arts academic jobs, combined with a much needed focus on equity and decolonisation, are de-privileging and destabilising the experimental music tradition and contemporary composer identity. As a result, composition departments are pursuing a paradox: scrambling to focus on specific marketable skills while also broadening the genres taught. After teaching in a composition department, a generalised arts department and a prison college programme, I describe methods to provide skills training for students interested in different genres, even if those genres are not the specialty of a department's faculty. These include: (1) discrete ‘levels’ of creative thought, from high-level questions of art's purpose to ground-level skills training; (2) creative process assignments, in which students plan and document their way through a prompt, developing a practical discipline into which desired skills can be incorporated; and (3) formal spaces for students to learn from each other, one-on-one, getting deeper into the similarities and differences they have. The goal is to empower students not simply via marketability, but by developing a sense of vocation without tethering creativity to employment, so that students may more realistically and more potently design their own lives in music.