By Chris Edwards
The “Great Recession” was no walk in the park for the Canadian economy, but this country fared far better than most. Yes, old methods had to be questioned. Many people lost their jobs. But not all job categories were hit equally hard.
Some, like accounting, remained relatively unscathed; not that this should surprise you. The work you’ll soon be doing is the kind no organization can afford to ignore. Today, more than ever, employers are willing to invest in you.
“According to a recent survey of over 1,000 Canadian executives, 86% indicated that they are confident in their company’s prospects for growth in the fourth quarter,” said Lisa Otterman, a CGA and recruiting manager with Robert Half Finance & Accounting in Vancouver. “While some companies are still exercising caution when making a full-time hire, they are looking to strategically recruit to improve efficiencies and capitalize on growth opportunities.”
Yes, many employers have restored their hiring to pre-recession levels, but not everything is the same as it was back then. For one thing, these employers are now operating leaner; expecting one person to multi-task in ways best handled by tech-savvy professionals with up-to-date knowledge of regulatory changes and current trends. They may also view new hires as a means to bolster their team’s skills and expertise, which sounds more like a job for someone new to the field than a professional with three to five years’experience.
“We need analytical types; people who know their technology,” says Nadine Thurston-Prior, assistant vice-president of global recruitment strategy at Manulife Financial. “No matter what department you end up working in at Manulife, we’ll want those skills. But we’ll also help you develop your skills in leadership and business analysis. We have about 20 programs like this, designed to develop talent long-term.”
Deloitte is looking ahead by giving young employees the space to explore their futures.“If you work for us, you can pursue your career in almost any field we’re involved in,” says Will Christensen, the firm’s national team lead -campus talent acquisition. “We are approved to hire people outside of the audit service now,and that means students who come to us don’t have to do audits if that isn’t where their interests lie. We give you the chance to think about what you enjoy, and we encourage you to broaden your horizons.”
Options matter to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), too. Part of the organization’s mission is to hire employees with a wide range of educational backgrounds and experiences—people interested in using their knowledge and expertise to make a difference in peoples’ lives. Once those people have been brought on board, the CRA tries to maximize their potential through initiatives like its Auditor Apprenticeship Program (AAP), which targets college and university students in their final year of a business-related diploma or degree program. As a successful AAP graduate,you’ll have all the skills needed to become an auditor at the CRA.Today’s employers will do what they can to nurture your personal and professional growth.
But it still boils down to what you can offer them. “Research the organizations you’d like to work for in advance,” advises Kevin Smith, talent acquisition specialist at Maple Leaf Foods. “Then submit a cover letter outlining your background as it relates to the job. Once you land an interview, be flexible. Make sure you can answer basic personal questions regarding your work experience, education, and extra-curricular activities. And don’t forget to be enthusiastic. At Maple Leaf, we look for the kind of ‘can-do’ attitude that shows us you’re excited to learn and ready to apply yourself.”
Positive attitude is a plus at Loblaw Companies, too. “We’ll be hiring hundreds of students and professionals this fall,” says Marc Viola, senior director – talent. “If you work for us, you’ll be working in an extremely fast paced environment, so we need you to be invigorated by challenges you’ll face—to succeed, you’ll have to be as passionate about food and customer service as we are, and share our mission and values. How you behave sets the tone for others.”
Of course, a great first impression isn’t everything. To stand out, you’ll need to combine your winning attitude, good grades, talent, and technical knowledge with great communication skills and a willingness to adapt. The ability to communicate and build relationships is something all employers value.
PricewaterhouseCoopers certainly does. The firm plans to hire about 500 full-time employees and interns this fall, and for Christine Gillespie, director of human capital in the audit and assurance group, those hires must be able to relate to anyone. “The foundation of our business is the relationships with our clients,” she says. “One of the most vital factors in building a relationship is listening to the client, hearing what they have to say, and helping them solve their problems. Equally important is building and fostering relationships with colleagues, partners and coaches inside the firm too.”
Yes, digital age employers will expect you to master whatever systems and software they use, and a solid technological background will make that easier. However, your ability to craft a message matters just as much. In fact, now that messages can be sent with a single keystroke and copied to anyone, anywhere in the world, it matters even more.
Speaking of the wider world, you may be called upon to explore a bit more of it. Today’s employers are drawn to candidates willing to relocate—not only does it make you easier to place, it’s another sign of your long-term commitment. While Toronto’s size and status as a Canadian financial centre means many employers will require a large percentage of their new hires to be there, many of those same employers maintain offices elsewhere, too.
Ernst & Young will be hiring for approximately 500 full-time and internship positions this fall, dividing them among several Canadian markets. “Every office is looking for strong candidates,” says Nancy Hoo, the firm’s Canadian campus recruiting leader. “We’ll need most of them for our offices in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, but we hire for all of our offices, including Calgary, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Quebec City and Halifax, at the same time. The focus of their work varies, depending on the city they’re in. In Toronto, for example, they focus on sectors like financial services and insurance, retail distribution and manufacturing, technology, communications, and entertainment.”
This is your time. If you’re an intern, you’ll find a newly energized, post-recession workplace to be the ideal learning environment. And if you’re ready for your career to begin, your skills already make you highly valuable to organizations looking to grow. Do your research, work hard, and above all, be willing to take direction when it’s offered. No matter where you’re headed, an employer can have a good job waiting for you.