Paving way for career success with CPA Ontario
Updated: Oct 27, 2020
An interview with CPA representative, Gloria Annable
As a POC, what advice would you offer POC students as they start their careers and enter the workplace?
As a POC, I’m fortunate that I’ve not encountered many systemic barriers in the organizations that I’ve worked for. CPA Ontario takes diversity very seriously and has a very diverse workforce. CPA Ontario also understands that it shares a responsibility to understand and counter racism at every level. As part of our relationship with the Speakers’ Spotlight, all CPA Ontario employees were invited to attend a virtual panel discussion called “Open Dialogue: A Conversation on Race, Equality, Justice and Hope” this past summer. It was a great moderated discussion intended to shed some light on the current challenges, the possible solutions and what we can all do to create a better society.
That said, I would encourage POC students to be aware of undercurrents of societal challenges, and at the same time, not let that affect your belief in yourself, your abilities and what you have to offer an organization. We can’t pretend that there aren’t challenges to be overcome. But we can decide how we let that affect us. We can’t control other people’s actions, but we can choose how we respond. I’m a big believer in giving out good regardless of what I receive in return (yes, sometimes that will be hard to do). But Martin Luther said "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." Wherever you go, whatever you do, you are a representation of people of colour everywhere and our value. Represent us well.
How can recent graduates be allies to students looking to enter the workforce? How can they continue to support them as they progress through the different stages of their careers?
It can be really reassuring having someone who’s walked the path you’re on share their experiences. That’s one of the reasons why we require all CPA students to have CPA mentors who can support them in their journey to getting their designation. New graduates can really come alongside students entering the workshop and share their experiences and their advice. As much as we all have to make our own mistakes in order to learn and grow, it can be very useful having someone show you which pitfalls to avoid in a new workplace. It also sets a standard for teamwork. At CPA Ontario, my team is amazing at teamwork because we believe that we succeed as a team or fail as a team. So, we’re constantly helping each other, building each other up and sharing our tips and lessons learned. New grads can do the same and in doing that, they can have a positive impact on someone else’s life and take the opportunity to give back.
Companies have begun to place more emphasis on non-academic experiences. How would you suggest students leverage elements of their life experience in the recruiting process?
This goes back to being as active as possible outside of the classroom while in university. You’ll develop all the technical skills you need while you’re in the classroom and so will everyone else. I’ve heard employers say that technical skills are even teachable once you get the job. This means, they can teach someone how to perform the tasks needed for a role. But they’re looking for potential candidates to innately have those soft skills that make you an overall fit for a role and for the organization’s culture. These soft skills are not as easily taught. Soft skills are things like judgement, emotional intelligence, teamwork skills, communication skills, etc. These are things you can develop by being active in clubs and outside the classroom. If you’re not engaged, then you’ll have no life-experiences that you can draw on during the recruitment process.
Employers understand that most recent graduates won’t have a ton of experience. But what they want to see is how students proactively solved that problem; how does the candidate make up for that short-coming? If your resume is sparse and you have no volunteer experience, why would an employer choose you over someone who’s resume is sparse, but under volunteer experience, they list how they lead various projects, organized events, problem-solved an issue for a club, attended various career develop workshops, or were part of a program like CPA Ontario’s Post-Secondary Ambassador Program (PSAP)? So if you know your resume is on the sparse end, make sure you start getting more active and seek out opportunities to gain more experience in various ways.
How can students create a foundation for success prior to entering the workforce?
I remember the anxiety I felt when I was graduating and looking for work. Looking back, there’s more I could have done to be building my network and developing my soft skills while I was in university. That would have helped ease some of the anxiety. Now, I know that I should have been more involved in extracurricular activities like networking, attending employer events and career development workshops. What this would have done was expose me more to professionals already in the industry. I could have gotten a better sense of what things would be like after graduation. Someone once told me; ‘you don’t plant a seed at the time when you need the shade of a tree’. And I find that so true.
So with that said, I’d say to students to be involved as much as possible while you’re still in university. Participate in clubs and volunteer to lead various projects. Build up leadership skills everywhere you can. Attend networking events and practicing speaking to professionals (this is great for whenever you have that interview. It won’t be as intimidating). Now is a great time to practice those skills. CPA Ontario has developed the Post-Secondary Ambassador Program to help students do just that. There are many opportunities for you to gain those skills I’ve just mentioned and become career ready. Students can sign up for PSAP at www.cpaontario.ca/PSAP.
Gloria Annable is the Student Recruiter for Eastern and Northern Ontario with CPA Ontario. She’s responsible for building awareness of the CPA Designation and the numerous opportunities it provides to students across campuses in her region. She lives in Ottawa with her husband and two kids.
Chartered Professional Accountants (CPAs) are business leaders, strategic thinkers, trusted advisers and financial experts. A CPA designation provides you with a toolkit of skills and knowledge that are in high demand by top organizations across every sector. As one of the most respected accounting designations in the world, becoming a CPA is your key to a prosperous and fulfilling career.