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When we lost Griffin Farley, a strategy director at BBH New York, to cancer last year, we wanted to find an appropriate way to mark his life. It was hard to find the right way to honor such a laid-back, unpretentious man, but the insight that unlocked the whole thing for us was to focus on the generosity with which Griffin had mentored and championed young people trying to get their first jobs in the industry. We hatched the idea of the Griffin Farley Search for Beautiful Minds program: a weekend boot-camp open to individuals looking to get their break into strategy and a platform for them to showcase their thinking to the industry while taking a step toward finding a job.
In the grind of our working lives, it is all too easy to forget that how we live each moment creates what we leave behind us when we go. But one year after the launch of the program, it is heart-warming to reflect on how the many things Griffin did in his short life are now transforming the lives of people he never even met. And to watch the process unfold in real time, across social media and then in the lives of lots of young people, has been magical.
It began with the call for speakers and mentors. So many people whom Griffin had helped, all now well on the way in their own careers, came forward to pledge their time -- safe in the knowledge that without him they wouldn't be where they are today.
We had expected a few respondents from the Five Boroughs. In the end, we had over 60 participants from all over the world. In my ice-breaker on Saturday morning, I asked people to arrange themselves in order of how far they had traveled to get to the event. At the end of the line was someone who had come from Australia, then someone from Dubai, then Ireland. I was halfway around the room, and we hadn't gotten beyond the west coast.
Over a weekend of talks and team work, a whole new network formed before our eyes. People found like-minded peers, who were on the same fraught journey of breaking into this transitioning, upheaving world of advertising.
When we checked back in with people last month, it was amazing to see how the angst-ridden stories we had heard when we all first met had, for many, been replaced by stories of hope and success.
$137.8B U.S. ad spend for top 200 advertisers
In our survey, the majority agreed with the statement that the program "changed how I see my career," "made me want to be a planner" and "gave me a new network of peers." Participants spoke about the experience being a major factor in helping them find a job, how they were able to speak about it in interviews, and the difference that the support of the peer network had made. And half agreed with the statement, "The Griffin Farley Search for Beautiful Minds changed my life."
This year, we're back -- not so much bigger (we were swinging from the rafters last time) but definitely better. We've listened, we've optimized -- we have new friends who've stepped forward to offer us space (thank you, Google). We will have even more "beautiful minds" art work, commissioned and donated from around the industry -- and you'll be able to bid for it, again. If you're interested in becoming a planner -- no matter what you're doing at the moment, we want to hear from you when we launch our call for submissions on June 10. We want to make our mix as diverse as possible. We especially want to hear from you if you've not studied advertising.
There are a good number of graduate networking initiatives out there, but there is a special energy that gives the Griffin Farley Search for Beautiful Minds such amazing momentum and dynamism. It is such a well-worn phrase to say that someone's spirit lives on, but everyone who has touched this program knows that it's magical. Griffin really is continuing his low-key, life-changing work of helping people get a bit further toward where they most want to be.