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Your Career Resource Centre

Your Career Resource Centre

Find everything you need to set realistic expectations, make your resume stand out, land a job, advance your career and get an edge on the competition

Creating a Career Development Plan

When it comes to advancing in your career, a failure to plan is, in truth, a plan to fail. It’s not enough to simply have hopes and dreams, you need to chart a career path by developing an actionable career development plan that includes all the steps from today through your ideal outcome. Doing so takes a lot of work and it can be hard to know where to begin. The following is a step-by step guide to developing your career development plan.

STEP #1: PERFORM A SELF ASSESSMENT

Write down your interests

Start somewhere vague and narrow your list down from there. Think of the skills, education, and experience you have, what motivates you and what kind of employee you are. For example: I enjoy working with numbers and people, I have my PCP and I like to lead projects.

Establish where you are at the moment

Think carefully! For example: I have completed my PCP courses. I have an accounting background. I have no Payroll experience.

Think about where you want to be in the future

Dream big! For example: I would like to be in a Managerial role.

STEP #2: ESTABLISH YOUR GOALS

Set SMART (Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time bound) goals 

SMART goals translate dreams into action items that can realistically be achieved. Start by identifying all of the steps required to get from where you are to where you’re going. If your dream is to become a payroll manager within 10-years, the steps might be:

  1. Complete my PCP certification courses

  2. Gain relevant work experience to meet the PCP experience requirement

  3. Obtain my PCP certification

  4. Gain more advanced payroll experience to meet the CPM experience prerequisite

  5. Complete my CPM certification courses

  6. Obtain my CPM certification

Now, make these steps actionable by translating them into SMART goals. For example:

  1. Complete my PCP certification within the next two years by attending courses at ABC College or online

  2. Gain relevant work experience by applying for entry level positions/internships through JobConnect, LinkedIn or other job boards starting today and create a network of other payroll professionals by joining my local Canadian Payroll Association branch and attending industry events in the next six months.

  3. Obtain my PCP certification

  4. Work in payroll and gain at least two (2) years of weighted experience being responsible for an organization's payroll function, which includes being accountable to management for the accuracy of employees' pay and all government statutory remittances, or equivalent experience

  5. Complete my CPM courses with the support of my employer within the next 6 years

Identify any barriers to your goals

Make a list of potential barriers that could keep you from completing the steps along your career path. These can be personal or professional. For example, your resume may not be ideally written to gain relevant work experience or maybe you need to polish your interview skills.

Figure out ways to defeat these barriers

Once you've identified barriers, figure out how you want to overcome them. If your resume isn’t ideally written, you can research resume templates, ask someone you trust to review it, and/or speak to a senior payroll or HR professional in your network or a recruiter in your area. Ensure you have a professional profile on LinkedIn and search for interview skills information to help enhance your skills. Maximize local resources that are available to you, for example, many employment agencies frequently host free resume writing sessions or workshops on honing your interview skills.

STEP #3: MAKE YOUR PLAN A LIVING DOCUMENT

Measure progress every step of the way

The only way to know if you’re on track is by measuring and evaluating progress along the way. By evaluating, you’ll be able to identify where you need to focus your time and energy. For example, if you finish your PCP course work ahead of schedule but have not been able to attend any industry events, you can spend more time searching for careers on job boards.

Visualize your career development on a timeline

Once you've established a series of goals, order your timeline in a logical order. Start with your short term goals and move up to your long-term goals, until you've achieved your dream. You essentially want to design a road map you'll follow to success. Go the extra mile by cross-referencing your road map with “Backwards Goal-Setting”. Ensure that your plan matches with the requirements that employers are seeking in order to increase the success of reaching your end goal.

Keep your plan dynamic

Your career plan is not set in stone. Keep in mind your goals may change over time. You may need to revise your career plan due to some unforeseen circumstances. You also may change what you want with time, or realize the ways to achieving a particular goal are different than you anticipated. You can (and likely should) alter your plan in the future.

Strategies for Getting the Job

Getting the job you want isn’t easy. It takes hard work, time and strategic thinking. In today’s ultra-competitive jobs market, it’s not enough to apply for the jobs you see and hope for an interview. You need to have a plan to help you stand-out from the crowd.

The following are tips that can help:

Match Your Experience to the Job Market

Start with a thorough analysis of your professional career, your education, achievements and personality. Then, search for jobs on JobConnect, LinkedIn or Indeed.ca to understand how you fit into the job market. If you have 10-years of experience and more payroll management roles require 10-years of experience, then you should apply for those roles. If, however, the majority of payroll manager roles require 15-years of experience, you should also apply for specialist or analyst roles.

