Internship with Adecco Canada boss a sweet summer gig for University of Ottawa student

Last-minute decision to apply for national competition pays off with ‘unique opportunity’ for 22-year-old Alana Couvrette
Alana
Alana Couvrette beat out 2,300 applicants for the chance to work with Adecco Canada president Gilbert Boileau at the firm’s Toronto head office.

As far as summer jobs that look good on a resume go, “CEO of a Fortune 500 company” has some pretty serious cachet.

So when Alana Couvrette was selected as the winner of Adecco Canada’s CEO for One Month internship over 2,300 other applicants, she knew it was an opportunity that was simply too good to pass up.

“It was pretty overwhelming, but in the best possible sense,” the 22-year-old University of Ottawa student told OBJ in mid-July after returning from her month-long stint at Adecco’s Canadian head office in Toronto. “It was really a unique learning opportunity.”

The paid internship offered Ms. Couvrette the chance to work and travel with Adecco Canada president Gilbert Boileau. She visited several of the global HR conglomerate’s other Canadian offices in Ontario and Quebec, sat in on meetings with VPs and other high-level execs and took part in conference calls to Europe and other parts of North America.

After 10-hour days in the office, she spent her evenings working on an innovation project that she will submit in early August as part of a second competition with 47 other interns from around the world for the chance to be Adecco’s global CEO for a month.

The winner will work side by side with Adecco Group chief executive Alain Dehaze at the company’s world headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.

It’s made for a hectic summer, but Ms. Couvrette said it’s all been worth it.

“I still can’t really believe it,” she said. “It’s really a privilege to be able to experience something like this.”

A board member of the Young Professionals Network of Ontario, Ms. Couvrette originally heard about the competition when Adecco e-mailed her early this year and asked her to spread the word about the contest on social media.

She’d applied for similar programs in the past with no success. Finally, the day before the mid-April deadline, she clicked the application link, sent off a résumé and figured that would be that.

“I said, ‘There’s no way.’ I submitted it and I didn’t think twice about it.”  

Three weeks later, she received an e-mail notifying her she’d made the first round of cuts. She and 29 other finalists from across Canada were asked to submit a 1,000-word essay describing how their values aligned with Adecco’s, along with a 60-second video making their case for the position.

“I’ve always felt that it’s not necessarily only your degree that matters. It’s yourself as a person and your attitude and your personality.”

On May 2, Ms. Couvrette was told she’d made the four-candidate shortlist. Next up: an interview with Mr. Boileau via Skype for which she had just 48 hours to prepare.

Ms. Couvrette turned to family friend Richard Eaton, a local talent management consultant, for advice.

“That was the best 40 minutes I’ve ever spent on the phone with someone,” she said. “He gave me tons of useful tips. He kept telling me, ‘You have to possess and project self-confidence. If you’re not confident, they won’t be confident in you.’ That stuck with me from the moment he said it, and it still does today. It’s something I think about all the time.”

With a chance to work in downtown Toronto, just a stone’s throw away from the Blue Jays’ home field at Rogers Centre, she hit her interview right out of the proverbial ballpark.

Down-to-earth chat

“You always get nervous with Skype, especially since technology tends to be kind of wonky sometimes,” she said. “It was a really down-to-earth conversation; it wasn’t at all what I was expecting, in a good sense. (Mr. Boileau) clearly took the time to read through and watch all of my video and read through my application. He asked very specific questions based off things I had mentioned in my application. I really appreciated it.”

She’s now back in Ottawa, waiting to see if she makes the first round of cuts for the global competition. Ten finalists for the exclusive internship will compete in a “boot camp” in early September.

By that point, Ms. Couvrette is slated to be back in the classroom finishing her final semester at U of O. But should it come down to it, she said, she’d happily postpone her graduation until next spring.

“I don’t know exactly what I would do, but I’ll make it work. It’s worth it for an opportunity like that. But this is thinking way too far ahead,” she said.

Although she’s studying political science and public administration, Ms. Couvrette said she’s always been drawn to the world of business.

Her father Paul is a well-known local photographer who’s run his own portrait studio in Centretown for more than 40 years. His daughter appears to have inherited some of that entrepreneurial spirit.

“I grew up not watching (cartoons), I grew up watching Donald Trump on the Apprentice saying, ‘You’re fired!’” she said, laughing. “From a young age, the business environment was always there.”  

Ms. Couvrette said the experience has taught her a valuable life lesson: If you don’t take risks, you’ll never experience the resulting rewards.

“I had applied to a lot of contests and I got a lot of nos,” she said. “You have to fail a lot of times before you succeed, really. And if I hadn’t pushed myself one more time to apply for this, then I wouldn’t have been here. I’ve always felt that it’s not necessarily only your degree that matters. It’s yourself as a person and your attitude and your personality.”