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Nilufer Hasanova


"train others how

you would want to be trained"

As part of the Teenacers’ series on how young professionals and young adults can help teens, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nilufer (Nilly) Hasanova. Nilly is a Registered Nurse at the Alberta Children’s Hospital working in both the Neurology Clinics, as well as various clinical trials. This, combined with her volunteer work with Kids Cancer Care, as well as mentorship experience with The Centre for Newcomer’s Real Me Program, Nilly works closely with many adolescents and young adults (in fact, they are her favourite age group). Being the oldest child of a newcomer family in Canada, Nilly had to pave the way for everyone in her family, meaning she knew exactly what a youth would have loved to have from a mentor in such a vulnerable time. Nilly is always happy to share all that she has learned along the way in order to make sure that the today’s youth is set up with all that they need to enter our workforce.  

From your experience, what would you say are the top 3 challenges teens or young adults face today when they enter the workforce? Can you articulate this from your industry’s / field’s perspective?

I think the 3 challenges that they face would be the preconceived notion that a young person might equal a lazy person, or that they just don’t have as much to bring to the team. This is simply incorrect, and I think that we need to break these stereotypes. I am in healthcare and it is such a changing field. Though we learn a lot from those nurses who have done this more than us, there are a lot that young nurses can share. This is true in any field.


Speaking up- this can be difficult. You have earned your spot. Though good to be respectful, you have a right to bring up concerns and have those serious conversations that just need to be had. You have as much of a right to have those conversations and to be taken seriously. 


The idea that you need to know exactly where you want to end up, or that your first job needs to be your dream job. This is unrealistic and simply leads to burnout or worse- further mental health problems. It is ok to work in something that is a stepping stone, or just something that guides you in the right direction, or even in something you never thought you’d be in! Think of it this way- if you enter your dream job now, you will be bored. Then what? 

As part of the adolescent coaching empowering resilient success (ACERS) series, we are interviewing experts, like yourself, in order to help leaders, teachers, parents, teens, and young adults by sharing our expertise. As an expert in your field, how would you articulate some strategies your employers used in their practice, or organization, to helped you feel empowered, build resilience, and experience success? Essentially, how were you coached? 

I speak so highly of this moment and it has made such a profound impact on my life. Nursing interviews are often a little bit different than most interviews I have had. Though they ask the typical “why are you interested?” and “what is your availability?” they are also scenario based and often have behavioural questions. My first manager at my “big girl” nursing job took the time during my interview to go through each of my answers and gave me feedback on everything. He knew that I had likely never had an interview like this before so he turned my interview into a teaching moment. He even told me “you know, if I hadn’t known you before, after the way you answered the first question I wouldn’t have hired you because you didn’t speak as highly of yourself as you should have!” He taught me that it is ok to speak of your accomplishments and that an interview is your time to shine! I am forever thankful for that moment and have shared all that he has taught me with anyone who has come to me for interview help, or help with job applications! Support, such as that, in such a vulnerable moment has led me to be so confident in interviews. Otherwise, open communication is key. Being able to approach one’s manager is huge.

As a young leader, how would you define leadership, as you have come to understand this term in your field, and why do you think it is important for teens and young adults to develop these characteristics and attributes before they enter the workforce?

Leadership is ultimately the ability to guide others but not in the traditional “speak your mind” sense. One can lead by example, one can lead in a small moment, they can be silent leaders (where they just guide their team but step in when needed), or can be a leader for a lifetime. It is anytime a person is in a position to guide others by using skills that they learned through their own experiences. It is important to develop these characteristics because it comes up in your everyday life. There will be times in any job where times are tough and a good leader might even be someone that says, “it’s ok, we will get through this,” or the one that says, “hey, let’s bring this up”.  It is ultimately someone who takes initiative. So it makes you realize that you do have many skills that you can attribute to being a leader. It provides you with strong examples for when you need to answer: “name a time where you were a leader”. Also the skills and experiences you gained by just taking that small initiative can lead to more opportunities. 


In fact, my favourite job came from my failure to obtain a leadership position. I applied to be in a committee and was devastated when I didn’t get it. I questioned my leadership skills and thought I wasn’t good enough. Later, my instructor came up to me and said “you know this is good for me because I needed someone to become a peer mentor for a not for profit that has chosen our school as a site. Would you be interested?” My failure to get a spot in this committee led to me being a peer mentor for the Calgary Bridge Foundation for Youth- a not for profit that I actually was a student at when I first moved to Canada. It felt so good to give back to an organization that gave me such support. Later, I won a high school scholarship from them that helped fund my post-secondary education, and I was hired and employed by them for years. I met such incredible people along the way. Who knew that by not getting to be a leader in one setting for a year, I got to be a leader for 5 years in another  One door closed is another open! 

