FELLOWSHIP SELECTION: WHERE LEARNING WINS
VFC’s Fellowship Program is the bridge from postsecondary education into the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Canada. It’s for ambitious, recent grads who are hungry to learn.
That’s right: learn. You may have expected “work hard,” “innovate,” or “add value to growing startups across Canada.” Fellows do all that. But first and foremost, their journey is about life-long learning.
The learning starts at our notable Selection Events, part of the admissions process. But how do you bring a learning mindset to a group interview?
We’re breaking down the keys to success in our application process so folks can take the best shot at landing a spot in the Fellowship: and, just maybe, make a connection to an idea (or a person!) who can unlock their entrepreneurial potential.
Ps. What we’re not looking at includes an extensive resume; previous startup experience, exceptional public speaking skills; or business attire. Save the suit and tie for another day.
THE 3-STAGE APPLICATION PROCESS
These are the three stages an applicant must complete before being considered to join our annual cohort.
The Application Form: We look for alignment with our values, particularly authenticity, humility, and ambition. We also want to ensure applicants understand that this program is an opportunity to learn and grow themselves and their network: it’s not just to land a job (although that’s a pretty great outcome!)
The Video: While it’s a chance to make sure you’re not a robot — we to understand how you choose to introduce yourself to our team and add some sparkle to your application.
The Selection Event: In a four-hour virtual event, we observe participants as they face ambiguity in a complex group challenge — and along the way, bulk up their interview skills while networking with a handful of inspirational startup, business, and impact leaders — our volunteer judges!
The value of experiential or group interviews in candidate selection has long been recognized. That’s part of our logic here, too. Seeing candidates in action (instead of just talking about it) gives our team and the judges a much more accurate idea of how the finalist considers an opportunity to learn; how they take on new tasks; work with others; and cope with ambiguity: all key skills for success in their first role at a startup.
In many ways, the process itself mimics our partner startups: a multi-stage application that challenges the candidate to articulate their goals and intentions and demonstrate their transferable skills. Let’s dig in.
THE SELECTION EVENT DAY-OF
The Salection Event begins with a live workshop. Using insights from the startups we’ve worked with over the last eight years, we introduce the strengths these employers are looking for in new hires.
The candidates go through an exercise of self-discovery: identifying their strengths and what they’re challenged by, using the list above and their own experiences and instincts. This information can be directly to their job hunt effort to the learning goals they’ll set in the Fellowship, and encourages them to use a strengths-based approach in their new challenge teams.
Candidates will face ambiguity of new teammates and a high-level startup challenge – with the clock ticking toward their presentation to our judges.
They’ll collaboratively while judges observe how they work as individuals and together. Do you bring out the best in others and offer your best to the team? Do you listen as well as you give directions? How do you respond to uncertainty and ambiguity?
Judges score the candidates’ work time and their resulting presentation, giving us a final score.
OVERALL, WE’RE LOOKING FOR
Intentionality and a learning mindset at every step of the way. There is no one definition of an entrepreneur, and unlocking your entrepreneurial potential looks different for each of us.
By the end of the application process, our team want to know:
- How our Fellowship Program advances your personal and professional goals;
- That you’re passionate about dedicating a year to learning — and stretching what you thought possible; and
- How you show up in a complex situation (we’d suggest that “humble”, “curious”, “collaborative”, and “open to learning” sounds good… right?)
The Fellowship is intense. To get the most out of the program, Fellows must prioritize the time and effort of self-discovery, community building, and live workshop attendance — in addition to a life-changing three-week, in-person training camp! Success in the Fellowship requires vulnerability, dedication, and a spirit of growth, which is true of success at work with VFC’s entrepreneurial partner employers, too.
ABOUT THE FELLOWSHIP:
Since 2015, 374 graduates from across Canada have participated in our program landing jobs with startups and innovative small businesses. Our team works closely with each Fellow to offer customized support and timely professional development so that they gain the knowledge and confidence to lead more successful careers, starting a three-week immersive training Bootcamp in collaboration with the Queen’s Smith School of Business, and a connection to a job at a VFC partner startup.