Career Goals: Tips & Tricks from an HR Professional

One day my cousin Dawn and I were talking about our dreams and what we hope to see happen in this beautiful world of ours. At one point, the conversation geared toward her journey to becoming an HR Professional at the Bank of Canada, a job she truly loves. She spoke of her experience and how she now gets to open the door to many hopeful professionals. So I thought: why not be helpful and write about how to get that dream job that will make you want to wake up every day. If you want to find out more about Dawn’s journey and get some tips for your own professional career, keep on reading!


Dawn’s Story

Dawn’s dream to work at the Bank of Canada took form when she was still at La Cite Collegiale, from which she graduated in 2010. She took several human resources (HR) classes, which she found engaging, and felt she could pursue a career in that field. In a few of those HR classes, Dawn found her “career rival”, let’s call her Jenny for the purposes of this article.

Dawn: There was a girl in one of my HR classes who knew all the answers to the questions the teacher would ask,” Dawn recounts. “It annoyed me so much!” she admits playfully. One day we were discussing employee retention and I just remember Jenny giving the most amazing answer; even the teacher was impressed. He asked how she knew all of that and she replied “that’s the kind of stuff we do at work.” And I was just looking at her thinking “OK, so where is it that you work” and I wanted to shout it but the teacher beat me to it. And she said “I work at the Bank of Canada”.

Up until then, Dawn had never heard of the Bank of Canada.

Dawn: I didn’t know what they were about but I was eager to find out more. I remember going home that day and googling “Bank of Canada”. I was reading about interest rates and all those financial terms on their website. It all seemed so serious.

But all the jargon did not intimidate Dawn. In that moment she told herself that one day, she would work at the Bank of Canada. She was impressed and envious of the knowledge Jenny had, and she wanted to gain that knowledge as well.

By the time she graduated college, the idea of the Bank of Canada had not resurfaced in Dawn’s mind, but the dream was still alive just beneath the surface. She worked a few jobs before getting recruited as an HR Assistant with the Canada Revenue Agency, while going to school part time to pursue a degree in BCOMM at the University of Ottawa. When her contract was coming to an end after a year as an HR Assistant, Dawn was set on going to school full time and putting a hold on work. Right around the same time, in 2013, a little voice reminded her of the Bank of Canada.

Dawn: I went on the website, looked at the career section and saw that some positions were available. I looked at the requirements and saw that I had the skills so I sent my resume and cover letter. Then I forgot about it. I had made up my mind to go to school full time.

Things did not quite go according to plan. Just a few weeks later, Dawn received a call from the Bank asking her to come in for an interview.

Dawn: I was so confused when I got the call. I saw “Bank of Canada” on my screen and it’s like I had amnesia. I didn’t know what that was. I picked up and the woman on the phone said “we got your application and we’d like you to come in for an interview”. I couldn’t even remember what I had applied for, but I said yes.

A few days later, Dawn went in for her first interview – a second one would follow if she passed the first round.

Dawn: I finished the interview and made my way to school as I had class that day. Just as I was about to get to class, I received a call from the Bank telling me I had made it to the second round of interviews. They wanted me to go back to the office in an hour.

Dawn did what any right-minded student would do in that situation: she skipped class and went for the interview.

Dawn: I later found out that the professor had cancelled the class, so everything was working out. During the interview I was so distracted; I was just looking around, admiring the view and in awe of everything. I didn’t think I would get the job because I was so distracted.

She got the job.

Dawn: The manager called me the next day with an offer and asked me if I was okay with the salary. I forgot everything that my teacher taught me about that: when they ask you if the salary is OK, say no and ask for more! I was just so excited about the job and I had never been paid that much anyway. At that moment, I remembered what I had told myself back in college: that I would work at the Bank of Canada someday.

Talk about a full circle: Jenny, Dawn’s “career rival”, still worked at the Bank by the time Dawn arrived.

Dawn: It took about two years of me working there for Jenny and I to actually start talking and become friends. We went out for dinner one night and I admitted to her that it was because of her that I found myself working at the Bank. Funny enough, she was shocked and she said “what! I always did all that because I thought ‘how does Dawn know all of that? She’s so good!’ So I always felt like I had to know more than you.” We had a good laugh about it.


