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Having a career we love is generally considered one path to a fulfilling life. However, aspiring to a job we’re actually good at can be an equally meaningful—and more realistic—vision. But how do we know where our talents lie, let alone which jobs might value them? After four years of collaboration at Janou LLC—a global executive search firm specializing in creative and marketing fields—Janou Pakter and Damian Chiam have honed their ability to pinpoint talent and precision-calibrate it into a professional fit. Here, the duo—or “the odd couple” as Pakter likes to joke—offers advice on how to identify and nurture creative talent and standing out from the crowd.

Social media has made many of us experts in the art of self-promotion. What does true talent look like?
Pakter: Talent means original thinking. There are many designers or art directors whose work you will look at and think is beautiful, but true talent is when you’re different and original and the concept is really yours. True talent is not one-dimensional. It has a holistic vision and sees possibilities between existing models and new technology.

Chiam: To me, talent has a very human aspect—the curiosity to see the beauty in the ordinary. We try to distinguish ourselves in how we work with the talent. It’s more than a transaction, we care about the person and their story and their journey.

Is talent innate or can it be lear-ned?
Pakter: Some people are amazingly wacky and talented and they hone those qualities to get better. But, if you have the passion and desire then you can—with training, education and hard work—excel as much as, if not more than, the people who are born with it. You need the drive. You need to be able to start and finish. A lot of people, no matter how brilliant they are, don’t always finish.

What do you most admire in each other?
Pakter: Damian quit a full-time job to come and join as my partner. That shows an incredible amount of courage and vision. It’s something I will never forget. On a more practical note, Damian is thorough and exact, and together we have achieved incredible success.

Chiam: Clients and candidates consistently speak highly of Janou, highlighting her industry knowledge, integrity and kindness. As her partner, I’m very respectful of that. I think it’s amazing that Janou is changing people’s lives by using her intuition and connection with people to further their career.

Is there an element of matchmaking to your work?
Pakter: We rely a great deal on our intuition. Because we understand our client ’s needs and culture so well, we know right away which candidates are going to be a great match. We’ve made a lot of placements like that without being too literal and primarily looking at education, years in industry and experience.

Chiam: It’s about connecting and understanding interests. We want to get a good overall picture of them and where they’re at in life. It’s quite a close relationship—almost like buying a home—because, as a candidate, you’re sharing quite a bit about your personal life. It’s really about getting to know people and what motivates them.

What’s your advice for people hoping to get noticed for their creativity?
Pakter: Clients are looking for a Renaissance-type person with both left and right brain thinking. If you can only come up with creative ideas, then you’re not going to be of any value unless you can bring that within the spectrum of what is good for the brand. That’s a different kind of profile than in the past. It’s become much broader, deeper and more integrated. The other thing that’s important is a sense of integrity and authenticity. Brands are interested in people who are into sustainability, empathy, a better earth. So if these passions are important to you, you should express that creatively in your work.

This feature was produced in partnership with Janou LLC.


This story is from Kinfolk Issue Thirty

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