Considering your experience and field of work, what do you think would make the most impact on teens and young adults before they enter the workforce to help them experience success? What skills and attributes would be the most beneficial when they enter the workforce? 

​I think seeing if you can shadow people is great! Email people in fields you are interested in and take them out for coffee (or I guess a zoom coffee with covid and all) and pick their brains. It can be overwhelming, but most people LOVE to do this. If you are shy, approach someone you trust and ask them to connect you with someone in their field. I do this for many youth in my life! I connect them with my colleagues or friends in different fields. We love sharing our passions  


Also, a small side note: make your cover letter specific to your job. Literally look at the job description and see how you demonstrate each competency they are looking for and be specific with how that example applies to the job you apply for. I learned this from the manager, I mentioned above, and trust me, he is a great manager, so he knows what he is talking about! This trick has not failed me yet!

So many skills to choose from, but if I could go back in time I would pick the following 3 that I would have loved to have when I first started:

  • 1) boundaries- It is ok to say “no” to shifts, work, etc. I understand you want to make a good impression and that’s fine and do it if you can but at the same time, you won’t be fired for saying “no I am sorry I need to take today off, I hope you can find someone else to find a shift” or “I have something else to work on, can I get to it right after?”. I promise you the whole company will not shut down because you refused to pick up a shift, or because you didn’t do the one task you were asked of. Turn your emails off, or your phone off. Take time off for yourself.

  • 2) always be honest- it’s ok to make mistakes. You are human. We all do it. Just own up to it, apologize, and let the person know how you are going to fix it. “sorry I made a mistake on this schedule. Next time I will color code it so I don’t do it again but will fix it.” People are usually very understanding, and if they are not, see the next point:

  • “maybe they’re having a bad day”- it is often what I remind myself if I am in an uncomfortable situation where someone is being unreasonable or rude. It doesn’t excuse their behaviour but it explains it. At the end of the day you have peace of mind. Hopefully they apologize later and if they don’t- is that really someone you want to worry about? 


  • 3) Be teachable/coachable and train others how you would want to be trained- sometimes when others want to teach you something, it is because they would have liked to have had that guidance at the time and want to pass it on to you. I promise they don’t think that you are not capable (though it may seem like it at the time). Our want to always impress others might get in our way where we are afraid to ask for help. It’s ok to not know something. Be coachable and teachable. People love to share their knowledge and they appreciate people who are flexible like this. Also, if you are asked to train someone then remember how you’d want to be trained- with a smile, and while being approachable of course! 

What 3 tips could you offer teens and young adults as they prepare to make a successful transition from mainstream education into the “real world”?

My advice for people would be to not compare yourself to others. All of these experiences of transition can be highly overwhelming, especially in the world of social media where you tend to see people's accomplishments constantly online, don't feel like you have "underachieved". You are not "late" to the rest of your life- you have your whole life to work and it is ok if you get there "a few years late". Everyone has their own path in life and remember that not everyone posts their failures online- and we all have failed at least once! Take a deep breath and remember that you are doing the best that you can.


Also sounds cheesy, but your job does not have to be your calling. It is important to love your job but don't be overwhelmed by the idea that you have to find something that is a huge calling and this life changing opportunity. It is ok to be happy and content in a job while you search for more. When you don’t focus so much on finding “the one” you leave so many doors open to find other passions. I did my pre-final focus on maternal health. I always pictured myself in labour and delivery though I was into pediatrics at the time. When I graduated I got a job in an adult neuro rehabilitation unit (the same unit with the amazing manager I mentioned earlier). I didn’t limit myself to just looking for jobs that involved moms, babies, or kiddos. Later I got a job in clinical trials in a pediatric neuroscience setting because of all my research involvement in undergrad, and adult neuro experience. How cool that the door that I kept open right after I graduated led to my dream job though years later! I love my job and love the kids I get to work with so closely. All because I didn’t get hyper focused on my “calling”. I just let my experiences guide me into something that I am truly passionate about!

I love playing Hi-5 with our guests! Can you please share with us your first thoughts on the ACERS acronym? What do each of these mean to you or what final statements or piece of advice can you leave us with?


The best age group! Time of self-realization, growth, and preparing one’s self for what is to come!


Mentorship, guidance, and support


Uplifting others by sharing one’s story


Strength and facing adversity head on!



Is what you name it! It is reaching one’s goals no matter how big or small. It is feeling fulfilled. 

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?


You can follow me at:

Nillyh_ (Instagram)

Nilufer Hasanova (Facebook)


Thank you, Nilly, for these fantastic insights.

We wish you only continued success in your great work! 

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