Align Your Resume and Cover Letter to the Job You Want

Your resume and cover letter are your introduction to a hiring manager. It is essential that you update your resume to suit the job market. Resume standards change all the time and your resume from 5 years ago might not be suitable for today’s job market. It’s also best to customize your resume and cover letter for each specific job you are applying for (Hint: use the job description as a guide to what should be in your resume).

Your resume should also be thoughtfully laid-out, professional and easy to read.

Help Hiring Managers and Recruiters Find You

Employers and recruiters want to find the best candidates. Sometimes, that means reaching out proactively to professionals who fit the bill. Today, they often use LinkedIn to do just that. More and more employers use LinkedIn to post job listings, as well as to reach out to possible job candidates. To help them find you be sure to:

  • Keep your profile up to date
  • LinkedIn uses your profile headline like a search engine so be sure to describe yourself using the words that others would use when searching for your ideal job
  • Include a professional photo or headshot
  • Ask colleagues and past-managers for recommendations on LinkedIn
  • Participate in groups and comment on posts in your feed
  • Proactively reach out to recruiters. If you’re already in their network, you will be at the top of the list when opportunities arise

Networking

Experts agree that between 70 to 80 per cent of people end up in their job through networking. So take advantage of network events such as our National Payroll Week to meet other payroll professionals. When you form a connection with someone, they can recommend you for opportunities with your employer or even hire you themselves.

Reach out for Guidance

Searching for a job alone can be stressful and discouraging — especially when you don’t hear back from employers. Recruiters can help. In fact, that’s their job. The best part is that recruitment agencies are free of charge for candidates.

Resume and Cover Letter Writing Tips

Whether you’re a new graduate or a seasoned professional, the following tips will help you create a resume that stands out and lands you the interview.

Fill gaps in your employment history

If your resume is vague or incomplete, a hiring manager may think you’re deliberately trying to conceal information. It’s important to explain any gaps and explain those times when you were not working. For instance, if you’ve been working part-time or as a consultant; volunteering; or taking classes, include that information.

Provide clear job descriptions and show results

Describe your responsibilities in previous jobs and how your work contributed to the company’s overall success. If you are non-specific about your former duties, a potential employer may think your experience isn’t relevant for the job.

Make it only as long as it needs to be

Hiring managers value payroll candidates who can prioritize information and sell themselves succinctly. Be sure to provide a compelling and concise snapshot of who you are and the value you can provide. Remember that your resume is not a job description; instead of describing every task you performed in previous jobs, write a short overview of your role, followed by a bulleted list of your most important duties and noteworthy achievements. Remember -- each bullet needs to be easy to understand for someone who does not know you or your past work.

Watch out for typos and errors

Research by Robert Half shows many executives are not inclined to hire a candidate who submits a resume with even just one or two typos in it. Also, if your resume is disorganized or otherwise sloppy in its presentation, you could come across as lacking both professionalism and communication skills. Always ask someone you trust to be honest, to review your resume.

The finishing touches

Take time to adapt your resume to each job you’re applying for. Positioning the information in your resume in a way that shows how your skills and experience are well matched for a particular role makes it easy for a hiring manager to understand why you could be a strong candidate. If you’re applying for multiple jobs, double check to make sure your resume references the employer and job you are actually applying for.

Don’t forget to include a cover letter

A cover letter allows you to expand upon your strengths and accomplishments and express why you believe you’re the best person for the job. It also can shine a spotlight on your communication skills, which many employers greatly value and specifically look for in candidates when hiring for payroll roles.

Interviewing Tips

PHONE INTERVIEWS

Hiring managers often use phone interviews to pre-screen candidates they would like to know more about so it is imperative that you successfully navigate the phone interview. Below are tips that will help you make it through to the next round.

1. PREPARE

A phone interview is your first chance to make a good impression on your potential employer, so it is important not to underestimate the value of preparation. Review your resume and be prepared to answer any questions regarding your work history. If possible, research the company and the role, and have answers prepared for common entry-level questions.

2. PRACTICE

Practicing beforehand can help you realize if you have any verbal ticks, don’t enunciate properly, or speak too fast or too slow. Practice answering interview questions. If possible, record your answers so you can hear how you sound over the phone. Once you have a recording, you'll be able to hear your "ums" and "uhs" and "okays" so you can reduce them during the interview.

3. ELIMINATE DISTRACTIONS

Take the call from a quiet and private setting. You won’t impress hiring managers if they can hear background noise like the sound of kids playing, dogs barking, horns honking or a keyboard clicking. If these things happen, demonstrate good judgement by apologizing for them right away.

