Mount Saint Vincent University Learners & Leaders Conference

Mount Saint Vincent University Learners & Leaders Conference


The Learners & Leaders Business and Tourism Conference took place on Thursday, October 26th, 2017. This event provided students an opportunity to hear and learn from experienced professionals.  Kelly Johnstone, CEO of KLM Financial, an outsource and recruiting accountant staffing company, was among the guest speakers who participated on the HR Panel session.   She felt it was important to share what she has learned on her journey from student to successful business owner.



The panel spoke on four key topics:

  1. Values and diversity.
  • Companies want to have a successful employer-employee relationship. Most employers look for the candidate’s values and diverse career path, to see if it properly aligns with the company’s.  For example, a large accounting firm will look at a good GPA first when hiring a new graduate, however, a small accountant staffing firm will consider the diverse quality of skills.  Kelly Johnstone, CEO of KLM Financial stated, ” The first step is for the candidate to decide if they want to work in a big firm or a small company.  In a big firm that many students are competing for a few jobs, candidates require a good GPA upon graduation to be considered for employment.  But in a small firm, employers seek candidates with a diverse skill set before considering their GPA”.  Ultimately, employers want to know an employee will be hardworking and willing to do what it takes to get the job done.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
  1. Guide to a successful interview.
  • Employers want to know the candidate prepared for the interview. Researching the company, planning questions to ask, and demonstrating how their values fit with the company’s will increase the chance of success.  For example, a candidate applying for a bookkeeper and payroll position at an accountant staffing firm, could study the company’s website, read blog articles, and check out related news to determine the company’s values and how their values fit.  It is important for them to be comfortable talking about themselves and the details of their cover letter and resume.  Kelly Johnstone suggested, ” Candidates should get on Linkedin as most employers use this in the recruitment process. Candidates should dress professionally regardless of the position and arrive at least 10 minutes early.  If you and the employer share a mutual friend, bring up their name during the interview as long as they have positive remarks about you.”


  1. Career progression in the professional world.
  • Career progression is a gradual process. Hard work and perseverance is the key to a successful career.  Employees should focus on their day-to-day activities because promotions are based on it.  Most professional careers require additional certification to continue on their career path.  For example, small and large accountant staffing companies may require a CPA designation for positions above entry-level. The CPA designation opens the door to more opportunities, without it, you risk capping yourself out in your area of expertise.  Kelly Johnstone advised, ” you should think about what kind of job you are entering.  If you are going into the government and union environment, how you get promoted is different compared to the private sector.  In government, it is all about seniority and understanding all the rules around working in a unionized environment.  If you are going into the private sector, you need to show you can take work on.  You don’t say no to work.  Most newcomers make this mistake and say, “this is not my job.  When I get to the next level, I will take on these jobs”, but this is not how it works.  In the private industry, you have to show you can do the work first, then the promotion comes”.


  1. Volunteering and extracurricular activities.
  • Volunteering and extracurricular activities are an important component of a resume. As Kelly Johnstone said, “your extracurricular activities can set you apart from the rest of the candidates”.  It shows more about who you are and what different interests you possess.  It is not about what you did, but why you did it, and what you got out of it.  Volunteering and extracurricular activities also demonstrate transferrable skills such as time management, leadership, and communication, as well as, whether you work independently, with a team, or both.  For example, an accounting graduate who was successful at going to school full time, volunteered as a part-time bookkeeper and played soccer may show they have the ability to time manage, pay attention to detail and work both independently and with a team.


These four questions provided the students with guidance on preparing for full-time employment and planning for careers.  This is why business owners and professionals should take advantage of events like the Learners & Leaders Conference.  You were once a future entrepreneur.  Sharing your experience and insight are a great way to give back.  Who was your mentor?  Someday, one of these future entrepreneurs might say it was you.


Kelly Johnstone, CA, CPA(Illinois)

CEO | KLM Financial

Accountant Staffing, Part time Bookkeeper, Payroll, Bookkeeping, Temporary Accounting

Office: 902-334-2402 | Mobile: 902-401-4428



1496 Bedford Highway Suite 101,  Bedford NS, B4A 1E5

Kelly Johnstone

If you want more details about our services, contact us today.

1 (855) 405-8375