Montreal Job Search Strategies Forum Report


Jennifer Dillon offered a summary of the day’s presentations.

A participant asked Pilote whether he applied for financial support from regional funding agencies, and whether these applications were welcomed.

Pilote answered that he had no problems applying for financing. It was more difficult to get help for daily activities. He found that he was not treated differently than any other candidate for financing. Fortunately, there is financing for accommodations for those with disabilities. Entrepreneurs are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Another participant asked Pilote whether the troubles he had at work pushed him into starting his own business.

Pilote said he tried for a year to get more hours at his last job with BMO. “For all kinds of reasons, it wasn’t possible.” He tried to find another job to complement his work with BMO, but realized that he wanted to start his own business. “Ever since I was young I had dreamt of having my own office. So in 1999, I decided to do both.” He worked for BMO while starting his business.

Dillon asked Kowalyk how the professional brand she had spoken of could help with networking.

Kowalyk responded that the professional brand is not something that is self-controlled, since it is based on other people’s perceptions. “It is everything that people perceive in us.”

“As you do your self-assessment, you talk to people, and that helps build your network.” Kowalyk suggested that job seekers ask the people they speak with during the self-assessment process to suggest ways in which they can build their networks.

A participant asked Pineda about broaching the topic of sick days with employers.

Pineda suggested that it takes some time to identify what accommodations are needed and to discuss that with the employer. Settling on accommodations is “always a work in progress” because nothing is static. Situations and people change, so accommodations will change, too. Working at the AQEIPS, it is hard for her to sit at her desk from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. She deals with this by finding a reason to stand up every so often. For example, she might spend some time cleaning up her office. “That was an accommodation that happened on the spot.” Figuring out accommodations on an ad hoc basis is best, in Pineda’s experience. Referring to situations that “may” come up can scare people.

Dillon said “It is often challenging for students with disabilities to find time to volunteer or work at paid jobs while in school.” She asked Pineda for some tips on how to manage a busy schedule.

Pineda replied, “I am very strategic about the jobs I take.” Each of her three jobs relates to her field of research: the conditions faced by people with disabilities. While working as a teaching assistant, she is developing skills she needs. “It’s like multi-tasking.” Her paid work involves practical applications of the things she is reading about. She said that participants should be careful about what they take on. “When you love what you do, you’re not really working.” She manages partly because she tends to be very organized, chooses jobs she really wants, and makes accommodations when necessary.

A participant asked Kowalyk whether she thought that the professional brand should be based solely on the self-assessment process, or if it should take into account the traits that employers are looking for. As a second question, he asked what brand BMO looks for.

Kowalyk answered that it is easiest to simply be yourself. Ideally, job seekers should present the confidence that if the employer doesn’t want them, they can go elsewhere. A job seeker may incorporate traits the employer is looking for, but the professional brand ultimately comes down to who that person really is.

BMO, as a large company with a diverse range of customers, is interested in having a diverse workforce. Kowalyk said that she had recently done a training session on accommodations for employees. A need for accommodations would not affect a hiring decision at BMO.