YouTern Interviews Interns: “Life and Careers Are Not a Straight Line”

It’s graduation time once again – and thousands of Millennials are beginning new lives as young professionals. For some, the transition will be seamless as they have a career direction in mind. For many others however, this period of life can be stressful… and downright scary.

For those in the latter group, it doesn’t have to be that way. Just ask Emily Guthro

Emily sat down with YouTern and told us how her internships and early career have taught her that “life and careers are not stagnant, nor a straight line; they evolve and change – that’s where the excitement lies.” Emily is living proof that if you look at your early career as an adventure, full of learning opportunities – you’ll take advantage of the opportunities available to you!

1. Tell us a little about you… What are you doing now, and what are your long-term career goals?

EG: I graduated from University and College, earning a B.A. in Geography and a Post Graduate Certificate in Human Resources Management. Post grads are big here in Canada and allow for more hands-on, specialized learning. I am currently part of the Management team for a Godiva Chocolatier Boutique, where I get to hire and train new staff, manage a team and delight customers. I’m also running for a position on the Board of our local HR Association. Elections are next week!

It took me a while to get some clear long term goals, but a year working abroad helped me clarify. I love to know “a little about lots”; I am creative and strategic. I see myself as an HR Generalist, and from there, the sky’s the limit!

2. How many internships have you completed to date and – not to put you on the spot – what was your favorite?

EG: So far, I’ve completed two, which were during University. I worked in the Environmental Planning department of a Municipality. It wasn’t the most pleasant experience, but the “real life” experience was worth it! I was so unhappy – and worried about my career choices – I sought out a career coach, who encouraged me to return to school and pursue HR. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.

3. Other than internships, how have you gained experience that makes you more employable?

EG: In high school, I was really active with Equestrian Sports. I volunteered a lot and obtained coaching certificates. I tried to be as active as I could with the Provincial Governing body, and gained a lot of experience with leadership, planning and team management. Even now, these activities are the first thing interviewers ask me about.

In University and beyond, I sought out a variety of positions that interested me. During summer break, I remained flexible and worked all over the country – art galleries, national parks, and nurseries. After completing my degree, I wanted to try teaching, so I took a contract in Korea. By remaining open-minded and adventurous, I sought and obtained transferable skills and unique experiences, which I am finding apply to my day job.

4. (One of our favorite questions…) What are the Top 3 lessons you’ve learned from your internships and experience that you didn’t learn in school?

EG: 1)  If you are an extrovert, find yourself a wise, patient person to act as your sounding board, and thank them often. We need to talk out our ideas to arrive at sensible conclusions; it’s something to be conscious of during meetings or group situations.

2)  I’ve learned the way other cultures conduct business. I studied the etiquette of my fellow teachers in Korea, and spoke with other foreigners about formalities in their countries. It’s helped when dealing with customers and clients here at home in Ontario.

3)  Bravery trumps all. If you are brave enough to share an idea, eventually someone will be brave enough to believe in you. You just have to believe in yourself first.

5. We first met you through Twitter – how has your online activity helped your career development this far?

EG: Twitter specifically has been incredible! Professionals who use it are cutting edge, connected, and willing to assist students or entry-level pros. So far, social media has connected me with people who’ve edited my resume, combed my LinkedIn profile and invited me to conferences. It also really got me involved with my local HR association (The HRPAH).

I think Twitter’s full potential lies in the real-time chats. They’re open, anyone can join, and you can connect with professionals in your area. Its informal platform lets you Tweet to anyone, and offers an opportunity to introduce yourself and develop real life, offline connections.

6. As a budding HR professional, what do you see are the biggest problems facing Millennials entering the workforce today?

EG: I think one of the largest issues is the need for so much experience at such a young age. It’s almost as if they must decide their entire working lives by the time they’re 17. Life and careers are not stagnant, nor a straight line; they evolve and change – that’s where the excitement lies. I think Millennials would benefit from trying out as many different jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities as they can, discover what they like and use transferable skills to carve their own paths.

7. What do employers need to do most to better attract and retain Gen Y talent?

EG: I was at a conference with Sidneyeve Matrix a while ago, and she mentioned that Gen Y’s want to be taught. The oldest of us didn’t necessarily grow up with smart phones and iPads. Her comment made so much sense to me. Companies can attract and keep Gen Y’s by offering courses in computer applications and social media. Training instantly sends a message of caring and investment from the company.

8. From the Gen Y perspective, what can be done to dramatically improve the candidate experience?

EG: Be rid of the generic “we will only contact you if you have been selected for an interview” line in e-mails. Not only is it rude, a company is missing a huge opportunity to develop customers. With automated e mail systems, it would be so easy for a company to simply say “Emily, thank you for your interest, here’s a coupon for a free dessert next time you visit us, we’ll be in touch soon”. If you treat a candidate well, they will speak highly of you – whether they are hired or not.

9. For your peers and colleagues, please tell us your “never-fail” piece of career advice?

EG: Actively listen, and learn every chance you get.



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