By Sarah Whitty

It’s not every day that we show our employer how much we appreciate them. Short of showing up every day and doing good work, it sometimes seems like we rarely verbalize our gratitude. So naturally, when we settled on the theme of gratitude for our October blog posts, I jumped at the opportunity to give an ode to my employer, Sklar Wilton & Associates.

I grew up in a small town where I always felt a wonderful sense of community and family. Everyone is so friendly, and looking to lend a helping hand. But I knew I wanted more. Fast forward to 2011 when I moved away from home to Canada’s capital city, a land of opportunity! I was moving to a big city of one million people, to my ‘dream job’ with a large and prosperous company. In typical millennial fashion, I had stars in my eyes. I was ready to rake in that million-dollar-a-week pay cheque, shop every day, drive around in a fancy car with my designer shades on, eat at all the hot spots, rub elbows with the who’s who of Ottawa, and complete amazing work that would get me promoted to CEO within a year.

Reality kicked in quickly. On receiving my first pay cheque, I was shocked to learn it was significantly less than the million dollars I was expecting from my first real job. I was driving around in a no-extra-options Kia Forte wearing second-hand sunglasses. I had no time to eat out because my commute was an hour each way on a good day. But what disappointed me the most was that I had left my warm and comfortable hometown, with its sense of community and family, to go to a place where I was one tiny cog in a machine of thousands of identical cogs. I was an employee number who had little interaction with my co-workers who would arrive at work, put their heads down, and slam through 12 hour work days. I may have learned a lot about my industry and grown a lot professionally, but I also learned this was not for me.

I dabbled for a while with the idea of moving to Toronto but I was intimidated by its reputation. Big cities aren’t known for being friendly, accommodating, and safe. Besides, if I was lonely in Ottawa, a city of 1 million people, would I not feel three times as lonely and isolated in Toronto, a giant city of 3 million people with an extended total population of 6.5 million people?

Fast forward to 2013. After cautiously applying for a position in Toronto, I got a call to interview for a position at Sklar Wilton & Associates. After being on the phone for just a few minutes, I could tell something was very different. I was speaking with a tight knit group of intelligent people who genuinely cared about each other, not only in their professional development, but also their personal lives. While part of me was understandably skeptical, I couldn’t wait to start.

I haven’t looked back since!

Now that I’m in this new chapter of my life, I can share some of the reasons that I’m grateful to be a part of the Sklar Wilton & Associates team. I am grateful to the company:

  1. For garnering my ambitions, listening to my career goals when I’ve expressed or hinted at them, and helping me build a detailed, realistic, and actionable plan to achieve them.
  2. For creating a workplace where I learn something new and become a better associate every single day. Our Power of 32 personal and professional growth program helps every one of our intelligent team members become even more effective for our clients.
  3. For spotting the topics that I am most interested in, and finding ways to offer me more exposure there.
  4. For creating a workplace that isn’t just about working hard, but also playing hard!
  5. For genuinely caring about work-life balance in our highly connected world where it’s hard to unplug and focus on our personal well-being.
  6. For listening to employees’ daily pain points and working to improve things, if only just for our time within these four walls. (e.g., for supporting associates who have health issues, or providing snacks for those busy days when you don’t have time to think, let alone get lunch)
  7. For creating a non-traditional hierarchy where everyone is on an even playing field. No voice is too small to be heard and every opinion holds weight.
  8. For promoting a feedback culture that allows me, in real time, to develop and improve without waiting for an annual review when months could have passed.
  9. For having purpose and beliefs that focus on helping others, creating amazing work, and enjoying what we do, particularly when it seems like few employers focus on this anymore.
  10. For genuinely caring about every person on the team in both a professional and personal capacity. This could mean helping family members find work, working out care plans when someone has a medical issue, or just going above and beyond to support each associate in the manner that suits them best.

Before I arrived in this big city, I never thought Toronto could feel like home. Strangely, now it does! I largely attribute this feeling to the culture at Sklar Wilton & Associates and the people who help make this truly a great place to work. I still drive around in my Kia, I still don’t make a million dollars, and I’m pretty sure I’m still wearing the second-hand sunglasses that were given to me. But I’ve never felt more accomplished and more on a trajectory to greatness thanks to Sklar Wilton & Associates.