The Bank of Montreal (BMO) is Canada's first and oldest bank, and a company that takes employment equity very seriously, said Stephen McDonnell. He recommended that graduates conduct extensive research on their companies of interest, especially in terms of corporate values and commitment to diversity and workplace equity. It is important to find organizations that will provide a supportive environment.
BMO has a number of task forces to address issues related to people with disabilities and other equity seeking groups. When this process first began in 1992, three perceptions about people with disabilities were identified: they could not do their jobs, needed special treatment, and were too costly. BMO has since done outreach and established partnerships with organizations such as Career Edge. As well, it has formed internal affinity groups to focus on helping people with specific types of disabilities, including deafness and hard-of-hearing, blindness and visual impairments, and physical disabilities.
It is important to have realistic expectations when seeking employment and to know one's goals for the next two to five years, McDonnell advised. He emphasized doing research on companies to identify specific jobs that match one's skills and to learn the organization's internal language. He stressed the value of having a job search support group with a job coach and friends who know you well, can say difficult things to you, and help with interview role-playing. Personal networking and relationship building are critical. All volunteer experience, especially with charitable organizations, should be documented, and having a professor who knows you well as a reference is very useful, he said.
In conclusion, McDonnell advised the student delegates to take advantage of the Ability Edge program. BMO had 12 interns in 2001, and McDonnell hopes to have 20 to 25 interns in 2002/2003.