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Undergraduate Students - November 2008

The full version of the November CAPSScoop can be found by clicking here.


Articles in this edition

What Do I Want To Do When I Grow Up?

Finding a Job in a Tough Economy

Experience Outside the Classroom: the McGill Mentor Program


What do I want to do when I grow up?

by Blinds To Go

“What do I want to do when I grow up?” It is a question all university students come to as the near they end of their academic career and start contemplating their professional career. If you are lucky, you already know. If you are like most other graduates, it is an anxiety-filled question and an important life decision.

For many the answer to this question is a management training program. Management training program have the appeal of integrating you into an organization where you hopefully can grow and advance and build a career. Most training programs start you off in an entry level position and allow you to learn the business from the ground floor. Today, many companies offer management training or development programs for recent graduates. But which one? Which management training program is right for you?

Most management training programs are rotational in nature and are structured to rotate you into several functions or business areas over the first 2 years. At the end of your “rotations”, you are assigned to a specific business area or function. The benefit of rotational programs is obvious; you get to see several business areas of a company. The drawback is that you are unlikely to get any assignments that challenge and grow you during the first two years as you go through these 4-6 month rotations. Only at end of rotational program, when you get permanently assigned to a specific area, do you really start to grow and advance.

At Blinds To Go, we have created development programs that maintain your career flexibility—the ability to change career paths—but offers recent graduates the ability to develop important lifelong skills from day one. Our development programs are not rotational in nature, but offer sequential skills development. From day one you start developing people management and leadership skills that are critical to successfully managing any functional area or business. Not in a classroom, but working with real people, in real business situations. Our experience is that most managers fail, not because they lack a functional skills (marketing, human resources, finance, etc.), but because they lack the specific management skills, e.g. the ability to build and get the best out of a team. At Blinds To Go, we invest tremendously in developing these core skills right from the start. We believe that if we can give you these skills, you are more likely to be successful as you advance. After two years at Blinds To Go, we want you in a management role with real responsibilities and helping develop others. At Blinds To Go, it is not important that you commit to a specific functional area when you graduate, but that you have a desire to manage and lead other people. Below are our development programs:

  • Our core leadership development program is our Management Training Program, aka FaME. For FaME, we carefully select graduates from business and liberal arts who have an interest in working with people and developing general management skills early in their career. All trainees start their career with us as design consultants in a showroom where they learn to interact with and service customers. All trainees receive structured training and individualized development feedback that allows them to grow at their own pace. We expect our management trainees to develop broad people management and leadership skills and advance into leadership positions within a few years of graduation. Within 18 months, a motivated trainee can expect to grow into a Sales and Development Manager with the skills to effectively recruit, manage, train and develop people and is able to build and manage a small business unit.
  • Our Manufacturing Leadership Development Program (MLDP) emulates our successful Management Training Program since our plants operate under the same culture as our showrooms. For the MLDP, we recruit engineering graduates who have an interest in business operations and general management. MLPD trainees start training in showrooms to acquire basic people interaction and management skills, similar to our FaME trainees, but complete a significant part of the leadership training as training supervisors in our manufacturing facilities. The MLDP program gives graduates with broad career interest in manufacturing management or supply chain management an opportunity to quickly develop skills and assume a leadership position early in their career. Our MLDP is ideal for the engineering graduateswith a general business interest and a desire to leverage core technical and problem solving skills into a leadership position in a high-service, people-intensive manufacturing environment.

BTG is committed to developing and promoting leaders internally. This ensures that our leaders share our values and promote the unique culture that has made us successful. Our growth creates many advancement opportunities, and to continue this growth we need to attract and develop future leaders. Thus, the need for our development programs. Success in our development programs opens the door to a wide array of career paths at BTG. Successful Sales and Development Managers in our showrooms or Training Supervisors in our plants can to advance into many different areas of the company such a general management (plant or showroom operations), brand management, people resources, finance, MIS and supply chain management.

