The reality of the job market

Have you ever wondered if what you learned in school is enough to succeed in the job market? Our guest will share her insights and advice on the difference between the academic world and the professional world.

Ashleay: Hi and welcome to “In Your Interest!” podcast. This week we're talking about the realities of the job market, more specifically the differences between academic and professional worlds. To talk about it, we're joined by Laurence Patry. So, hi, Sébastien. Hi, Laurence.

Laurence: Hello.

Sébastien: Hello, Laurence. It's great to have you here.

Laurence: I'm really happy to be here with you both.

Sébastien: So, Ashleay, I think it's been a year since we've been trying to get Laurence here.

Ashleay: Absolutely.

Sébastien: Laurence is a rising star in the investment world at iA. So, thank you for accepting the invitation, Laurence. I think you have new responsibilities now. You're a director.

Laurence: Yes, exactly.

Sébastien: So you’re managing a team?

Laurence: Yes, exactly. So, thank you for the invitation. I'm really glad to be here with you today. So, yeah! I manage a team now. It's been since, I would say six months. And, yeah. So I joined iA in the investment department six years ago. I was with the University Next-Generation program, which is a really great program, and we'll have the chance to discuss it a little bit.

Ashlleay: And maybe Laurence, you could start off with an easy question here. What is your exact title with us?

Laurence: Yes. So my title is Director, Team Lead and Portfolio Manager, General Funds.

Sébastien: So “general funds” can you summarize what that means.

Laurence: Yeah. So, in fact we manage the assets for the liability insurance for the insurance company.

Sébastien: Okay, okay. So, when people buy insurance they send money to the insurance company. These are the portfolios that you manage. So, we can be able to pay the premiums to everyone who subscribes to an insurance policy with us.

Laurence: Yeah, exactly.

Ashleay: Okay. Perfect. And Laurence, tougher question. What's the biggest difference between the academic and the professional worlds of finance.

Laurence: Yeah, so that's a good question. I will talk more about the financial side. But, of course we can have many similarities with other fields of study. So, in my experience the main difference is really the expertise versus the soft skills. So, in finance we have a lot of concepts to learn. And we have long studies. So for myself I did a bachelor's degree after that a master's degree, my CFA. So, of course, we really need to master the information. But we arrive in the real world, I would say, in the job market, and we need to have a lot of soft skills to make sure that we succeed. So, we work with humans all the time. We need to be able to do some presentations. We also have emotion management. So, it's really an aspect that we don't see much at school. And we need to develop for the job market.

Sébastien: Yeah. These are things that they don't teach you in financial classes. It's more the experience, the life experience that you've acquired until your entry into the real, let's say, the real world of finance. So, all of the other stuff that you did around your studies were important too.

Ashleay: Yeah. I think you were quite busy around your studies. How about you tell people about it?

Laurence: Yeah. So, I'm always busy, I guess, but I really like to have new challenges. So, when I was studying at the same time, I had a part time job, not always related to finance. So, I used to work in a restaurant, but it really helped me to manage the different priorities that you have when you're busy and the restaurant is full. After that, I had a boyfriend, I had friends, I was trying to stay healthy. So, taking some time to go to the gym and at the same time I was doing some volunteer work. I did about 1,000 hours during the last year of my bachelor degree. It was, I would say, a crazy year, but it really taught me so many things like priority management and things I didn't see in my academic journey.

Sébastien: And, you know, you develop important skills of organizing priorities, as you mentioned, but also about management when you're involved in volunteering.

Laurence: Yeah, exactly. And on my side, for example, we were raising funds, so I needed to go and see different businesses and ask for funds. So, you need to be sharp, be able to, people will invest in you. So, it was hard but it was really useful. And now I can do the same thing in my job.

Ashleay: Very cool. And so, there is a big difference between theories that we learn at school and what you actually use in practice once you're in the job market.

Laurence: Yes, that's a good question. So, in finance we learn many, many things. But we often assume that the market is rational. However, we come in the real world and the market is not always rational. And it will always change. Every crisis is different. So, I would say that you really need, when you come into the market, be curious and ask questions and make sure you can adapt yourself to the reality.

Sébastien: Yeah. And what you learn in school is kind of just the beginning. After that, you're on a lifelong journey of learning. So actually, you studied in what, what was your major?

Ashleay: Yeah, I have a bachelor degree in graphic design. So, I was art history all the way.

Sébastien: Alright! Yeah. Did you expect that some day that we would be doing this?

Ashleay: Doing podcasts? No.

Sébastien: With your radio voice?

Ashleay: No. Yeah, with my radio voice. Not at all. And you see? Well, okay, this is a long story, but perhaps, you know, I created a kids’ game. I made a video about it. That's how some of the producers of this podcast heard my voice. They said, hey, would you want to do some podcasts for iA? And so, you know, like when I created that game, first of all, I never thought it would be a hit, never thought I'd make a video about it and even less be doing podcasts for iA. So, it just goes to show you that any experience can always bring you something different and you can learn.

Sébastien: Yeah, and if you ask the young Ashleay if someday you would be, you know, willing to do that, maybe you would have said, no, I don't want to do that.

Ashleay: Yeah, exactly.

Sébastien: You know, when I was in university, I remember in the master's degree, the first class that I went to, the teacher said that we had to do a presentation at the end of the semester, and I was so afraid to speak in public that I dropped the class and I picked another one.

Ashleay: No way! And now…

Sébastien: And now, I'm doing like a few hundred of these a year and, you know, it's a lifelong journey. You just learn and you learn. So, you're learning stuff now that you didn't think that you would be learning about six years ago when you came in.

