A guy I know is in his last year at med school, and unfamiliar with the ad industry, which I was attempting to explain to him when we came to the subject of brain drain. It's a fairly common topic lately, but he cut me off pretty quickly when I started explaining what it was.
"That doesn't match with what actual brain drain is," he said after I described the lack of talent available for today's diverse ad industry. Well, it's drastically short on certain skill sets, but that wasn't his point. Brain drain, or craniotomy as it's called, is when they stick a needle in your brain and literally drain out excess fluid. It alleviates pressure on the brain that, if not treated, basically turns you into a walking dead person. Though it's common to feel that way working in advertising, it certainly isn't an accurate description for what the industry is experiencing in terms of the dire lack-of-talent that's being discussed in press and at conferences. Widely so, might I add.
I work at the New York office of a mid-sized agency. Our office is not as large as our counterpart in California, and as it goes with small offices everyone here has a few different jobs. One of my unofficial gigs is to find talent who can knock out whatever challenge we're facing that day. Increasingly, I have to become craftier and craftier with how I do this - from seeking people out to conveying our needs to determining if there's proper alignment for the task at hand. I have no training for this, but have become quite adept at it. And if I can, so can you.
One thing I am certain of, there is no lack of talent as the brain drain stories would have you believe. Need a UX designer tomorrow? I've got one for you. How about a senior planner or a can-code-in-any-language-developer? Done. As with all things, you've gotta know where to look - and - more importantly, how to hustle.
Cue big overarching point: we don't need more talent, we need people who are looking for talent to put a little hustle in their step. We need to understand the arena, how it's changing and how to address the needs of our companies and the people we aim to help us accomplish our tasks.
To help you along, a guy named Brandon Burns (a former R/GA'er and current founder of two fantastic sites, favorly.com and badjer.com) is doing something no one else seems to be - working to define the various skills that agencies and start-ups alike are in need of. More on this later, but consider Brandon our expert - a human encyclopedia of what skill solves which problem.
We'll cover this a bit more succinctly in the next iteration of this series, but one example of a new type of talent is the brogrammer. This person is highly technical but revels in the camaraderie of the start-up scene. He's part frat brother, part mega-super genius who enjoys beer Thursdays and working on the coolest project in town. "You might have trouble keeping this person full time if your office culture "more bohemian...or a more quiet/heads-down environment," says Burns. But in the right environment he will kill it for you day in and day out. For comparison's sake, an alternative might be the "creative technologist" who skews toward the artistic end of the development spectrum. This person wants "an environment where people are sensitive to sharing ideas, nurturing, etc.," says Burns.
Brandon and I are, for the next few weeks, going to define these needs in detail and help you understand not only who you need to solve your problem but also where to find them and how to approach them. There's no secret to this, it's all about hustle. But why spend all that time learning how to define this stuff through conversational osmosis when you can just learn from us?
So stick around, come back, and if you have a specific need you'd like Brandon or me to focus on - feel free to say so in the comments or email me - mathewvanhoven at gmail dot com. By the end of this series you'll have what it takes to fill roles like the best recruiters.