Getting the Job

As an HR Recruitment Specialist at the Bank, Dawn’s focus is on students and recent graduates. She gets to screen the candidates and find who would be the best fit for the job. This is done by coming up with the best interview questions, conducting interviews, and outreach to various Universities in Canada. So she knows a thing or two about the application process. Here are the tips that came up as we discussed the most effective way to apply for a job.

Before you apply

  1. Identify what you love

As cliché as this sounds, it is probably the most important part of the journey. Too many people are stressed and depressed because they are working jobs they hate and find no fulfillment. Working a certain job to make ends meet might be necessary, but your journey should not stop there. Find what you love, what drives you to get up in the morning, and build from there.

2. Plan. Your time is Precious

Many job-seekers tend to send their resumes everywhere with the hope of getting a positive response. Not only is that time-consuming, it is not fruitful. This process creates feelings of anger, low self-esteem and negativity. Focus your energy on what is important. Plan by asking yourself the right questions:

  • Where do I see myself working e.g. company, city, organization culture, particular group of people, providing a service etc?
  • What can I do right now to move from where I am to where I want to be? What type of experience do I need?
  • What experience do I already have that could be beneficial for the job I want?
  • How can I build on that experience?
  • What other positions are out there that could help me extend my knowledge and develop some transferable skills?

3. Be informed and Network

When we talk about networking, some people run away. But there are many ways to do so. Dawn suggests that you look at it as a way of forming a genuine relationship with someone, to gain some knowledge. You do not necessarily need to be looking for a job to network. Here are some tips:

  • Use LinkedIn
    • There are events and workshops that you may come across and want to attend
    • If you are someone doing research on a particular topic, you can contact a professional in that field to give you some insight
    • Show genuine interest for people. Ask them about their own journey
  • Show up
    • Attend information sessions
    • Talk to representatives of the company or the sector in which you plan to work if you have the opportunity.
    • Create relationships with your professors if you are a student
  • Volunteer
    • You do not have to volunteer within in a field related to your profession. Find something that you think may add value to you. You never know what you might learn or who you might meet. 
    • If you’re still in school, join a club; it will help you build some behavioural skills


  1. Do not discard yourself
    • Apply even if you do not have all the skills listed on the job requirement 
    • Show your willingness to learn
    • List any transferable skills that you think may add value to the job
  2. Sell yourself
    • Your resume is your ticket to getting a job. Include relevant information that will put you in the best light for the position. But
      • Be honest. If you say you have extensive knowledge in your field but you cannot answer a basic question, the interviewer will know
    • Recent grads: sell yourself with your education, your GPA, extracurricular activities etc.
  3. Formatting matters
    • If the job posting offers guidelines for the resume, follow them
    • Keep it simple and easy to follow. The recruiter should be able to find important information such as your name, experience and education just by glancing over your resume.
  4. Do not overlook your behavioural skills
    • Interviewers want to know how you work in a team setting and how you apply the skills you include on your resume. Make sure to prepare to answer those questions just as well as you answer the field-specific questions.
  5. Negotiate your salary
    1. If they ask if you are okay with the salary, it usually means you can ask for more. Be bold.

There you have it. I hope you found these helpful. Eye-opening. Inspiring. Feel free to share your own journey to getting your dream job, because we all know rules are meant to be broken!


Final words

Dawn: Do what you like. It makes everything easier. There is always going to be a setback; you might not have a work permit yet, or it might take years of schooling, whatever the reason, but at least you are investing in doing what you love. In my spirit and in my mind I always wanted to work in HR and at the Bank of Canada, so I aligned myself to get that experience.

For Dawn, fulfillment is not about the money she makes but about the impact she has at work.

Dawn: I take pride in my job, knowing that I am giving it my best, that I am good at it and that I enjoy it. It is always rewarding to have my input and efforts be noticed by different members of the organization. Having this experience has also opened my eyes to new ventures that I would like to undertake and would not have even dreamed of had I not pursued my path in HR.

Dawn shared this final thought with me: I don’t just want to exist, I want to live. When you are on your deathbed, will you be able to say that you picked the right professional path and found fulfillment in it, or will you be regretting not having lived up to your full potential? 

With that in mind, go conquer!


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