Business - Public Administration Stream
Manager, Research & Analysis
OPS Centre for Public Sector Labour Relations and Compensation
“I am extremely grateful for York University because studying here was exactly what I needed to start my Canadian career. The bridging program did exactly what its name says. It helped me see my background from a Canadian perspective and customize my job search strategy and my resume to better fit the requirements. The IEP program provided me information about networking opportunities and career options that are relevant to my previous experiences; in one word it helped me build a bridge between my past and my future,” says Reka Tokes, an alumnus of the York University Bridging Program for Internationally Educated Professionals (IEP).
Highly qualified, Reka emigrated from Hungary with degrees in Pedagogy, Adult Education and HR Management. In addition, she brought with her the experience of working with high level ministry officials as a learning manager, leading high-impact international projects and publishing books in four countries.
As an IEP, her biggest challenge after arriving in Canada was to find a job within her area of expertise, at the level that she was working before and at a position where she could utilize her professional experience, knowledge, and passion. “The IEP program helped me overcome this challenge by preparing me for all aspects of the Canadian workplace and providing me with skills that I could use in a government environment.”
Reka considers herself fortunate to have gone through the York U bridging program. “The environment was very encouraging and the program coordinators were always there to help me.” Studying with highly-qualified professionals from widely different cultural backgrounds enabled her to draw strengths from their experiences. “More than anything else, the bridging program helped me acquire soft skills,” says Reka. “This was very important to me.”
Within the IEP program she specialized in Public Administration and was fortunate enough to get accepted for the most important courses of her studies. “The Practicum and the Program Evaluation courses – during which students work within the government - provided me with extensive knowledge about how the provincial government works, practical experience and invaluable networking opportunities,” she says. As a result, Reka successfully competed for a Learning Consultant position at Treasury Board Secretariat within the Ontario Public Service. “This job was perfectly aligned with my previous credentials and I have been recently promoted to a higher level position.”
“In the IEP program, I had wonderful professors who were always ready to help me with anything I needed.” She gives special credit to the support she received from her public policy professor Peter Constantinou. “Dr. Constantinou personifies the hard-working, highly professional and respectful attitude that we all need to demonstrate at the highest level possible to achieve results. I am extremely grateful for having him as a teacher. Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
My work is extremely creative and I love it, she says. “In my current position, I am leading an enterprise-wide leadership development program and my focus is on connecting the specific issues to big picture-thinking and future-oriented learning while empowering my team members, providing constructive feedback, modeling perseverance and asking the questions that enable them to grow and develop.”
At the outset, Reka identified the government sector as her target employer and worked diligently to get a job there. “There are several things you can do to get closer to your dream job. Talking about your passion for your profession is crucial and informational interviews are the best way to spread the word about yourself, about what you can bring to the table in an organization. Implement these in your job search strategy,” she says and hastens to add, “I know it is challenging to reach out to people without knowing them. But remember that becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable is one of the most important leadership skills and we need to develop it in ourselves because we have a lead role in our career management.”
She heard about informational interviews at a York Career Center workshop, given by a York U alumnus and started to work on them right away. “At first I thought I won’t get many responses and so I identified about ten people who I wanted to talk to and sent out emails seeking appointments. To my surprise, I got responses from almost all of them.”
As a successful IEP, Reka’s tip to other IEPs? “Do as many informational interviews as possible. These interviews play an important role. ” First of all they help you gain a deeper understanding of the specific sector, learn more about the competencies that are required in these positions. Secondly you get a chance to ‘sell yourself’. Know that people are very open and willing to share their knowledge and experiences but always follow the golden rule: do not ask for a job.”
Another success factor in your focused job search is having an opportunity mindset, she says, “. A fixed mindset accompanied with negative thinking is what a lot of immigrants are struggling with. That mindset makes you stagnant. Instead, be confident in your skills and competencies.” She advises, “Know that there are always opportunities in every sector. Success depends on you; so be creative in seeking out jobs.” What is her motivation? “Recently I found a quote that became my motto: No matter how educated, talented, rich or cool you believe you are, how you treat people ultimately tells all. Integrity is everything. I try to live up to this every single day.”
While studying and searching for a job, Reka also made sure that her kids are “working hard” on their own development. Her son just graduated in music and her daughter was recommended and got accepted in the prestigious gifted program.
“I wholeheartedly recommend the IEP program at York for everyone who has international credentials and professional experience,” She concludes,” it is because of this program that I am what I am today, professionally.”
The IEP Bridging Program provided me with skills that I could use in a government environment