The Fine Arts: A New Approach to Talent Recruitment

MacKenzie is an accomplished viola player accustomed to practicing every day and playing with two esteemed Boston-based orchestras. Alex has been viewing the world through the lens of a camera since the age of five and has received numerous distinctions for the images that he captures.

This summer, they and a few fellow students applied their talents and skills to a different set of tasks in the asset management division at Fidelity Investments. They read spreadsheets instead of music, worked with programming languages instead of cameras, and learned that there’s an interesting rhythm to the financial markets.

These teens participated in a pilot internship program that takes a novel approach to our talent recruitment efforts. Based on the idea that our industry needs more innovators who can think outside the box and that people with creative mindsets bring unique talents to the workplace, we are exposing budding artists and musicians to career possibilities in financial services. Given the drive, discipline, and passion these young people bring to the table, we believe that they — and others like them — will thrive in our industry.

Financial services has long attracted workers with backgrounds in math, science, and business. But to stay competitive, we need people with more diverse skills and experiences. With creativity being the key to innovation, tapping into artists and people with liberal arts backgrounds could be the key. And current leaders across industries need to be open to new approaches to finding and grooming the next generation of professionals.

I have to confess that I wasn’t always such a big believer in the relevance of the arts to the business world. In college, I was a “traditionalist” who majored in computer science and engineering. I could easily see how those skills could have immediate practical benefit within the business world. But once I entered the workforce, I was taken aback by how much I was using what I had learned from the courses that I had taken outside of my major. The lessons I learned in psychology and sociology, for example, helped me to see the interpersonal and team dynamics more clearly than many of my peers. Philosophy exposed me to alternative ways to look at a problem that contrasted with the formal rigor of my engineering training. Ultimately, pursuing a nonlinear career track with experiences in different industries, disciplines, and functions, helped me become a better contributor to the projects and teams of which I was a part.

My eyes were further opened as I watched my children develop and nurture their interests in the arts. My teenage son, a musician with a passion for government and political science, has an ability to see connections in seemingly diverse areas that always amazes me. My eldest daughter’s passion for the stage helped her to develop into a gifted public speaker from an early age. And my youngest daughter’s passion for photography belies an ability to see something amazing in what to others appears commonplace.

I’ve seen this blending of business value and artistic pursuit in some of my colleagues as well. Rebecca “Q” Walker was a circus performer growing up, has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Illustration, and is now a communications design manager at Fidelity. Another colleague is a former ballerina and now serves as the Head of HR of one of our business units. What these people have in common are unique experiences and points of view that make the workplace more dynamic and rich.

When I visit college campuses, I always make a point of spending some extra time with the liberal arts majors. Students of English, philosophy, history, music, art, and the like are taught to think creatively, communicate clearly, and to be open to new ideas. They know how to carry on a conversation, follow an argument, and appreciate the value of different points of view.

When those same students ask me whether their particular skills qualify them for jobs at places like Fidelity, they are surprised and encouraged by my answer. Yes, I say, emphatically. While we will always need those with a gift for mathematics, business or technical skills, I explain, we also need people who will see problems differently, and who will help us to generate creative ideas and actions.

Our musical interns, well-versed in performing as a member of a band or orchestra, have shown us new ways to bring teamwork and collaboration into our projects. Our visual arts interns who can see the extraordinary in the commonplace reminded us to look at problems from different angles. These talented young men and women bring creativity, dedication, focus and an ability to connect with their audience to all that they do.

I’m eager to see how this internship program plays out over time — what these young men and women ultimately bring to the table, what they take away for themselves, and what they teach us in the process. It’s going to be a learning experience for everyone.

The views expressed those of the author and not necessarily those of Fidelity Investments.

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