Introducing Ohm: the talent agent for your career

(Summary: Ohm is a new, free way to connect with emerging and established professionals in the media & entertainment industries. Our beta is now live at www.takeohm.com)

 

Over the past few months I’ve had several conversations with people trying to figure out their next career move or seeking to understand the workings of a new space they want to enter.

Some of these conversations have been with good friends, but most have been with people who got in touch cold or are recent acquaintances.

Whilst what they do and where they’ve come from has been pretty varied, I’ve noticed a few common threads appearing in all of these conversations.

How do I know this move is a good one?

How much should I charge for this work?

What are the potential risks if I make a deal with this person?

How do I show I can make an impact in an industry I haven’t worked in before?

What’s the equivalent of what I do in a similar field? What can I learn from that?

When should I break out on my own?

Why am I bothering with this?

There are of course various types of services available that can help answer some of these questions.

Recruitment agents are usually instructed by a company to help find candidates to fill a vacancy in their employee base. Sometimes agencies will also act on behalf of talent, usually focused on a specific skill set or role.

If you’re a creator there’s a good chance of there being a talent agent out there for you. Electronic music producer, novelist, keynote speaker; agents are there to represent you and secure gigs and opportunities. As with everything, some are terrible and some are wonderful. The best are highly strategic and can add a ton of value. The tricky bit is that they’re usually found upstream working with the big names in the space, and they tend to focus on creators selling packaged IP or experiences ahead of working professionals.

I’ve talked about mentors quite a bit on these pages before. Good mentors can be hugely valuable. The challenge is finding the good ones, then reaching them and forging a connection that can last. The first two steps here are especially tough when you’re out doing your own thing.

Executive coaching is on the rise, and for good reason. Like mentors, a great coach can make a huge difference. Again, the best aren’t often readily available, their time is limited and to get the most from them you’ll need to commit long-term. And how do you find a coach that’s right for you anyway?

 

These services all have very clear merits, but around each there are noticeable gaps between which many people seem to be disappearing.

What if you’re not really looking for something as clear cut as a job with a specific role specification?

What if you don’t fit the profile of a creative talent that an agency would sign? 

What if you’re trying to find your way in this new economy of entrepreneurship, freelancing, remote working, and partnering with a wide variety of people and organisations?

For a while I’ve asked myself the question of where the talent agent is for the emerging creative business person: a professional who’s honing their craft, figuring it out, maybe switching from one lane to another? The shape-shifter who doesn’t fit any of those drop down lists on forms for mortgages, jobs and conferences? (You know the ones I mean – they offer a strictly limited number of roles or industries you could possibly ever work in, and let you choose only one option to box yourself into).

We’re now in a world of seemingly unlimited choice and low barriers to entry, but it’s harder than ever to break through and easier than ever to suffer from the lows that come from confusion, slow progress and status anxiety.

Perhaps that support option is already out there, but if it is I haven’t seen it yet.

So rather than do nothing, or just write more about it, I’ve created a small something to help bridge this gap, develop understanding and facilitate ideas, conversations and opportunities amongst like-minded souls.

 

It’s called Ohm.

It’s not as commercially-focused as a talent agency, more holistic than a recruitment firm, and lighter touch than a coaching practice.

I don’t know exactly what it will be yet, but for now it’s made up of a group of like-minded people who have been around the block a bit, looking to help others find their way.

We pair up this group of industry practitioners and professionals with people who want to learn, discover, get unstuck, or just chat. We let the conversations go where they need to. That’s it.

Whilst we’re designed mainly for people in the early stages of their career (i.e. less than 8 or so years experience), it doesn’t really matter whether you’re just starting out or have racked up 30 years in the industry.

If you want to discover something new, make sense of what’s going on around you, join the dots, or get towards that next step in your career journey, then we’re the place for you.

If there’s something more deep-rooted or serious in your life that you want to talk about, we’ll refer you to certified experts who can help.

 

You can request a connection with someone here.

And Ohm is completely free of charge to you. That’s thanks to our group of volunteers.

If you feel you want to help others on their journeys and join our volunteer group, you can apply here.

 

Right now this is still an experiment. It may fail. I don’t even know what success really looks like yet – I guess I’ll find out as we go.

I hope you can join me.

 

 

PS. Big hat-tip to the guys over at OOOHours. I’d had this idea for a while, only on seeing their simple, smart execution I got the inspiration and energy push Ohm out into the world.

