Who am I to become a CEO for a month? I grew up in Slovakia and then moved to Canada where I finished my high school. After I graduated, I came to St Andrews. I am currently in my third year studying Sustainable Development and Management. Besides school, I produce music and work as a consultant for Playfair in St Andrews.
CEO for One Month is a global internship program run by the Adecco Group – the largest HR company in the world. Its ambition is to essentially increase youth employability. Every year, it gives 46 young people from around the world an opportunity to become a CEO for One Month in the country they are from. I was based in Prague, representing both Czech Republic and Slovakia. During the internship, I got to do everything a CEO does – presentations, conference calls, board meetings, client meetings and I also got to run my own marketing campaigns. I travelled quite a bit too. I found out about the program through a good friend of mine, who did the internship last year in Japan.
HR never seemed to be a focus of mine and I had little knowledge, but I applied regardless. I have always liked working with people and the fact I had no previous HR experience did not scare me. The great thing about the program is that it is accepting people of all academic backgrounds and no previous experience is required, although it always helps. It is about who you are and how well you do in the selection process. I applied, because I was looking for a niche internship which would improve my leadership and marketing skills. I also wanted an internship where I could get creative and solve real-life issues that the company is facing. And I am very humbled and grateful that Adecco gave me the opportunity to accomplish all this.
What is the selection process like? With 265,000 applicants this year, it was actually more relaxed than I thought it would be. I went through three selection rounds. The first one was based solely on my CV and a cover letter about why you should be a CEO for One Month. The second round was an assessment centre, where I did a short presentation and a few fun team assessments which revealed more about your personality and how you behave in a team. The third round was a killer, because the top ten people were selected for one spot and everyone was excellent. I went through some scenarios, team activities and a round of quick questions which revealed how well you react under pressure. The last round took five hours and at the end of the day, they announced the new CEO for One Month. The process was similar for every country.
With so many applicants each year, what will make me stand out if I want to be the next CEO for One Month? Your strongest card to play is being authentic. I know it sounds corny, but it works. I began my cover letter and presentation saying I am a singer and a songwriter and what useful skills I could transfer from music into a corporate job. I wanted to challenge the stereotypes you are forced to fit into when applying for a corporate job. A singer becoming a CEO, why not? It was a riskier and less usual avenue to take, but I guess they liked that. It is often not about what you’ve got, but how you sell it. I would like to think my skills are mostly performing under pressure, being creative and good at public speaking. Also, as an artist, you nowadays have to have a business mindset of an entrepreneur, the same as CEOs.
Any tips for future CEOs for One Month? If anyone from St Andrews is thinking of applying, I am happy to share with them so much more about it. Find something unconventional about you and turn it into your strength. Show off your leadership skills as much as you can, but don’t be ruthless. Leadership is also about letting other people talk, listening to them and being compassionate. If things go left, have a plan B and, before your interview, try a few scenarios where you have to improvise. You will be thrown into a lot of unexpected situations during the internship, so it is important you keep yourself composed. Last but not least, have a marketing strategy in mind for how you are going to promote the program and what you would bring to it.
I learnt a great deal on the program; however, I think that my understanding of how important an asset authenticity is, in the corporate world, stuck most. Before starting this internship, I thought the only way to land a job was to fit into a corporate’s idea of who you should be. At least with Adecco, it was not the case. It was the things I’ve accomplished outside of school and work that really showed who I was and I did not hide them. Everyone was open to my ideas and genuinely appreciated when I disagreed, because that is when we all grew the most.