Laurence: Exactly. And you don't always do things where you feel comfortable, but it's at that time that you will learn the most and grow the most. So, this is a great example, and I see now that the students are in class, but they are mostly online because of COVID or I guess it's starting to go back to school. So, to do a presentation in front of 50 people—it's different. So, yeah.

Sébastien: Yeah, yeah. So, I always call it a growth mindset. When you join the labour market you need to say “I want to grow” and you need to have objectives and you need to have at least an idea of what you want, not be shy about saying it. So yeah, it's a long process.

Ashleay: I think that's how you'll stick out, you know, on the lot, you know, if you have travelled, if you are curious, like you were saying, even with your volunteer work, what rang out for me was perhaps priority management, because with volunteer work, you might not have all those different resources that other bigger companies, like iA for example, could have. And so that kind of shows future employers and even your teachers, if you're doing volunteer work, that means that you're able to balance all of these priorities and maybe manage them better. Actually, could you tell us a bit about priority management?

Laurence: Yeah, so it was, of course, a challenge. So yeah, not much hours during a day for the many things I had to do. But, of course, it helped me so much. And I remember when I had my first interview at iA, we spoke about the financial concepts and making sure I was great in finance, of course, but I was surprised to see how many questions I had on the management of my time with the volunteer work that I did. I think it shows so many great qualities that we want to have in employees that we hire. So, for students now, you can get involved in different activities at school. Make sure you go to networking activities also to learn how to speak in the job market, to speak with others. But yeah, definitely for me it was a game changer.

Ashleay: Yeah. And make connections also right. In networking, it's not just about, you know, who's going to give you your next job. It's also about, hey, I didn't know that job existed. Maybe that could be of interest.

Sébastien: And when we hire people, usually we hire for attitude, you know, it's attitude and potential. And after that the skills are important. But skills can always be taught. You know, the wrong attitude—it’s hard to change. Yeah.

Laurence: Yeah, the soft skills… you can work on your soft skills and you should start younger to work on them. But yeah, when someone has the right soft skills, the rest I think we can learn.

Asjleay: Yeah. I'm going to add also, you know, one thing that I'd always surprised me when I was looking for a job when I was younger, is I had passed the newspaper for like four years when I was a kid, right.

Sébastien: Same.

Ashleay: Yeah. And people would ask me about that often and I was like, well, that's weird. Why do they? I mean, it's the newspaper. And one of my employers said, yeah, but it shows me that you got up at five in the morning every day for the last four years.

Sébastien: For not that much money

Ashleay: For not that much money. Yeah, exactly, so. So, Laurence, are there any areas of study that will be important in the coming years on the financial side?

Laurence: Yes. So, of course, it changes a lot. The basic financial concepts will always stay there. So, it's really important to master them. After that, we talk a lot about responsible investment. So, since the last few years it will continue. That's a must on my side. I did a certificate from the CFA Institute on that and it's really important. After that, we have all the artificial intelligence. We have the programming skills that are really needed. So those will be some areas that I will suggest. Making sure that at least you know what they are.

Sébastien: Okay, and you know, we're talking about career development, but you know, it's a relationship. So, there's the employee and the employer. So what do you encourage people to expect from their employer?

Laurence: Yeah. So first, choose an employer not only for the paycheck but also for the values. And make sure that the employer will be able to support you in your development. So, for me, I'm really happy with my career and I'm really, I would say, yeah, I did a lot of work to be there, but my employer supported me and it was a two-way relationship. So, choose an employer where you see their long term and also on the employee side, really be curious. So, ask questions, be vulnerable also. So, it's not easy to show a vulnerable side but if you want to grow you need to be and you need to take some risks. Also, ask for feedback. For myself, I have a mentor, so it really helped me to grow in my career. And not only it was not just me on my side, I had someone to help me. So that really made the difference. And I recommend you find a mentor as soon as possible.

Ashleay: Very interesting. Thank you so much, Laurence. I think we learn more and more every week. Right, Sébastien?

Sébastien: Yeah, we're learning a lot every single week.

Ashleay: So, to all of our listeners, thank you. And thanks, Laurence, for coming in here today. Thanks, Sébastien, as well for being here.

Sébastien: Thank you, Ashleay.

Laurence: Thank you.

Ashleay: And we will see you all next week. Love this podcast? Want to know more about economic news? Follow our “In Your Interest!” podcast, available on all platforms, visit the economic news page on or follow us on social media.


Sébastien has nearly 20 years of experience in the public and private sectors. In addition to his roles as Chief Strategist and Senior Economist, he is an iAGAM portfolio manager and a member of the firm’s Asset Allocation Committee. All of these roles allow him to put his passion for numbers, words, and communication to good use. Sébastien also acts as iA Financial Group’s spokesperson and guest speaker on economic and financial matters. Before joining iA in 2013, he held various economic roles at the Autorité des marchés financiers, Desjardins, and the Québec ministry of finance. He completed a master’s degree and doctoral studies in economics at Laval University and is a CFA charterholder.

Sébastien Mc Mahon and Laurence Patry

This podcast should not be copied or reproduced. Opinions expressed in this podcast are based on actual market conditions and may change without prior warning. The aim is in no way to make investment recommendations. The forecasts given in this podcast do not guarantee returns and imply risks, uncertainty and assumptions. Although we are comfortable with these assumptions, there is no guarantee that they will be confirmed.

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2024-06-18 13:00 EDT
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