Not A Paid Internship: How the Creative Wild Career Accelerator is Transforming Talent
We’ve all had hard realizations that our industry is broken in terms of finding, hiring, and training creative talent with diverse backgrounds and experiences. But Creative Wild, a CT-based talent accelerator, is taking a different approach to fixing it.The accepted recruitment, hiring, and training method, whether paid internships or entry-level jobs, is to invest — time, money, energy — in a small group of candidates who fit certain molds — education, portfolio, experience. The result is most commonly those who are privileged enough to reach this point and get through. They went to the right schools, bolstered their training in post-graduate ad schools, knew the right people, invested in spec portfolios and content, and are financially stable enough to continuously pursue this profession over many years. And then we wonder why our industry continues to lack diversity. Additionally, this "think small, hire small" recruiting method creates expectation and demand for only the best within this small pool of talent — perfection beyond possibility. It’s believed that if we as an agency or consultancy are to invest, we must minimize both our investment and risk, then we still hope for greatness. We call them rockstars, superstars, unicorns, Jedi, and ninjas, and we expect them to solve all our needs and deliver on all our demands. It’s quite foolish. So, we asked ourselves here at Digital Surgeons: instead of a small funnel of talent, where we only invest in a few interns and entry-level creatives but expect so much, what if we could broaden the funnel to leverage more inexperienced passion, giving more people the opportunity and access needed to launch their careers?
From Outdated Paid Internships to a New Talent Accelerator
It was about time we let purpose and passion open doors and then see what people could do with their opportunity. In our pursuit of making this happen, we met many young creatives who didn’t fit the traditional creative agency mold, and because of that they did what they had to do — they walked different paths and got other jobs. So, we had interested, passionate creatives who had to go do something else to pay the bills because the doors were already shut along the way. To join us would be a massive leap in faith in themselves and us. And that's rarely cost effective for a young professional. That’s why we decided to create a flexible, paid entry-level program that let them stay in their jobs while also giving us a platform to meet, test, and train creative talent as they discovered us. In essence, we brought in more people for less time, on their schedules, giving them the chance to get open access, collaborate, learn, grow, and start their careers, alongside industry professionals, while giving us the chance to meet more great talent we could hire right into emerging roles. Plus, we’re partnered with CT’s premier creative talent agency — Venn. With direct access to this emerging pool of creatives, Venn is able to place them faster to jobs, whether at Digital Surgeons or anywhere else, increasing opportunity, retaining more talent within the state, and providing access to more diverse talent for all companies.
Creating More Access For a More Creative Experience
Access has been the key word here, as in to give more people access across backgrounds, experiences, skillsets, curiosities, and communities — to open a door and actually let people in without the standard requirements or processes. But, while we don't require a portfolio, a degree, or any job experience, we do require passion. We opened the door, and have given access, but we do have one barrier to entry to join us: we test them with a simple challenge. It’s to be creative in getting our attention. How they get our attention is entirely up to them, and unique to them. We’ve had video submissions, custom comics, poems, raps, a laser-etched snack charcuterie board, and even a case of beer with messages on each can so that when they’re lined up it tells their story. Many apply, but interestingly only 1 in 30 applicants takes the challenge, and that shows us all we need to know about their passion and drive to be here and do this, and that’s the only thing we really need to know they’re ready. We’ll skip all the interviews and just teach them the rest.
Hands-on Creative Training is On Its Way
Now, we’re actively in our first Expedition, which is what we call our seasons or durations of time people are here with us. Consider it a paid internship that refuses to use the word “intern.” It’s more of a community-driven freelance and networking club. There are no coffee runs, no one being told to just “observe and learn”, and plenty of actual hands-on collaboration across skillsets, so they can build the portfolio needed for the next job, as they desire — to launch long, passion-filled careers.
It’s just the beginning of this journey, but we believe it will help people access careers they’re passionate about, so maybe we’ll all see less of this Great Resignation.