Top Talent: Second-year Queen’s commerce student Laura Christiansen

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We’ve developed the TalentEgg Top Talent series to help students and recent grads, and the employers who hire them, realize the value in students’ experiences and be inspired to achieve all different kinds of things in preparation for your careers.

In the second instalment of this series, we’re featuring Laura Christiansen, a second-year commerce student at Queen’s University who is interested in eventually working in marketing, sales, HR or international business (hey, she’s only in second year, she has plenty of time to decide!).

As you’ll read below, one of Laura’s greatest strengths is in her ability to draw parallels between her non-professional achievements and the traits that employers find valuable in students and recent grads, a skill that is commonly underdeveloped in young professionals with little or no “real” experience. One of the ways Laura accomplishes this is through a photo essay, which you can check out at the bottom of the article.

What is something you’ve done that is completely unrelated to your current career path but shows you’re going to be a superstar in the workforce?

Throughout high school I served at a family-owned Chinese restaurant that gives their staff large responsibility by putting servers in charge of all aspects of day-to-day operations, not just tables. I knew this was a great opportunity and I embraced it.

I loved the challenge and adrenaline that accompanied peak business hours. I learned to multi-task and prioritize, adapt to changing environments, deal with difficult customers, and cope under pressure while bettering the customers’ experience. I also learned the importance of a good attitude.

The skills and passion I demonstrated led to increased responsibility, and soon I was solely managing the restaurant on a weekly basis. By applying these traits in other positions, I’ve gained promotions at the World Trade and Convention Centre and Dartmouth Sportsplex.

Tell us about your Top 3 life experiences so far.

1. In 2006, I left home for the first time and moved to Chicoutimi, Quebec on a summer exchange program. I spoke no French but loved the excitement and challenge of living, working and learning a language in a completely new environment. I worked full-time as a childcare assistant, explored Quebec on weekend trips, and made new friends.

The fact that I did this on my own and at a young age says a lot about me. I’m not afraid to take risks, I step outside of my comfort zone and strive to be the best I can be. These are traits that will benefit me in the business world.

2. In 2007, I traveled to Argentina with a group from my church. We worked in the slums of La Plata, home to some of the most incredible people you will ever meet.

We helped distribute warm clothes, build a house, renovate their church and clear the dirt soccer field of garbage and glass. We played with kids and talked with the locals who opened up their homes and hearts to us.

The experience showed me it is not difficult to make a difference.

3. My transition to Queen’s was a rocky one. My high school had a poor reputation and the easy maintenance of grades did not prepare me for university. First semester was terrifying. I doubted my abilities and felt that I didn’t fit in.

However, I am resilient and vowed to give 100%. I lived in the library, pushed myself to the limit and although I felt I would break, I never did. I succeeded.

This year is even busier, but now I love it because I believe in myself. I am grateful for my struggles since I no longer set limits. Free and easy is overrated, and I now embrace challenges as they give me the opportunity to demonstrate what I am capable of.

If an employer called your best friend for a reference, what would he/she say to get you the job?

“In a crowd, Laura instantly stands out as a conscientious, creative, and energetic individual. Having worked with her in numerous group projects, I have seen firsthand the way she brings a unique set of experiences and knowledge to the table.

“She’s done everything, from waitressing to international service projects, meaning she knows how to deal with people of all types – a characteristic hard to come by in a second year university student. This flexible nature of hers has allowed her to excel in teamwork. She knows when to be a leader, and more importantly, when to step down. When working with her, I have been personally motivated to perform to the best of my ability and I have taken pieces of her leadership style in creating my own.”

Is there anything else you think we should know?

Art has helped me maintain balance, stay creative, and keep an open outlook on life, as the thought process that occurs when painting, for example, is radically different than when reading finance. I find that when I am creative outside of school, it reflects in my work by helping me see things from different perspectives, and not be constrained by the linear pattern of thought that business students are often use to using.

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About the author

Cassandra Jowett is TalentEgg's Content Manager. She joined the team as a student intern in the summer of 2008, and since then her heart has never really left the Egg Carton. Cassandra is a recent graduate of the Ryerson University School of Journalism, where she earned a Bachelor of Journalism with a focus in writing and editing for newspapers. She has also written and edited for The Globe and Mail, The National Post, t.o.night newspaper and other publications.