What gives you away when you least expect it?

As documented previously, I’ve been doing boxing training for the last 4 years or so.

My classification is (just about) heavyweight, and whilst I certainly won’t be troubling Anthony Joshua any time soon, I do love the mix of fitness, discipline, skill and movement the sport provides.

Leaving London I knew one of the things I’d miss most were my weekly training sessions with the stern but softly spoken Paulo Muhongo. After a bit of time getting settled in New York, I joined Work.Train.Fight down in SoHo.

Rolling up there at 10am on a Sunday morning I had a feeling I was a bit rusty and the US food portions had taken their toll, but class number one was even more of an eye-opener than expected.

Under the tutelage of trainer Chris, my class partner John and I toiled on the spin bike, cranked out a few burpees and did a few shadow boxing routines to get warmed up. After 10 minutes I was drained and realising just how much one’s stamina can drop after a few weeks of relative inactivity (putting together flat-pack furniture clearly does not count as exercise, despite me trying to tell myself the opposite).

Far from being a sadistic cardio massacre though, Chris took us down a far more technical route that I anticipated.

Before we’d even got the gloves on, he was onto me – nudging the left hip back, tilting the chin, checking my feet. Observing every micro movement, what I thought was a reasonable boxing technique had been quickly deconstructed to be rebuilt almost from scratch. I was off-centre, off-balance and as of now, off the burritos.

Trying to keep my frustration in check, I took his feedback on board and got it back together again.

He threw a few encouraging words my way and then from nowhere – “hold it!”.

“Look at your reset. Look. It’s a give away, a tell tale sign.”

At first I didn’t know what he meant. I carried on what I was doing in the mirror to figure it out, and then I realised. Every time I threw a combo or even defended myself I reset back to my starting position in exactly the same way; back foot half a step back, small slide with the front foot. I could be as varied or unpredictable as I liked with what I was doing consciously, but my unconscious mind was resetting to my starting position to what felt safe, comfortable. The start position should be standard, but the route to get back there shouldn’t.

A skilled opponent would notice this and exploit it, just like a hypnotist can put someone into a trance by interrupting patterns from learned behaviours, like a handshake. The one thing I hadn’t given thought to was what would be my downfall.

It got me thinking – what other reset habits do I have in my life, and to what degree are they telegraphed?

Often these resets cause us no harm, but in which situations would having an obvious reset pattern be detrimental? Playing a board game, negotiating a business deal, writing a blog post?

And we’ve all got them. What are yours?

 


 

If you like to box, come and find me at Work.Train.Fight on Sunday mornings – I’ll be trying to reset in a way Chris hasn’t seen before.

How to map your next career move

About 9 months after I graduated from university I moved to London.

When I wasn’t watching World Cup games on TV during that boiling hot June of 2006, I went to interview for what would be the first ‘proper’ job of my career.

Most of the interviews were at companies that sounded really cutting-edge and innovative, but in truth I couldn’t really tell exactly what they did.

Mobile WAP marketing, ecommerce analytics, hypermedia experience designers; these were all new terms to me. I’d never heard them uttered during my 3 university years where we did modules in everything from web programming to TV production and motion graphics. Sometimes these titles and concepts began to connect and made sense to me, before slipping away again just as quickly as they arrived. I knew I wanted to do digital but what did that mean exactly?

I found myself bumbling and stumbling through interviews, and although I somehow got a couple of offers, my instincts told me something didn’t feel quite right so I continued my search.

After a pretty long slog I got offered the chance to interview at an advertising agency for a role as a Digital Producer. Again, I didn’t exactly know what this meant but after that first interview something just clicked in my mind; this felt more like it. It was a relief to find that that right fit, but for one question lingered:

Why did it take so long to find a role I was well-aligned to?

Looking back now, my best answer is the most obvious one: I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.

I’d say this is pretty normal at 22, and if you really do know exactly what you want to do by this age you’ve either done extremely well or you haven’t had a wide enough range of experiences yet (in which case, sample some more)

Digging one level deeper into why I took a while to get going, the underlying reason for my confusion was I had very little grasp of the industry landscape and how the companies, niches and sub-sectors really worked and intersected.

The process I went through that first summer as well as a couple more similar experiences in subsequent years taught me the value of one key asset to have on hand when seeking a new role, especially when it’s your first in that industry.

