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Signals of potential, the AMS elections and Tyler Turnbull

As I browsed through my Twitter feed yesterday morning, a tweet about my alma mater, Queen’s, came through, and I was compelled to click because it mentioned, a) a Cee-Lo parody, and b) the AMS (student council) elections.

The Twitter link took me to an article called “Who casts the first stone…“, highlighting a hilarious video that Team SDL made as part of their campaign for AMS executive this year. I was very impressed – it’s funny, energetic, and lets you see a very human side of Team SDL.

When I was at Queen’s, my very good friend and housemate, Tyler Turnbull ran for AMS president and won. I will always remember the very long night we all spent in our living room waiting for the campaign results to come through. At the time, it felt like the biggest deal in the world. It was the biggest deal in the world for Tyler, his executive team (Kelly Steele and Brian Cheney), and the many volunteers who helped run and eventually win the campaign.

The first thing I did after seeing the video was email Tyler, letting him know that he was extremely lucky that YouTube didn’t exist when he was running (but also secretly regretful that it didn’t because it would have been absolutely hilarious to watch that video now).

Secondly, it got me thinking about non-academic achievements and their role as a predictor of future career success.

So often at TalentEgg, we receive job descriptions from employers that are interested in a very narrow segment of the student/new grad audience. For example: Business student in third year from School X or School Y, or second year chemical engineering exclusive from School Z.

I’m a very big fan and proponent of entry-level hiring that is based on potential for the future. One of the biggest ways of predicting potential for the future is by evaluating success across all areas of a student or recent grad’s life. One of those areas – absolutely – is academic, but it is only one of many possible places that students can signal their potential.

In an increasingly competitive market, employers need to be ‘recruiting outside the lines’ – i.e., opening up their very rigid requirements in order to truly find the best talent, not just the individuals that did well in particular programs in school.

In my own life, I began signalling that I would become an entrepreneur in my teenage pursuits of becoming a famous, successful actress. To be clear, I was never talented and very limited in my success, but the actions I took to achieve my goals signalled the core skills that have been key in my entrepreneurial life.

The three students who make up Team SDL are currently signalling that they are motivated, goal-oriented, creative in achieving their goals, have fantastic time management skills, and more. I would venture to guess that they are also maintaining excellent grades while devoting 40+ (unpaid) hours per week to their campaign.

As for my housemate and Queen’s AMS President for 2004/2005, Tyler Turnbull, he was hired as an intern for Publicis (a multinational advertising and communications company) right after graduation. Five years later, he is the joint head of planning for Publicis in the UK.

Several employers that came to campus passed up the chance to have Tyler – a film major – on their team, but if they had looked closely, they would have seen that the signals were always there.


  1. This is a great post, and reminds me in large part of an old article the Globe and Mail ran called “Meet Generation Practical” (http://bit.ly/fyHdUz), which described how high school grads were looking for “useful” degrees (i.e., business and engineering) because that’s all recruiters were looking for. I wrote a response chastising this approach, since students with Arts degrees often work as hard or harder for their degrees, but are generally ignored by recruiters. What you describe is more of the same: recruiters are often so blinded by degree type that they ignore other very important signals of an applicant’s potential… to their detriment.

    As my response to the G&M’s article noted, our last two Prime Ministers had arts degrees (not business or ChemEng). Clearly there are other signals than one’s program in school!

  2. Great last line! It is so true that grades and extracurriculars are important. Look at how much work someone does inside school and alongside school to see their potential.

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