Someone to look up to

Searching for a mentor to advance your career? Your future role model might be right under your nose.

I have some good news and some bad news.

But before we get to that, I want you to think for a moment on every negative comment you’ve ever heard about the “me” generation (or, as Joel Stein referred to them on a recent cover of TIME magazine, the “ME ME ME” generation). You know what I’m talking about … the entitled princes and princesses of vainglorious selfie fame … the lazed progeny of hovering helicopter parents … the insatiably selfish lads and lasses who expect a well-paying job to simply land in their couch-loving laps, preferably on a silvered platter with an ample snack on the side (delivered in bite-sized pieces, no less). They, you’ve heard from countless sources, have no social skills outside their narrow smart-phoned worlds. Nor do they have any work ethic, ambition or sense of responsibility.

Now I want you to picture yourself balling all of those unseemly stereotypes into a tightly-wadded sphere and kicking it forcefully to the curb. Or better yet, douse it with something highly flammable, set it afire and watch it literally go up in smoke. Preferably accompanied by a humbly-hummed Kumbayah. Because, honestly, haven’t you had enough of the pessimistic appraisals of today’s youth? And, doesn’t it tweak your own pride just a bit, knowing you’re part of the village responsible for raising this supposedly narcissistic generation?

But here’s the good news: today’s youth are just as, if not more, driven, creative, entrepreneurial and idealistic as any of their predecessors – and the proof is readily apparent in the stories you’ll find over the next few pages. The bad news? We, their predecessors, are just as judgemental and cantankerous and bitter as any generation before us. The young people are doing great; apparently, it’s ourselves we need to worry about.

Victor Stegemann (19)

Hometown: Halifax, N.S.
Executive summary: University student in a self-designed apprenticeship program, combining hands-on with online learning. The online learning is via Henson College at Dalhousie; the hands-on component is as the head of the E.U. office of The 7 Virtues. Founded by Victor’s mother (Barb Stegemann), The 7 Virtues is a Canadian perfume manufacturer that buys essential oils from rebuilding nations like Afghanistan and Haiti.

Gorilla trekking while in Rwanda for the harvest of patchouli crops for The 7 Virtues next fragrance. The gorilla tours help conserve and protect them from packers, with much of the funds from the tours going to fund schools and hospitals in the local village. (photo Barb Stegemann/The 7 Virtues)

Gorilla trekking while in Rwanda for the harvest of patchouli crops for The 7 Virtues next fragrance. The gorilla tours help conserve and protect them from packers, with much of the funds from the tours going to fund schools and hospitals in the local village. (photo Barb Stegemann/The 7 Virtues)

I visited a couple of universities and looked into their business programs while I was in grade 12. None of them offered anything that I couldn’t get from my mother. In fact, some of these schools were asking her if students could do coop work with her. Why would I pay a school to work with my mother when I could work with her and get paid?

In London, I head up European distribution, so when any of our stores place an order, I handle it from start to finish. Support materials, testers, media packages, photos … anything that’s required I personally take care of it. I also go on trade missions and pitched and landed stores for our company in Berlin and Vienna. The Vienna store sold out and reordered the first week.

The most challenging part of my role is cold selling on the floor in our stores. Stopping strangers is hard. Everyone in our company has to sell on the floor and get to know the customer. Our CEO is on the floor long days in new markets and visits as many stores as possible. It keeps us informed, excited and approachable.

I’ve been doing this since I was 18 (I only just turned 19 in March). A lot of the time, people who first meet me will just assume I’m older. It’s always fun to watch the shock on their faces when they find out my actual age.

My mother and I are a different team. She will ask me if I’ve met my deadline and in the same breath will ask me if I ate my breakfast.

Click here for extended interview with Victor

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Dawn Chafe
About Dawn Chafe

For the past 19 years, Dawn has been editor of Atlantic Canada’s most award-winning and largest circulation business magazine: Atlantic Business Magazine. Under her editorial direction, Atlantic Business Magazine has won 14 Atlantic Journalism Awards, three TABBIE international business press awards and two KRW national business press awards.

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