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How to be CEO for a day

You have until October 27 to apply for the competition that pairs Canada's best students with top executives
September 28, 2017
By Meagan Boisse and Yuri Mytko

Jesse Carmichael (left) was one of the 2015 winners and is pictured here with Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, president and CEO of Via Rail Canada. Jesse Carmichael (left) was one of the 2015 winners and is pictured here with Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, president and CEO of Via Rail Canada.

Unforgettable insights into leadership, management and overcoming adversity are just some of the things that John Molson School of Business alum Mikael Clement (BComm 17) learned from CBC/Radio-Canada president and CEO Hubert Lacroix.

And all of these lessons came in just one day.

Clement was among four Concordia students selected last spring as finalists in the executive search firm Odgers Berndtson’s CEOx1Day program.

Now in its fifth year, the competitive initiative pairs a select group of third- and fourth-year university students from across Canada with some of the country’s top CEOs for a full day at the office. Students have until October 27 to apply for the upcoming year. Concordia has had nine finalists in the program since it began in 2014.

‘Applicants gain a new understanding of themselves’

“I think having it on my CV was a definite differentiator,” says Jesse Carmichael (BComm 16), who was among the 2015 winners. She believes her experience shadowing Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, president and CEO of Via Rail Canada, helped her secure a position with the Boston Consulting Group upon graduation.

Even those who don’t make it to the end stand to benefit from applying. Two thirds of applicants are asked to fill out an online leadership assessment and receive personalized feedback from Hogan on skills such as relationship building, goal setting and strategic thinking.

All semi-finalists are considered for an interview with McKinsey & Company for a summer internship or full-time placement.

“Students have told us that going through the CEOx1Day application process was unlike anything they had ever experienced,” says Jacqueline Foley, chief marketing officer at Odgers Berndtson.

“Even those who weren’t selected felt they gained a new understanding of themselves and their leadership potential. And for many it helped them gain confidence in their ability to be successful in their chosen career path.”

Carmichael’s advice for those who want to apply? Take the time to carefully reflect on your motive for participating in the program and prepare anecdotes that illustrate a passion for business.

“The biggest thing is to have the confidence that you deserve the opportunity and work hard to make sure you get it.”

Here’s a breakdown of the application process:

Enrolment: You must submit an online application, including your résumé, academic transcripts and a written essay on leadership.

Online leadership assessment: Select students will be asked to create an online profile of their competencies and leadership potential.

Phone interviews: Chosen students will participate in a short telephone interview.

In-person interviews/evaluation: Semi-finalists will be invited to a half-day event at a local Odgers Berndtson office (Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa or Calgary).

There they will participate in individual and group exercises, including speed interviewing and presentations, and have an opportunity to meet and network with some of the firm’s consultants and partners.

Students will receive feedback on their online leadership assessments, and finalists will be chosen and paired with a CEO.

The application period for the
CEOx1Day program begins September 28, 2017.



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