The map

When I was about 12, at an age where the cuttings from football magazines had gone but the posters for electronic music events had not yet appeared, my bedroom wall was covered by maps of the London Underground (Yeah, I know…)

Later, this evolved into an interest in data visualisations and infographics too, but the thing I’ve always loved most is a map.

Maps come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and there are tons for creating mental models, but the one that I believe is most useful to getting your next job is a simple taxonomy of the industry you’re exploring.

In recent years I’ve interviewed a lot of people for entry-level roles in organisations, and the most common advice I have for them is to make themselves a map. By understanding the simple flows of knowledge, money, data and value via a simple visual, the chances of being able to grasps the fundamental inner workings of a company or industry increase dramatically. This is good for you, and good for your employer or client.

This guide is intending mainly for people finding their way into the world of work for the very first time – however I still use the technique regularly when I’m trying to understand something new, and I have a bit of grey in my hair now 🙂

 

How to make your map

There are lots of industry taxonomies available for free online. I suggest getting a couple and re-drawing them to your needs on a few big sheets of paper.

You’ll probably have lots of gaps — that’s ok, you can fill them in later as you learn more. Here are the basic steps to take.

Map 1: The widescreen view

  1. Draw out the key sub-sectors you already know about (i.e. for Photography, a key sub-sector would be a Camera Manufacturer)
  2. Add the names of the major players in each sub-sector
  3. Join the dots. Draw lines between the various areas you’ve sketched out; who provides goods and services to who, which companies are connected directly to end customers and who controls the various parts of the value chain. Use dotted lines where you have a hunch but aren’t sure, or a different colour for a connection that could happen in the future. You’ve now got some flows you can look at.
  4. Do some further reading and research to learn the basics of how 2 or 3 of these flows work – if in doubt follow the money
  5. Find someone who will listen to you briefly explain how a couple of typical examples work from start to finish, including the weird kinks or problems that happen along the way. The person you speak with should have zero specialist knowledge of the sector and be able to grasp your explanation without asking more than a couple of basic questions. Redraw your map for them too.
  6. Did they get it? Good!

 

Map 2: Time to starting your modelling career

_CiESZBh

No, not that kind of modelling (unless you’re getting into the fashion business)

  1. Take map 1, and add in the names of people you know, or know about, who are connected to companies in the space
  2. By now your map could be a bit hectic – if so grab a particular flow or series of connections and blow them up onto a new sheet. Choose areas where you possess skills, what you’re good at, and/or find interesting (a decent guide for this is looking at areas that are a little bit niche or nascent now but you think are getting more popular – an example in the audio industry could be Artist-branded voice assistant apps)
  3. Look at the people you’ve listed and see if any of them are connected to the intersecting points of interest you’ve identified. Hopefully you’ve got a few of them covering various points.
  4. Put yourself in their shoes – what are they doing each day? Who’s on their team?Which technologies are they using? Who are their company selling to? Where’s the pressure coming from? You’ll make a few assumptions here, but for now that’s fine.
  5. Run this for a few people and match it back against your skills and interests. You should see at least a couple of commonalities. If not, look at another flow, company or person.
  6. These common points are a good place for you to start digging deeper: it could be designing training programs for semi-pro eSports players, managing small teams of AR developers, or importing cacao snacks from the US to Europe. Make another little map of this if you want to.
  7. Optional: Depending on where you’re at you in your journey you may want to make contact with some of the people you’ve been modelling. If you don’t know them, have a look at their LinkedIn profile, Twitter or personal website if they have one and see what else you may have in common. You may be surprised – I’ve found Crystal Palace fans in the most unlikely of places.
  8. Writing emails asking for advice are a whole other subject (there are lots of posts online about this), but simply: briefly explain who you are, why you’re interested in the industry/area, and frame one key question with what you’ve learnt from your map to prove your genuine interest and curiosity in the space, and in particular a commonality you discovered. Hopefully you’ll get a useful response and some more information to keep building your map.

 

Whether you’re actively looking for a role or just exploring, this simple mapping technique should provide you with a quick, incisive insight into an industry or area you’re interested in, enable you to understand the fundamentals of how things work, and give you a visual reference you can use repeatedly, adding more detail each time.

There’s lot more to mapping than I’ve written about here, and it may well form the subject of a future post.

In the meantime if you want to chat more about the value of the map or how to build your own then drop me a line.