Blinds To Go was founded by David Shiller, an entrepreneur, who wanted to provide his customers with old fashion customer service by offering personal service based on a high level of integrity. From its humble roots in Montreal, Quebec, Blinds To Go has grown into a vertically integrated international business with retail and manufacturing operations in the US and Canada. Blinds To Go currently operates 110 stores in 12 states/provinces and manufacturing facilities in Lakewood, NJ and Montreal, Quebec. Today, we strive to remain true to the founding principal of personalized customer service and have developed people management and development programs to make this possible as we continue to grow.

So when the time comes for you to answer that important question: “What do I want to do when I grow up?” Keep in mind that just because you graduated from university doesn’t have to mean that your growth or development has to stop. You need to pick an organization committed to helping you develop the lifelong skills that you can’t learn from a book or a lecture. Blinds To Go is a such company. At Blinds To Go, the opportunities are endless and only depend on your desire, drive and ability. But you have to have a desire to manage and lead people.


Stephanie Carson, Interim Manager, McGill University graduate

Stephanie Carson, McGill BCom 2007 graduate, joined Blinds To Go in September, 2007 as a FaME trainee. She was looking for a company who shared her values and where she could develop a career in management. She knew that with her limited experience she had a lot to learn and was specifically looking for company that would make the investment in her development. Within the last year she has worked with three different managers in Quebec and Ontario, exposing her to three different management styles. Through frequent assessments, feedback sessions and individual development plans, she has developed the skills and confidence to lead a group of people. Today, ten months after joining Blinds To Go, Stephanie is an Interim Manager with a very bright future at Blinds To Go.

“Blinds To Go has given me everything I wanted to start my career. In the short period of time I have been here, I have grown both professionally and personally. I feel this is a direct result of the emphasis they put on employee development. The company gives all employees the opportunity to excel in their area of interest, all within a team environment that provides ample support. The company’s dedication to my growth has been extremely motivating, because I know with each step I move forward, I am helping lead BTG into the future.”

Marie-Eve Tardif, Production and Development Manager, École de Technologie Supérieur graduate

Marie-Eve Tardif, ETS Mechanical Engineering 2006 graduate, joined BTG in early 2007 as trainee in the Manufacturing Leadership Development Program (MLDP). She wanted to get into management because she preferred to work with people, but had no management experience. She had looked at several training programs that could provide training and experience in a field different from her technical education. Marie-Eve chose BTG’s MLDP for the unique blend of personal growth and development and ability to have impact early in her career. Over the first eighteen months, she was a management trainee, a sales and development manager, supervisor trainee and is now managing one of the largest departments in our Montreal manufacturing facility as a production and development manager. In this current role she faces the unique challenge associated with just-in-time manufacturing (BTG promises customers 48-hour turnaround on custom orders). She is also responsible for training and developing her team of manufacturing supervisor trainees. Although she says that she has gained valuable experience, she still feels that she has a lot more to learn. She can rest assured that Blinds To Go will continue to support her in her learning.

“What is unique is the time people invest on people. Everyone wants to help each other succeed. It’s like a wheel; the manager helps the mentor, who helps the new trainee to become a mentor. If you are looking for career in management, BTG is the right place.”

Finding a Job in a Tough Economy

by Gregg Blachford, Director, CAPS

We’ve all been shocked by the dramatic changes in the stock market over the last month as well as the economic downturn, especially in the resources sector on which Canada relies heavily.

At CAPS, we have not yet noticed a major downturn in job and internship offers from employers interested in hiring McGill students. But we expect this to change and you need to be ready for it.

Many students are concerned about their job prospects given this new situation. I want to talk about what you need to do to make sure you still have the best chance to get the best job after you graduate from McGill.

