A month at the top of a Fortune Global 500 company

Posted on Tuesday, August 1, 2017

By Brandon Gillet

Alana Couvrette, a political science and public administration student, was selected from among 2,300 contenders to become the first “CEO for One Month” at the Canadian headquarters of Adecco, the world’s largest staffing firm and a Fortune Global 500 company. Couvrette had the chance to shadow  Adecco Canada president Gilbert Boileau for 30 days. Now, she and the winners in 47 other countries are vying for the chance to be Global CEO for One Month at the Adecco Group’s head office in Zurich, Switzerland. The Gazette caught up with Couvrette to learn more.

How did you learn about this Adecco program?

I saw an ad on Facebook and thought their marketing strategy was very innovative in attracting millennials. In a cool video, they said, “show us that you have the attitude” to be successful. I thought that was smart. These days, it’s your attitude that counts and how you market yourself. Ideas and problem-solving abilities are also worth a lot.

I didn’t apply at first, because I was going through a phase of being rejected for other things I’d applied for. But I’m on the board of the Young Professionals Network of Ontario and received an email asking me to promote the contest, so that nudged me to apply.

What did applying entail?

The process is thorough, starting with a CV and cover letter stating why you think you’re right for the job. In Canada, 30 applicants moved on to the second round, which was to make a video statement, followed by an essay on how your personal values resonate with Adecco’s. Three candidates advanced to the final round, which was an interview with the Canadian president of Adecco in Toronto.

I reached out to a professional development coach to prepare. At Adecco, they’re looking for interpersonal skills, and that may have set me apart. I think (Adecco Canada President) Gilbert Boileau and I clicked. He liked that I challenged his views, which showed confidence. The coach had told me the importance of possessing and projecting self-confidence — people want to see that you already think you should be there.

Couvrette cutting a cake with a group of people behind her

Couvrette cuts her farewell cake.

What’s involved in the competition to become Global CEO for One Month?

There are three parts to Adecco’s process of selecting the finalist from among the 48 national CEOs for One Month. First, we have to submit a business case on how to innovate at Adecco — think of this as a pitch on Dragon’s Den! Second, the national CEO evaluates your performance. The third part is split into five mini-challenges, and you really have to think about how to distinguish yourself. I took on those five challenges and also set myself five others — one of which was to produce a series of “A Day in My Life” videos at Adecco.

Ten people will be chosen to attend the Global Leadership Bootcamp, which is in Paris this year. One of those candidates will then be selected to shadow global CEO Alain Dehaze in a second internship. Everything is paid for, as Adecco doesn’t want to perpetuate the precarious employment model. The CEO for One Month gets $5,000 (in Canada), and the winner of the global internship will receive 15,000 euros (about $22,000) for the month.

What are your impressions of the company?

By 2025, millennials will be about 75% of the global workforce, and companies like Adecco are leading the way in attracting them. The firm is trying hard to break down organizational hierarchies, which is really about reconciling the boomer and millennial generations. Younger workers learn from the older generation’s experience, and upper management benefits from fresh perspectives. I can say with confidence that I rattled a few cages when I was there!

Any personal takeaways from your time on the job?

Stress management is a big one — I was working long days and was often thrown into sticky situations. Time management, too. You have to find time for everything while being able to respectfully say no sometimes. You need to be able to delegate, and lead, on certain files. I had a lot of resources at my disposal but had to use them carefully. You have to be confident, even when you feel you may not be the best at something. If you fake it ’til you make it, you will make it!

Where do you see yourself in the next few years?

I finish my degree in December and plan to start a master’s in public administration in fall 2018. I see myself working in the private sector and for the government, but not in it — with a consulting firm, for example, where I can use my expertise and apply my business mentality to help the government achieve its goals. Of course, a career with the Adecco Group also looms large in my mind!

Any advice for students thinking about applying to the Adecco program?

Do it — you have nothing to lose. Beyond the experience itself, I’m now connected on social media with 47 young leaders from around the world who are doing amazing things. All in all, it was an incredible professional development opportunity.

Read more about Couvrette’s experience at Adecco.

Watch one of her A Day in My Life videos.

Couvrette at a table with a man and a woman talking around a laptop

Couvrette with Adecco Canada president Gilbert Boileau.

 

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