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How to keep young at heart in a corporate function

Apple Capezzera | Recruiter, Early Careers in London

“I can’t believe you’re still in graduate recruitment” – An ex colleague told me this sentence this evening and that got me thinking. Yes, I’ve been working in that function for about 5 years. Would I ever have imagined this when I was a young girl? Probably not.

For sure, when people were asking me “What you want to do when you grow up?” graduate recruiter as a job wasn’t even a thing! To be fair I remember that in my secret diary I had written down a list of dream jobs and one of those was “pharmacist” because I loved the smell of pharmacies… That little weirdo grew up and her future job doesn’t reflect her past aspiration.

But even without going that far behind, when I was studying at LSE 8 years ago, I was surrounded by super motivated and driven colleagues that were continuously asking me “what do you want to do?”. They were frantically putting applications for the top HR graduate schemes in the UK. I was hanging out and passionately arguing with my Portuguese boyfriend at the time and I replied, “I am not sure, but I’m sure I’ll do it well.” Graduate recruitment wasn’t on the horizon, and I didn’t even know it was a career option.

So here I am, 5 years later, still in early careers recruitment and still loving (almost) every day of it. The main reason? I want to keep young at heart and also provide direction and guidance in climbing that mountain that is “finding your first job.”

In the last couple of years at Expedia Group, I had the chance to spend loads of time with people in their early 20s and that gave me energy and made me look at the world positively, hoping that the people I hire, will do something good out there, thanks to their proactivity, agility and ability to innovate. I have my bad days at work like everyone else, there are days I wish I was selling ice cream on Hawaiian shores, but I want also to be mindful and foremost grateful of the opportunity I have to impact someone’s life in their early steps towards their careers.

I have decided to write down two of the most significative moments in my career at Expedia Group to date. As a reminder, giving young people the possibility to succeed and to demonstrate their potential is an enriching experience and a further excuse to let my Peter Pan syndrome roam free and to decide not to care about it (just yet). ?

30 hours students Hackathons (2x)

Two weeks after I had started working at Expedia Group back in September 2018, I was in a meeting with Sean, a software development engineer intern who wanted to run an all-nighter coding challenge as a recruitment event. It sounded fun. I smile when I think about that meeting because Sean came across as super confident and he took all the recruitment decisions without consulting me first, but I have to say, most of them were spot on. I was impressed by the courage of a 20 year old intern who presented me with a super compelling recruitment strategy and ability to secure budget to run that show. I thought about myself in my 20s – I think getting a fiver from my dad to buy a magazine has been more challenging.

Hackathons became the way we’ve been recruiting software development interns into Expedia Group and also the way I spend 30 hours of some of my weekends during peak season – with around 30 young engineers trying to build a solution that would make travelling easier.  Combining assessment and fun, the challenge of a job interview becomes a game where the stress of the normal interview setting fades away and the learning opportunities of using technologies to build something from scratch becomes more important.

Virtual Work Experience

We will always remember that 2020 was the year of COVID-19, and that meant no school, no office, no fun, no end of month drinks and yes to an endless series of restrictions that involved human contact. However, technology has been a huge ally during this time – imagine all of this without video conferencing tools, online quizzes, and virtual coffee chats. One of the things that I have been honoured to be part of during this time, has been a virtual work experience for 20 girls in year 10 and 11 to get a taste of what a career in tech is like.

Technology breaks boundaries and a lot of girls from all over the UK manage to get a few days of learning about different career paths in technology and how to get there. The main idea behind this was to inspire and provide them with some tools to understand how to get where they want through employability sessions and panels featuring interns and apprentices. I have to say that seeing how talented and bright those girls were moved me a tiny bit, because I could sense in them, that courage and fearless behaviour of when you’re a teenager and the world is your oyster.

I can’t imagine my old self in both above situations. And this is not because I wasn’t bright enough or outspoken enough. Firstly, I couldn’t be as bold as Sean as I haven’t been working for the right company back in my 20s. Expedia Group provides a lot of opportunities to young people to make an impact in our workplace – I always repeat to our interns that they make our jobs easier, because listening to their opinion counts more than a well refined talent strategy put together by a super expensive consultancy. Their voice shapes the future of our strategy and our collaborative ways of working make this resonate. Lastly, I wasn’t inspired to follow a career in tech when I was 14, because that wasn’t a thing. The world of work moves and evolves so quickly. It is important to inspire younger generations to what comes next, but also teach them to adapt to change and be flexible and ready.   

At the end of the day, not imagining I would become a graduate recruiter when I was younger, is not a big deal. The real big deal is how I’ve been able to nurture younger generations’ imaginations and help them build their aspirations everyday.

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