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New Exciting Thinkers

We’re launching a new award program to recognize the industry’s up-and-comers.

There are a few hundred thousand kids in colleges and universities across Canada. Around this time every year a few football fields full of them graduate; then ask themselves that eternal question, "Now what?"

For most, the answer arrives by fluke or fate. A grad fresh with a BA in English might apply for a marketing job at an auto manufacturer, a sales job at a drug firm and some kind of government job. She lands the pharmaceutical gig first, and 30 years later she's still in that business. If you'd asked her when she started university whether she intended to spend her career selling drugs to doctors, the answer would have been no. But that's the way life works for most people.

Not for everyone, though. Sprinkled through those football fields of graduates each summer are the "best and brightest." The go-getters. The leaders of tomorrow. the best and brightest don't wonder what's next. They already know where they are headed in their careers. They seek to work in the most exciting jobs out there. And by excitement I mean a career that offers not only great pay, but also an environment that fosters innovation and creativity.

Those careers are not always the same. In the 1960s, when TV was new, marketing was the hot field. So too, was government (thanks to the space race and the new frontier). One job that wasn't hot in the '60s and '70s was finance. The stock market had flatlined for two decades and banking itself was an overregulated bore. No one wanted to be an investment banker.

But by the '80s and '90s, things had flipped. The stock market began a 20-year bull run, banking rules loosened and suddenly investment companies were coming up with all sorts of innovative, new ways to make big profits and pay out big bonuses. No surprise, then, that if you were the smartest cookie in the graduating class of 1986 or '96, you went straight to Bay Street.

What will be the hottest jobs for the best and brightest over the next decade is anyone's guess. But if our industry wants to attract some of these grads, we'll have to o er them the ability to be creative, and an environment that gets electric for new product launches and innovation in the aisles. We also need to start recognizing the people doing those things right now.

That's why Canadian Grocer is launching the Generation Next Awards. "Next" stands for New Exciting Thinkers, and these awards will recognize people under the age of 40 in grocery and consumer packaged goods who are demonstrating innovation, leadership and a commitment to make our industry better.

We're not going at it alone, either. We've partnered with the industry's most prestigious award program, the Golden Pencil. And we'll present the Generation Next winners on the same night as the Golden Pencil, Nov. 28 at the Royal York Hotel, in Toronto.

As with the Golden Pencil Awards we will give out one award to an individual who is working on the retail side of the industry; another to a person on the supplier side. If you know someone who deserves to be recognized (including yourself), go to and fill out a nomination form.

By the way, Generation Next is the second award program we've launched. Last year, we started the Community Service Awards to recognize grocery stores that are giving back to their towns through local charity or community-event involvement. We think it's important that the industry's magazine (for 125 years) should give back by awarding your achievements.

After all, the more we shout about what a great industry this is, the more likely the next crop of university grads will want to work for you.

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