Maria Cecilia (Cecile) Tian: A Mentee Story

A new country, a new home and a new job have given Maria Cecilia (Cecile) Tian heartfelt hope for her children’s future – and renewed determination to continue her career in the banking industry.

With her husband and children, now aged 12 and nine, Cecile left the Philippines for Canada in September 2009, leaving behind a 15-year banking career. “We emigrated to give our children a good future. Here, they can get a good education, which will help them get good jobs in the future,” said Cecile.

With her Bachelor of Commerce degree in hand, Cecile applied for banking jobs when she first arrived in Edmonton. “I wasn’t accepted because I didn’t have Canadian work experience.”

After almost a year of job searching, Cecile successfully applied for a job at a retail store. “It’s a survival job. I have to work. I’m a sales associate, in charge of the fitting rooms.” Her current job has helped crystalize her desire to return to banking, first acquiring new skills she knows she needs.

In March 2010, Cecile enrolled with The Bredin Institute to learn practical skills such as resume writing and interview techniques. “In the Philippines, a resume usually includes the person’s address, age, marital status and photo. Here, I’ve learned that my resume need not include my personal details but only the highlights of my education and skills, qualifications that match an employer’s needs.”

The Bredin Institute also introduced Cecile to the Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council (ERIEC). “I attended a speed career networking session. That session made me realize what I really want – to return to banking.”

At the speed career networking session, she talked to an RBC staff member originally from Uganda. “He was a manager in his former country but here he started at an entry level position. Now, after hard work, he’s already in a higher position.” This chat helped Cecile see her situation in a new light. “In our home countries, you need experience before you become a manager. So, here in our new country, it only makes sense to start at the entry level, allowing time to adapt to the new set-up and culture.”

After that session, Cecile was accepted into The Career Mentorship Program. She was teamed with Maureen Halldorson, then Branch Manager of RBC Royal Bank and currently Manager of Financial Planning, RBC Wealth Management.

“Every week, Maureen met with me and another mentee and gave us topics to work with.” Maureen and her two mentees followed the program roadmap. “The roadmap really helped a lot. It kept us on track.”

The meetings covered advice on useful topics such as job search strategies and resume writing. “Together, Maureen and I worked on my resume, tailoring it for customer service positions. My resume was really effective in my job applications. Using the new resume, I merited three telephone interviews and one face-to-face interview.”

That interview represented another step up for Cecile’s job search. “The client care manager told me I needed business computing skills. So, I’m currently making arrangements to enrol for continuing education courses. I continue to hope that a banking career is within reach.”

Cecile is also learning the ropes about workplace culture and hierarchy. “In the Philippines, we usually call our boss sir or ma’am. Here in Canada, everyone is on a first name basis. It wasn’t comfortable at first. It’s very informal. But I’ve soon learned that using first names is not a barrier to showing respect.”

Cecile learned far more from Maureen than skills. “She taught me to be brave and confident. She always encouraged me to believe in myself and to think positively.” Mock interviews gave her practice. “During interviews, I have to be aware of my facial expression and body language. Maureen would frequently remind me to be relaxed, confident and not to be afraid of answering interview questions.”

She feels very fortunate to have participated in The Career Mentorship Program and the intercultural workshop. “I loved the weekly meetings with Maureen and my co-mentee. Every week, our relationship and rapport grew stronger. We listened to each other and exchanged ideas.”
Cecile also learned many things about her co-mentee’s culture in Bangladesh. “Maybe we have more things in common than we realize.”

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