4. KEEP REFERENCE MATERIALS NEARBY

Prepare a bulleted list of speaking points and questions you’d like to cover. In addition to a pen and notepad, you’ll also want your resume, the job description and any company research you’ve collected to be within reach.

5. SPEAK WITH CONVICTION

Speak clearly and verbalize your thoughts beyond quick utterances of “uh-huh” and “okay.” Be sure the interviewer has completed his or her thought or question before responding. If you have something you want to say, jot it down on your notepad and mention it when it's your turn to talk.

6. TAKE YOUR TIME

It's perfectly acceptable to take a moment or two to collect your thoughts before answering.

7. DISTINGUISH YOURSELF AND BE SPECIFIC

When answering questions, be sure to highlight specific skills or experiences that make you a uniquely qualified candidate. Make sure to draw the connection between what you have done in the past and the job you are applying for – especially if the connections may not be as obvious to the hiring manager.

8. SMILE

While it may sound odd to concern yourself with facial expressions that nobody will see, smiling and maintaining good posture will help you project a more enthusiastic, confident and positive image — even over the phone.

9. FOLLOW UP

Promptly send the interviewer a thank-you email, just as you would after a face-to-face meeting. Use the note to reiterate your strong interest in the job and a few of the skills and qualifications that make you an ideal candidate.

10. PREPARE FOR THE IN-PERSON INTERVIEW

Review any notes you were able to take during the conversation. Write down what questions were asked, how you responded, and any follow-up questions you may have if you have an opportunity for an in-person interview.
 
THE IN-PERSON INTERVIEW

Employers tend to use in-person interviews to find out if candidates are a good fit for the organization, are genuinely interested in a job and possess the skills, experience and attitude to perform the job. Below are tips that will help you have a successful interview.
 
BEFORE THE INTERVIEW
  1. Know before you go. Thoroughly research the company or organization you are applying to join.  This may include general information about the company, its competitors and relevant news about the industry. Also try to follow the company on social media to get a better prospective on its stance on current issues.
  2. Prepare anecdotes. Practice framing your accomplishments through anecdotes. Jobseekers may use the PAR format—problem, action and result to demonstrate their experience:
  • P—what was the problem or performance objective that needed to be addressed?
  • A—Describe the action you took that solved the problem, this may be an individual, group or team effort.
  • R—refers to the result. Be sure to quantify your results. This may be in percentages, dollar amount, timeframes etc.
  1. Plan an appropriate outfit. Prepare an outfit the night before so that you’re not rushed for time on the day of the interview. You should also be professionally groomed and your outfit should be similar to that of the employees of the organization. Make sure you do not wear any perfume. Many places are perfume free now.
  2. Plan to arrive early. Know how you will travel to the interview, the route you will take and plan to arrive at least 10-minutes prior to the scheduled interview time. Do not arrive late.
DURING THE INTERVIEW
  1. Be a good communicator. Listen actively and let the interviewer know you have heard what they said. Use simple, clear, concise language so you sound professional and polite. Limit the use of jargon as this can impede your ability to communicate effectively. Ask several questions about the role, the organization, company culture and processes.
  2. Don't Be Too Familiar. While it is important to bring energy and enthusiasm to the interview, always remember that an interview is a professional meeting to talk business.
  3. Be a mirror and pay attention to non-verbal communication. When meeting with someone new, mirror his or her seating position, posture, body angle, gestures, expressions and tone of voice. Before long, they'll start to feel that there's something about you they like - they'll describe you as 'easy to be with'. This is because they see themselves reflected in you. Make eye contact, do not slouch as this may be perceived as being too relaxed. Also, try not to touch your face or hair too much.
AFTER THE INTERVIEW
  1. Follow up with the interviewer. Promptly send the interviewer a thank-you email. Reiterate your strong interest in the job and re-emphasize a few of the skills and qualifications that make you an ideal candidate.
  2. Follow up with the recruiter. If you are working with a recruiter, send them a note after each interview they help you arrange. They are your advocates and keeping them in the loop almost always pays off in the end.

 

Robert Half is a proud partner for the Canadian Payroll Association. Whether you need to find top talent, your next great job opportunity or a consulting solution for managing your business and resourcing challenges, Robert Half can help. Upload your resume and fill out the job-seeking form and you’ll be directed to work one-on-one with one of their local staffing experts. They will identify opportunities and promote your profile to employers seeking various accounting and finance talent including Accounting clerks, payroll administrators, senior accountants, controllers, and more.

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