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Ali Meersman got her first glimpse of a future in TA when interviewing for an internship at one of the Big Four accounting firms. Not only did she like the recruiter she was engaging with, but the work of recruiting itself piqued her interest. Meersman landed work in accounting, and it wasn’t until she moved from the auditing department to recruitment that she fully realized her passion.
“I do really love being a part of the journey from college to your first ‘real job’ or internship. There’s just so much energy and excitement with candidates at that level, and I think it can be a really strategic advantage for the business as well,” she said.
Meersman now works for Viasat, a satellite communications company in Southern California, and is taking its decentralized approach to early-career recruitment and turning it into one strategic program. Meersman pointed to differences specific to early-career recruiting, such as offering education and networking components or explaining to students how to apply their degree to the work. “Just because you choose a major in college, doesn’t mean you actually know how that translates to the real world,” she said.
“I always joke: Will I eventually age out of an early-career recruiting [when] the students won’t think I’m relevant anymore?” Meersman said. For now, she’s growing the company’s 400 annual intern and early-career recruits all across the globe.
What’s the best change you’ve made at work?
The most recent example is making enhancements to our US summer internship program that made it feel more like an “experience” vs. just teams from the business hiring interns as 12-week temporary workers. We developed four key program pillars that aligned with our business needs and centered all internship activities under a pillar.
One of the pillars was “build your network,” and we executed on that by piloting an intern buddy program. We assigned a buddy to each intern as a more informal relationship, someone who is early in their career that can relate to where they are. We trained buddies on their role, allocated [a] budget for intern/buddy meet ups (meals and fun activities), and subsequently surveyed them on their experiences. The interns loved it, and we have the data to back that—it truly enhanced their internship.
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What’s the biggest misconception people might have about your job?
That early career/campus recruiting is just “fun events,” career fairs with cool swag, intern socials and dinners, etc. Fun, yes, but that is such a fraction of what we do, and there is so much strategy and thoughtfulness behind it with greater business objectives in mind.
What’s the most fulfilling aspect of your job?
I was first introduced to talent acquisition as a career during my own recruitment process in college … I chose one offer over another in part because of the mentorship and authenticity of the recruiter. For me, the most fulfilling part of early-career recruitment is walking alongside a university student as they begin their career journey— you are there as they sign the offer for their first “real” job or internship, then one to two years later, they are alongside you attending career fairs, mentoring an intern, etc. Essentially watching them come full circle and get excited to help recruit the next cohort of talent.
What trend in HR are you most optimistic about? Why?
HR is becoming less siloed. I have spent about eight years in HR and I feel like the facets of HR have really come together. For example, more than ever, talent acquisition is now collaborating with the other teams—business partners, learning/talent development, operations/systems, DEIB, onboarding, etc.—which allows us to serve the business as a collective.
What trend in HR are you least optimistic about? Why?
Layoffs. While I understand these are sometimes inevitable, we are now desensitized after so many HR layoffs in the news over the past two years. Many HR professionals are constantly on edge and it is not motivating them to work harder, as some may think. It creates a looming anxiety and uncertainty, which is not an attitude that leads to high performance.