Brain Drain: What is it and how does it affect industry and career trends?

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Emilio Lorenzo is the assistant director of career advisement in NSU’s Office of Career Development. He understands the importance of helping students reach their career goals and works with all students, including undergraduate, graduate and professional level students, to achieve their professional goals.

Emily Tasca is a member of the career advisement team in NSU’s Office of Career Development. She works with current students and alumni at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels.  

Have you ever heard the phrase “brain drain?” No, it’s not an alien experiment on your mind. The term can be defined as “smart, young professionals graduating with their degree in one geographic area and then leaving to work elsewhere.” The “drain” refers to the transfer of talent and knowledge from one area to another. Brain drain is an issue affecting many areas today, one of which is the South Florida region, but to understand this problem fully we must look at it from a variety of perspectives.

It can be easy to generalize when discussing brain drain. You might hear people say “South Florida isn’t the best place for young professionals.” South Florida is a much different area than the Midwest or Northeast, however, it does have its benefits and a very diversified job market. South Florida’s job market isn’t as easily definable as a more traditional market such as the finance field in New York City or the technology industry in Silicon Valley. While there are some industry areas that still need to grow, there are others that South Florida is considered one of the strongest markets in.

Considering the melting pot that is South Florida, diversity is a part of our everyday life and an active component within any industry. This diversity has helped establish strong relationships with a multitude of Latin American businesses and overall markets. One of these is the entertainment industry. Everyone knows that if you want to be a movie star in the United States, you go to Hollywood, California. For Latin America, that hub is in South Florida. Companies like Telemundo and Univision have helped establish this brand for the area which, if looked at from a big-picture perspective, has created a brain drain on its own, as many individuals from other parts of the U.S. or the world come to South Florida to establish themselves in this type of career.

Outside of entertainment, agriculture, hospitality and healthcare are other key areas influencing South Florida’s economy that can be considered strengths. Hospitality is the “bread and butter” of South Florida; the area will always attract a large number of tourists based on the location and weather. However, it has also created job opportunities for local residents in a variety of job functions. For example, if you work for Carnival Cruise Lines, you don’t necessarily need to work for the hospitality or marketing portion of the company. You might work in the finance department, human resources or supply chain management. This helps to highlight that South Florida’s diverse economy sometimes provides opportunities in certain industries in non-traditional ways.

When it comes to healthcare, South Florida is filled with not only strong reputable hospitals and healthcare facilities, but also many of the top academic medical programs in the country, including those at NSU. This not only provides a multitude of clinical opportunities, but it also provides opportunities in other areas of healthcare, including healthcare support or administrative roles.

Just like an individual must understand their strengths and uncover strategies to leverage their weaknesses, South Florida must find avenues to combat the brain drain in industries such as technology. Over the last few years, South Florida has dramatically increased the amount of available positions within this area. However, there is still much room for improvement and many of these opportunities may not be similar to those found in a Silicon Valley start-up. Some individuals decide that they want to specialize in a certain area within their industry which is not applicable to the area they live in, so they leave for a new city. This, however, does not mean a brain drain is happening. Although technology opportunities here in South Florida may look different, they nonetheless provide a great way to make a living. For many, these technology opportunities may be a better fit in terms of values and other factors that contribute to their wellbeing.

To leverage this weakness within the technology field, an up-and-coming industry has emerged in South Florida which combines one of the strongest markets, healthcare, with one area that needs more growth, technology. Considering that healthcare relies so heavily on technology, which is not something that will change in the near future, the opportunities for technology jobs within healthcare settings is only going to increase exponentially. At the end of the day, all new graduates and young professionals have various components that they value in their career and will take into consideration when determining the area in which they plan to work and live, as well as the setting they would like to work in. If you hear of a brain drain happening in a certain industry or geographic area, it’s important to look at all the factors to really see what is going on. South Florida has areas of strength, and areas that can grow, but ultimately brain drain is a global issue.

Every industry has its own road to success, and it is up to you to navigate these waters strategically. Do not be thrown off by generic phrases that indicate a lack of job opportunities within a certain area. Instead, do your own research to find where you would fit best. Uncover nontraditional avenues to reach your career goals.

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