Calgary Job Search Strategies Forum Report
Strategies for Success
Diane Bergeron, Manager, Coordination and Council Initiatives, Premier’s Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities
Diane Bergeron said that she has “based success on reaching my goals.”
She was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at the age of five and was legally blind at 10. By 30 years of age she was totally blind. Her progressive disability meant she had to make changes throughout her career. For example, “One minute I could read large print then I couldn’t.”
“The mistake people make is that as their abilities change they need to make changes, but often they hold on to keeping things the same,” Bergeron said. “You need to base a career on what the future is going to bring. I have focused on what I want for my future.”
Bergeron returned to university in 1988 to become a social worker. After a brief initial struggle, she successfully completed her course work and became interested in the many opportunities that university life offered. She began volunteering and realized that “there is more to going to school than reading and exams.”
She transferred into a Rehabilitation Practitioner program and started working in the field. “Getting that job was interesting for me. I had a friend sneak my resumé into the manager’s office and leave it on his desk. He found my resumé and tossed it aside onto a pile of papers. Another manager picked up the papers, reviewed my resumé and I was hired.”
Bergeron emphasized that there are “many ways to get your foot in the door.” “Your career is not what you do now, but what you will do throughout your life,” she said.
Bergeron told participants about her three years doing stand-up comedy as a sideline to her work as a rehabilitation practitioner. “Comedy was good for working in rehabilitation,” she said. After two years with an outreach program, she and her husband started a family. Two weeks after returning from maternity leave she was laid off. “With a new baby and no job, I decided to move to a farm and raise chickens.”
Later, Bergeron moved back to the city as a single parent and took on shift work. She said that this changed her goals. “I wanted to make a good life for my child. That meant returning to college.” While looking for a job for a friend, Bergeron decided to apply for a position with the City of Edmonton.
At the same time she gave a CBC Radio interview about bank machines for CNIB and Royal Bank. During the interview she met the vice president of the Royal Bank, who commented that he thought she would be “very successful in a short time.” Bergeron followed up with him immediately after the interview by sending in her resumé. A day later she was offered a position with the Royal Bank.
The City of Edmonton also called and offered her a position as Coordinator for Persons with Disabilities for the City of Edmonton. Bergeron said they asked her, “Why should we hire you?” She replied, “Didn’t you write this job for me? The job is everything I wanted it to be. ” “They thought it was a great answer.”
Bergeron thanked her new contact at the Royal Bank of Canada and explained that she had been offered another position. “I didn’t burn any bridges, and I still have a good relationship with Mr. Bill Banister at the Royal Bank.”
Bergeron told participants they should set their goals a little higher than what they think they can reach. “It gives you something to stretch for.”
“Set your goals in steps. It was my goal to work for the City of Edmonton and then move on to the provincial level,” she said. “The next step is to get the education you need.”
“Make opportunities work and remember that you cannot win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket,” she said. Bergeron recently applied for a position as director. “Everyone had a Master’s degree but I still came in as the second-choice candidate. Now that my goal is to be a director, I realize I need to return to university,” she said. “My advice to you is that education is not for now, it is for later,” she said.
Bergeron said it is not who you know but who knows you. “I am lucky I have a dog. When I call people I say, ‘Hi, it’s Diane Bergeron the blonde, blind lady with the dog’,” she said. “Have something about you that is different from everybody else so that people recognize you right away.”
Bergeron said that volunteering is essential because it is the only way to get experience. “The first thing I look at when hiring is a person’s volunteering background. If I know what you are willing to do for nothing, I know what you will do for something,” she said.
Bergeron told participants to keep learning and volunteering, setting goals and stretching to reach them. “When you have reached a goal, make another and move ahead.”
Jennifer Dillon said Bergeron’s presentation demonstrated that a career is a life-long process and not something that happens overnight.