Since 1994 Nathan Laurie has used a variety of media to help companies recruit university and college students. Nathan currently runs Rankmyinternship.ca aka the ‘Trip Advisor’ for internships; a premier online analytics platform organisations use to improve internship offerings. Nathan also manages Jobpostings.ca, Canada’s largest online student job network, helping students to launch their careers. In this exclusive interview Nathan talks about how he came to be CEO of Canada’s online job network, and offers some essential advice for graduates looking to take their first step on the career ladder…
Please could you tell our readers how it all started…
In 1998, two brothers who couldn’t find a job decided to start a magazine to help their friends find work. Along the way, we picked up another business, and after an honest conversation where we agreed upon our respective strengths; we decided that I should become president of the Jobpostings Network and Mark would become president of Apply to Education.
What about the here and now?
The company I’m currently building is called Rank My Internship. My role is to help spread the word and get employers excited about adopting our platform as a way to collect feedback on how they can improve their internship programs. We can provide companies with real data that’s unbiased and anonymous.
What’s it like working with your brother – is there any sibling rivalry? Or do you both push each to achieve your business goals?
It’s amazing working with my brother. One of the reasons we started our own business was so we could work together. We both have the same attitude to divide and conquer. We run separate divisions of the company on a day-to-day basis, but when it comes to bigger decisions about people, or significant allocations of capital, we sit down and discuss the issues together. As brothers, there’s nothing more motivating than wanting to help each other succeed professionally and personally.
What was your biggest challenge when setting up Rank My Internship?
The biggest challenge with Rank My Internship is that everyone loves the idea, but asking people who love the idea to pay for a sponsored profile… that’s the most challenging part! What separates startups that succeed and fail – the ability to generate real dollars from your idea.
How important are internships for graduates / Generation Z in respect of developing their skills in the workplace?
Internships are vital – they allow students and graduates to build a wide range of skills through direct application instead of theory. The skills learned on the job often form the foundation for a student to be successful in a full-time job upon graduation.
Do you have any case studies / success stories of companies running internship programs in Canada that you’d like to mention?
TD Bank, RBC, Nexen… to name a few. All three of these companies invest a lot of time and energy ensuring their students have a world class experience working for them.
There’s an article from the Huffington Post that you recently posted on social media that led to the #MyTimeHasValue hashtag. Do you feel graduates are being taken advantage of by companies? If so, can you see the situation changing in the near future?
There are always isolated cases of companies taking advantage of students; however, we don’t see this as being the norm. We see companies putting a lot of thought and energy and resources into their programs. At Rank My Internship, we also do our best to educate employers about best practices relating to creating and administering internship programs that offer real educational value to students.
How do you see internship programs developing over the next 18 months – for example, do you feel longer placements are most beneficial to graduates going forward?
One area where we see a lot of change is in the flexibility towards time and hours. As companies are adopting flex-time for their employees, interns are beginning to share in those workplace privileges. We are also seeing an increase in the number of longer duration internships that are on par with college-level certificate programs ranging up to 24 months in duration.
What are your top tips for how graduates can deliver on their potential and get the job they deserve?
It really depends on the circumstances of each graduate as there are so many pieces of advice to offer, but I would boil it down to strategically pursuing your passion, obsessively looking for opportunities to develop your knowledge and skill set, and actively networking and participating in clubs, associations and conferences related to your field of interest.
What are your thoughts on artificial intelligence and how it will affect graduates’ careers going forward?
When it comes to AI, it’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the increased automation of simple work tasks could mean an overall reduction in the amount of work available to intern. But on the flip side, by having robots take over the more repetitive and low-value tasks, it will provide interns with the opportunity to work on higher-value tasks and projects that have greater educational merit.
What are your hobbies outside of work?
When I’m not thinking about work, I’m literally sleeping. But I do love to take time for myself to work out, play tennis and watch my kids doing the activities they love.
What is your one piece of advice to a graduate who is having trouble securing an interview, let alone a new job?
I would advise being humble and asking for help. Ask your friends, your mentors, your school career counsellor to review your resume, cover letter, your social media branding, your networking habits – even doing mock interviews – the more secondary perspectives you can gather, the better you will understand your strengths and weaknesses.
What was your dream job as a child?
To be a trader! When I was 21, my dream came true. I was a summer student on the trading floor. Halfway through, a merger was announced, and I saw people be called in to a room, come out with a box and have to pack up and be escorted out. The experience had a profound effect on me. I said to myself, I never want to be in that position where my employer could fire me for situations beyond my control. I wanted more control over my own destiny. Luckily, a business idea I had at University worked out, and that summer job was the last time I ever worked for anyone else. That was 25 years ago!
What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given?
I really take to heart that sometimes, the best opportunities come from failure. I believe when one window closes, another one opens. If you have this perspective in business or in life, you will have the motivation to keep going, even after something terrible happens to you.
Finally, what is your life motto?
Life is a series of chapters. I’m 46 years old, and I hope I’m just approaching the halfway mark!