This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab
Every fall, prestigious consulting, accounting, finance and marketing companies spend time on university campuses looking for the brightest young talent they can find. Through on-campus recruitment events, consultants and recruiters from companies such as McKinsey & Co., PricewaterhouseCoopers, Procter & Gamble and Deloitte select students they would like to interview. Within several weeks, the process comes to a close, and only a handful of individuals make the cut.
These selection processes are quite competitive, and many talented young leaders emerge still searching for good jobs. Some pursue additional years of education through graduate school, whereas others begin their own startups and spend countless hours building their own companies. Still, thousands of promising Canadian youth enter the summer looking for companies providing the right “fit.” The job search can be overwhelmingly stressful.
At this point in the year, locking up a blue-chip job is likely out of the equation. If you are a student or young professional, however, then you likely have several good options at your disposal. Moreover, you have a summer ahead where opportunities abound. The upcoming months provide the time you need to network, enhance your knowledge and prepare for a stellar fall.
Here are several possibilities for taking advantage of your summer and ensuring that you emerge with momentum in September:
1. Connect over coffee
If you want to work for a fast-growing software company then send a coffee invitation to someone on their executive team. You would be surprised at how many “yes” responses you will receive. In my experience, some of the most successful students and young professionals are those who spend months networking one-on-one with preselected business leaders.
In one case, a close friend spent months meeting with over 60 investment bankers in Calgary. On meeting 63, he got a coveted job, since a banker within that company had resigned the same day. One of the best such opportunities on the market is through Ten Thousand Coffees, founded by the innovative Dave Wilkin, which brings together young people with executives over a coffee.
2. Take a break
Following a busy school year and work cycle, you are likely in need of a break. In 2011-2012, after serving as one of five directors of a $10-million organization, I took a two-week vacation to Houston, and subsequently returned with copious amounts of energy. A close friend starting at McKinsey in September is travelling across Europe, taking a breather before he engages in years of challenging work. At this point in the year, you owe yourself a break – even if it’s a one-week trip to the mountains.
3. Launch a startup
Companies are increasingly looking for entrepreneurs – those who have experience building their own businesses, selling services or products and developing strategies. The fastest way to do this is through hands-on experiences, rather than through GMAT books.
In July, 2013, the idea for Gen Y Inc. first came to fruition, with the formal launch taking place in January, 2014. The lessons learned during even this brief period of time have been invaluable, and have provided our team with experiences they never would have fathomed. In our case, Gen Y Inc. has become a venture we plan to grow well into the future. The same could be true for you.
4. Enlist trusted advisers
As a young person, this is your time to connect with a wide range of people whom you admire: fellow students and young professionals, faculty, business leaders, politicians, and others.
Spend time thinking about which types of people you want to meet. Are they faculty in biomedical sciences and political philosophy? Directors in promising startup companies? Successful authors and journalists? In an increasingly uncertain world, and one where thinking across fields and networks is paramount, deliberately construct an eclectic board of advisers. Go for coffee with these individuals and soak up their knowledge and life stories.
5. Ask why
It is easy to become caught up in the blind pursuit of jobs that others view as important. In my case, I went from knowing relatively nothing about the McKinseys, Boston Consulting Groups and Deloittes of the world to believing that my future would be ruined without a spot in their firms. This is the case with many ambitious and talented peers, particularly in the liberal arts and sciences. Eager to learn and problem solve, it is easy to become enamoured with these types of companies.
This is the time to step back and think “why?” For example, why look for a job in a particular field? Why spend more time in education institutions? Why pursue entrepreneurship and build a startup company? These are all important and challenging questions, since they require that we question our motivations and reflect on intended life paths.
There is no question that conducting both job searches and searches into the self can be painful. However, the uncertainty around this time of life can also be refreshing, providing one with renewed energy and a fresh take on the world. With the summer ahead, dedicate time to taking steps forward in your life. This may be uncomfortable, but it will create opportunities that you never expected.
Emerson Csorba (@EmersonCsorba) is the chief executive officer of Gen Y Inc., an advisory and recruitment agency that connects Corporate Canada with young talent. He is also a 3M national fellow, chairman of TEDxEdmonton and curator of World Economic Forum Global Shapers Edmonton.