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At Unilever, interns and young professionals have opportunities for professional development through courses and sessions with external experts.Supplied

When Elvin Shum started working at Unilever Canada just over two years ago, he quickly learned what the storied culture at the Toronto-based consumer packaged goods company was all about.

“At Unilever, we’re really big on purpose – that’s kind of our credo,” he says. “Our company purpose is to make sustainability commonplace, but it’s important that we have purpose for ourselves as well, and leverage that and connect it to the business’s purpose.”

Shum did a summer internship at Unilever and a stint at culinary school after university before joining the company full-time. He took a workshop to help him develop his purpose, which he describes as, “Nothing can become everything in my hands.” It’s helped him get to his current role as an associate instore visibility manager, overseeing product displays at large retailers.

“For me it was a testament to my ability to start with nothing and absorb as much as I can and learn and grow,” he says. “It also touches on my willingness to get hands-on, which relates to my culinary background. It’s a mixture of who you are as a person and what touches you around the world.”

Unilever offers new hires a host of options for professional development, from informal mentorships to an extensive list of courses to help them expand their role or develop skills for future roles, plus sessions with external experts and influencers who lead pop-up events in stores, including one with star chef Matty Matheson that involved recipes and a mini-restaurant.

Naniss Gadel-Rab, general manager of Unilever Canada’s Nutrition division, joined the company after university and has never looked back. “It’s been 23 years, and I’m still learning, which is amazing,” she says. “You’d think after all that time I’d have nothing more to learn, but every day there’s a new opportunity and a new challenge and a new learning.”

Gadel-Rab points to a popular Unilever initiative called the Future Leaders Program, which operates like a fast-track leadership course.

“You get accelerated responsibilities in this leadership development program, and it can take you to be manager-ready in three years, which is pretty cool for a young person right out of university,” she says. “And you move to a different role every eight months to 12 months. They give you training and mentorship, and you find yourself growing so quickly.”

Shum appreciates the benefits he can use for anything related to health or well-being, as well as flexible work schedules and the Day of Service, an annual companywide volunteer day where staff get together to serve their communities by planting trees or picking up trash in parks, among other activities. But his favourite thing about his job is the freedom he has to follow his own path.

“We call it ‘shape your own adventure,’” he says. “You can take hold of your career with all the resources that are available, like courses and the mentorships that make a supportive network, but you’re not pigeonholed into certain disciplines. I’ve found that each role has been a completely new learning experience. There’s plenty of support and flexibility, and so much encouragement to grow and learn.”

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Advertising feature produced by Canada’s Top 100 Employers, a division of Mediacorp Canada Inc. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.

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