Are you a recent grad just starting your career, wondering how to land your dream job? Or are you already in a career but are contemplating a change and don’t know where to start?
In this post, I outline my personal career journey, the choices I made and how I stepped out of my introverted comfort zone to create my own opportunity. All of this lead me to my dream job in the Human Resources field and for a company I didn’t even think was possible to work for. I also provide my top 5 career tips for you to consider in your own journey, and how I want to help you on your way to achieving your own dream.
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Figuring Things Out
“It’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know.”
Growing up, my dad would throw around the phrase, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” around at different opportune times. I thought it was so strange and ironic since he was constantly pushing us to achieve high grades in school. And when it came time for me to look for a job in my field, I asked my dad to help me get my name out there with his colleagues, it didn’t seem like he was eager to do so because he was most likely too proud to ask. That’s when I knew I was on my own and had to get out there and figure out a way to start my career. That’s when I knew I had to create my own opportunity to land my dream job.
What Could I Do With My University Degree?
I had graduated with a Bachelor Of Science Degree with a major in Psychology from York University in Toronto. There was no way I could go further with Psych since I had already accumulated quite a bit in student loans and wanted to start repaying it right away. I also knew I didn’t want to get into further debt by going to post-graduate studies. So out to the real world I went. With no office-type experience, none of the big name recruitment agencies were eager to market me to their clients.
My Start in Retail
That’s how I ended up working in retail, at a Shoe company for a big name Canadian brand for a few years. I truly embraced that opportunity even though I knew I didn’t want to be in retail for long. It was still a business so I ended up learning so much about the business, sales in general, marketing and even a bit of Human Resources. That job put me on this amazing path that has led me to this wonderful life, and for that I am forever grateful.
The Advice That Changed My Life
Career Tip #1:
Try an entry level position at a small company.
A few of my friends wanted to check out a job fair my University was holding to see if we could somehow upgrade ourselves. I knew I wanted to get into HR and spoke to some of the recruiters about how to go about doing this. One of the recruiters gave me the best piece of advice I had ever gotten. She told me to think about working for a very small company. That way, I could show them what I could do and move up much quicker than if I worked for a larger organization. Seemed logical enough for me!
Working With A Recruitment Agency
Career Tip #2: When choosing a recruitment agency to help with your search, try a smaller boutique-like firm to give you personalized attention.
Fast forward a few months later. An employment agency called Renaissance was the first to truly help market me to potential employers. If I could give one tip about choosing which agency you should work with, it’s to choose a smaller agency that would be able to give you the attention you need in your job search. This agency lead me to my first real office job as a Customer Service Representative for an optical lens company.
My First Office Job
This optical lens company was so small in Canada that I believe I was employee number 10 at the time! But honestly it was such a good job that’s provided me with long-lasting friendships. I worked my butt off and I was so eager to prove my worth. One of our customers mentioned he told my President that I was way too smart to be in Customer Service. That my President should be leveraging my knowledge and talent in other, more effective ways for the company. My President agreed and even told me about that conversation himself.
Career Tip #3: Work hard in every job you accept even if it’s not in your chosen field.
This gave me the motivation I needed to try and create an opportunity for myself. At the time I had just started dating someone, who is now my husband. He was a recruiter for a large electronics retailer, and he suggested I approach my President to see if there was any way I can gain experience in HR. I decided to write a proposal as to why our company needed an HR person. Even though we were still quite small at the time, they had plans to expand our optical lab and have different shifts. We were projecting to go from 10 to 75 employees and beyond in a short time frame. This was my chance!
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How I Created My Own Opportunity
Career Tip #4: Be in tune with what is happening in your organization. If you see opportunities where you can help the company grow, sell your bosses by creating a proposal and show them how you can help with the growth.
I ended up writing an 8 page proposal and gave it to my President. He came back to me and smiled while saying, “You don’t have to sell me on the benefits of HR. I believe in it.” And he believed in me too. He gave me a shot! And there I was, with no HR experience, building an HR department for a small company from the ground-up.
