Born and raised in Lake Echo Nova Scotia, Grant Walker was initially interested in taking Commerce but was deterred by his high school academic advisors as his mathematics grades were not outstanding. He enrolled in Dalhousie’s Kinesiology program and after one year realized that while the topics were intriguing, he could not see himself working in the industry. Grant researched the Commerce program at Dalhousie, as he fell in love with the campus and could not see himself at any other university and discovered fantastic onsite math tutoring. Realizing that if he worked hard, he could succeed, he enrolled and was accepted. The rest is history.
Grant received wise words in his first year that if he was interested in doing accounting, to do his first work term in that field as it would be tax and audit season in the winter term. He completed his first work term at a small bookkeeping and accounting firm, and quickly realized it was not his desire.
Grant began visiting the branch of BMO his parents took him to for his personal banking, as the employees recognized him, and he began speaking his interest and explaining how he would be looking for his next co-op for the fall term. Knowing that he had nothing but fantastic experiences dealing with BMO he knew he would enjoy their culture. He continued networking and secured an interview and recommendation letter to do a work term with the bank. Grant obtained his second work term as a Treasury and Payments Analyst, proved himself, and returned for his last co-op as a community analyst, getting the opportunity to train employees on profitability assessments he quickly became proficient with.
Three different work experiences helped Grant build his skills. His first co-op work term was a small firm with four employees, and he honed relationship-building skills in the tight-knit environment. His second co-op work term was in a large financial institution, and he arrived to work an hour early each day to have coffee with senior managers and VP’s to hone his networking skills and increase his confidence in solidifying many diverse relationships. Through his eagerness and vast network, Grant was quickly asked back for his last co-op opportunity.
“During the last co-op, I voiced my desire to improve my presentation abilities, which allowed me the opportunity to present to the regional team of Relationship Managers, and VP’s, and have the chance to speak with the COO of Canadian Business Banking in the quarterly review,” said Grant.
Prior to the interview with BMO, Grant researched the culture and discovered his values and what he looks for in people aligned with that of the banks. Knowing people in the bank liked Grant for who he is, he approached the interview the same way he formed relationships: by being candid and his authentic self.
Grant knew that he had to secure a co-op or risk not graduating on time. He structured his evenings to revolve around applying for positions, researching companies, and rehearsing his interview answers for common questions. Grant also took some afternoons to bus to various BMO locations across Halifax to network with staff, making him a familiar face at many locations.
Grant was not a strong interviewee, and visiting MCS helped him dig into his life to come up with responses to basic questions that he could tie back to real personal experiences. However, when it came to the big interview that secured his second co-op, it wasn’t the rehearsed answers that enabled Grant to succeed, but the simple advice from Shelley Lamore to “Don’t stress, just be yourself”. Grant threw away the cookie-cutter responses and genuinely answered the questions from the heart.
“To increase your on-campus involvement, spend less time at home, and spend more time ON CAMPUS, ” said Grant. “It sounds redundant, but I didn’t get involved with the Dal Commerce Society, go to New York and Israel, or get to be in a MCS poster photo shoot by spending his time lying in bed at home. I was on campus.”
Grant’s short-term goals are to graduate, begin his CFA level 1, and secure a full time job with the commercial banking team at BMO. His long-term goal is to utilize the skills honed in the classroom and co-op setting to open as many doors as possible for himself and eventually work in BMO’s private wealth division.
Tips of the week from Grant:
- Get over your nerves. Professionals will never turn to you and tell you to “buzz off”, and if they do, they are not worth your time. Therefore, there is nothing to worry about when it comes to talking during networking sessions. Networking is about presenting yourself, if your nerves get the better of you and you find yourself in the corner hyperventilating, that does not display confidence to the people who are here taking time out of their day wanting to meet you.
- Don’t regurgitate verbatim facts from the company website, it sounds cookie-cutter and robotic. There’s a high chance the employees at the networking sessions don’t know themselves what the exact facts from the website are. In Grant’s experience, he got business cards by building a foundational relationship built on finding common ground. Talking about topics like movies, weather, hobbies, may sound like a waste of time, but it worked for him, so it may work for you.