  1. Don’t panic. After the last major downturn in the economy in 2001, many students panicked and thought that it would be impossible to find a job and they reacted in one of two ways. One was to “put their head in the sand” and not even try to look for a job. The other reaction was to assume that their only option was to go to grad school or law school even though they may not have wanted to go. Both reactions were the result of panic and not necessarily the wisest decisions.
  2. Identify your skills. Pay even more attention than usual to identifying both the discipline-specific skills and transferable skills (i.e. communication, problem-solving, teamwork, leadership) that you have and employers value. Be able to demonstrate these skills by providing concrete examples of how they have been utilized in a work, education, volunteer or extra-curricular setting. Take on leadership roles in clubs, associations or teams you belong to. This will enhance your profile with employers.
  3. Target your job search. Employers are not interested in graduates who are willing to do “anything”. They want people who would love to work in their industry and/or who know exactly the type of work they’d like to do. If you are uncertain about what you want, then consider joining the PACE Program - a joint CAPS/Counselling initiative designed to help you discover your passions and how to get a job that reflects those passions.
  4. Hone your networking skills. Networking is still a critical part of how most graduates find their first full-time job after graduation; and in difficult job market, it becomes even more important. Successful graduates take advantage of every opportunity to meet and interact with professionals in their fields of interest, extending their knowledge of those industries, finding out who is hiring and getting personal referrals. Look on myFuture to find when the next networking workshop is taking place, which will help you improve at this important skill.
  5. Start early. You should be thinking about your career plans right from first year but be especially prepared during the semester before your last year. Check our on-line Guide to Planning Your Career Future and make sure your resume writing and interview skills are stellar. Come to CAPS for CV Drop-in and/or an appointment to spruce them up.
  6. Do an internship. Most faculties and schools at McGill now offer opportunities to do an internship during your studies – sometimes for credit and/or pay. Employers are increasingly using internship as a tool to hire graduates so it is wise to incorporate one or more internships in your career plan. Find out more here.
  7. Consider a job in sales. Many students “hold up their nose” when it comes to sales jobs. But taking a sales job can be the route into many organizations and industries when you can’t get exactly the job you want. This is especially true if the sales position is tied to a Management Training Program. CAPS held our first Sales Career Fair in late October to enable you to meet the employers who offer these types of positions.

So don’t put your “head in the sand” during these economic hard times. There still will be jobs out there, but you may have to work harder to get them. Be proactive. Don’t wait for the jobs to come to you on-line - because they won’t. And make sure you take advantage of all the services at CAPS so that you find the best possible job.

Experience Outside the Classroom: the McGill Mentor Program

by Corina Sferdenschi, U3, Psychology

McGill is known for its wide array of programs dedicated to providing resources for students through its numerous departments and offices. The Career and Placement Service (CAPS) offers a diverse selection of programs that benefit students. The Mentor Program came into existence more than ten years ago and it has been one of the highlights of the centre ever since. The program matches current McGill students with McGill alumni around the world. Any graduate or undergraduate student can apply for this program.

The mentors are McGill Alumni, all volunteers, who have, as an incentive, the motivation to give something back to McGill that does not come in the form of a monetary donation.

The idea behind the Mentor Program is that pairing a student with a person already working in their field of interest can shed light on the true colours of that job and its responsibilities. Because jobs and careers are so vast and so different, making it impossible for someone to really gain an understanding of the real pros and cons of working in the field, it’s good to have a mentor to help explain the details.

We have found that there are two categories of undergraduate students who come to the Mentor Program for guidance: those who want to know if they are in the right program for what they want to do and those who want to know how to get to their dream job in a field they love.

In the future, we hope to expand the Mentorship Program to include graduate students who could provide counsel on grad school, grad life and career prospects in a certain domain. They could also mentor about their own experience completing an undergraduate degree, the activities they were involved in, or the resources that they used to clarify their career path.

Most of the communication between the mentor and the student is done by email, although, if the mentor is in Montreal, they can meet face-to-face and/or on the phone. It is important for both the students and the mentors to be serious about the program, to be punctual and to treat each other with respect and professionalism. The duration of the program is up to the two individuals and it can last from one meeting up to regular meetings for up to a year. The participants will be required to fill out an evaluation form at the end.

For more information and to register for the program, go to http://caps.mcgill.ca/ci2/

Let’s all get involved and take advantage of the resources set for us. Sign up now.


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