When I moved to Toronto, Canada from St.Lucia 10 years ago, I was fortunate enough to continue my career with my current place of employment.
Prior to coming to Canada I worked with this company in St. Lucia for over eight years and being in Canada for over 10 years now – adds up to over 18 years in the Financial Industry. No one told me that moving to Toronto would be an entirely different ball game. No one handed me this > A Womam's Guide to a Successful Career On Bay Street or better yet A Woman of Colour Guide to a Successful Career On Bay Street.
Fast forward 10 years later, I have learned a lot, stumbled along the way, made some mistakes, met some amazing and inspiring people, had challenging bosses, had wonderful inspiring bosses, had amazing work colleagues, had some challenging ones as well and more. I've reflected on how I got in my own way when it comes to my career (yes self-sabotage is something we women do really well – until we learn to do better) and more. So this section is all about my experience on Bay Street as well as some amazing lessons, and inspiration from some of the successful, inspiring and amazing women (yes & some men) I have met.
10 Lessons I Learned On Bay Street
Lesson # 1. You need to have a game plan when you get in. When I first moved to Canada, I didn’t know about the game plan and I didn’t have one. Having one helps you plan your career path and will help you determine who you should be having coffee with. It is one of the key lessons I didn’t know about until much later.
Lesson # 2. Don’t be modest. No one will tell you how great you are. Know what you’re good at and let them know. I came from a culture of “Just do a great job, and someone will notice you.” This strategy doesn’t apply on Bay Street or anywhere in North America. If you cannot advocate for yourself, no one will.
Lesson # 3. Learn to use the right language. You need to find out what the lingo is and use it. Don’t say that you are good at getting things done – are you great at process improvement? Strategic thinking etc? What are some of the key words being used in meetings, town halls etc. Get to know what they are and start speaking it ASAP.
Lesson # 4. Go for coffee. Coming from the Caribbean, I was so lost on this one. Here’s the thing, we don't go for coffee in the Caribbean. We lime after work but coffee during the day at work was very foreign to me and took some time getting used to. Ladies, it doesn’t matter if you don’t drink coffee. You can order a juice, tea or do like me and say “I will come for the walk”. When I first started I was terrified of going for coffee breaks outside of my allotted lunch hour. What I have learned is that ideas, solutions and the most important part, getting to know your colleagues happen over coffee. Most importantly, most of the key networking and getting to know the key areas within your organization, happen over coffee. So get used to the idea and ask someone out for coffee. (If you don’t know how to approach someone for coffee, drop me a line. I have a sample email I can share with you.)
Lesson # 5. Bullies exist in Corporate. Yes you read this correctly, they left high school and are grown up working in corporate. There are some mean people who will make fun of you. In my case it was my accent and how I pronounced things in a *funny* way. Learn to not take things personally and move on. If you are an immigrant like me, yes you won’t speak like everyone else – but that’s what makes you unique. Embrace it and allow who you are to shine.
Lesson # 6. There is a game and you need to learn how to play it. There will be office politics – deal with it. The quicker you deal with it, the faster you get to learn it. You won’t advance until you do. And let’s face it, you have a better shot at winning the game if you’re in it.
Lesson # 7. You should be nice to everyone in spite of the those who aren't. Be nice to everyone including the mail guy. It doesn’t matter if people are nice to you or not, be nice to them anyways. Everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle. So don't let other people's attitude drive yours. In most cases it’s not really about you, it’s something you have nothing to do with.
Lesson # 8. Don’t be all about work. Work smart and not hard. Relationships make projects and the work go round. So relationship building should be a very high priority on your list. People are more likely to help those they have a connection with.
Lesson # 9. You need to be you own PR firm and ensure that you are visible. Believe it or not, doing your work isn’t enough. You need to ensure that people know who you are. You can do that by volunteering for work events. You can also do that by attending work events as well and by speaking to random strangers. (Yes I know it’s a bit awkward but it’s the only way to let others know about you). Work functions are where you meet Senior Executives and other colleagues from other areas within your organization.
Lesson # 10. Be Yourself. Being yourself is your competitive advantage. This is where your confidence will shine through which will give you the courage to raise your hand for the difficult jobs. The only way to stand out is to be yourself. Trying to be anyone else will leave you with an Imposter Syndrome complex and is also very exhausting. Spend every waking minute you have getting to know yourself. Volunteer, live your life and don’t be afraid to share a little of who you are with those you feel comfortable with at work. At the end of the day people love connecting with real and authentic individuals who are living a life they love.
Let’s Talk. Do you have any Lessons from Bay Street (Corporate Canada) that you would like to share with us? Which lesson stood out for you the most? Share your lessons with us - they could help someone else!