Holy cow that was an amazing experience. I still think about the work I put in from creating New Hire packages, building an Employee Handbook, partnering with our Operations Manager and co-creating a Health and Safety plan and handbook. Putting together standard operating procedures for recruitment, orientation, onboarding and terminations.
I Took That Opportunity and Ran With It
I was able to negotiate a starting title of HR Generalist and a pretty good salary. The perks of having my own office and getting involved with the executive team in trying to build engagement and retention were true bonuses. I started to hire, and hire, and hire! We met our recruitment goals, even though the industry is quite small and the positions were fairly specialized.
I felt like I was on the right career path. Until, my boyfriend-now husband told me he was offered a promotion to Regional HR Manager, but it would be located in Vancouver, BC. There was no hesitation on my part when I said he should go. And I pretty much told him I was going with him.
Relocate to Vancouver
Luckily, I was able to stay with my company, but unfortunately I couldn’t stay in the HR position since they needed HR to stay at the head office. So I accepted a role as Territory Sales Manager. Oh God how I hated it. I am not a sales person. Even though every career test said I would be great at it, it just wasn’t for me. I need the comfort of an office and a desk, surrounded by co-workers. I love my routine, and being a Territory Manager meant I had to be on the road 90% of the time. And my territory was the Fraser Valley! And Chiliwack! I remember crying on the phone to my old co-workers and best friends. I needed to get back into HR, and fast!
My Dream Career At My Dream Company
Career Tip #5: Don’t chase after titles. It’s better to be a “Coordinator” in an organization that will help you grow, then to be a “Manager” in a company that won’t foster your development.
That’s when I came upon my DREAM HR job for a global luxury automotive brand. I got the job and ended up staying with the company for 10 years until they sold it to another group. I’m still with the company today, so technically I’m still with the brand. My starting title was HR Coordinator, but I was the lone HR representative in BC. I had a wonderful team back in Toronto, but I was pretty autonomous and reported directly to the Vancouver VP of Retail. He gave me freedom to propose, create, coordinate and rollout any HR program that made sense for our team and our region.
Where Am I Now?
I am now the Regional HR Manager for the company that bought my previous one. I wouldn’t say the responsibilities have changed with the exception of now having a small team working with me on-site, along with a larger employee base and more retail locations.
After almost 20 years in Human Resources, I can look back and think about how with a bit of luck, perfect timing, great advice and awesome people who helped me along the way, this all lead me to the wonderful life I’m living today. Want to see a snapshot of my work experience? Check out my profile on LinkedIn.
Top 5 Career Tips Summary
In case you missed it, here’s a summary of my Top 5 Career Tips:
- Try an entry level position at a small company. You’ll have more opportunities to get noticed.
- If you are thinking of going to a recruitment agency to help with your job search, try a smaller firm who will be able to give you and your career that much-needed personalized attention.
- Work hard in every job position you accept, even if it’s not in your chosen field. I have countless examples of exemplary employees that Managers will bend over backwards to help develop and grow within the company because of their great attitude, hard work and amazing work ethic.
- Be in tune with what’s happening in your organization. If you see opportunities where you can help the company grow, write a proposal that will show your bosses how you can help with the company’s growth.
- Don’t chase after titles. The company you work for, their culture, how you’re treated and being developed is much more important. Remember, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
I Want to Help You Find Your Dream Job
With My Favourite Life, I hope to help as many people as I can to find your dream job. This post is the start of a series of Career-related articles to get you on your way. Please feel free to reach out to me or comment below to see how I can help you with your journey. Also, look out for the services I will be offering in the near future, so if you haven’t already, subscribe to this website to receive regular updates.
Until next time, stay healthy and safe my friends!
This article was originally posted on “My Favourite Life”, a blog about Motherhood, Lifestyle and Career.
Other Posts from My Favourite Life – Career Series
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