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Cameron Skilling, senior merchant of appliances for The Home Depot Canada, admits that when he started as a part-time associate in the lumber and building materials department 15 years ago he never expected to be where he is today.

“After university, I asked myself what my next step should be. I had been working at The Home Depot for years and had developed a true passion for retail. My store manager noticed my strong work ethic and approached me about taking on a leadership role in the store,” says Cameron. “It felt right, so I jumped at the chance and I have never looked back.”

With a love for the company’s culture and the support of his store’s leadership team, Cameron entered this new world with a thirst to learn and gain new experiences, throwing himself head first into any opportunity that arose.

After a series of supervisor roles in almost every department, he knew he wanted to dive deeper and pursue his career with The Home Depot. He asked his store leadership team many questions about the business and eventually learned that he wanted to be a merchant – the person in charge of selecting and buying the products he sold every day off the shelves. With the support of his store manager, he built a career plan on how to reach his professional goal. With a lot of hard work, he landed a position at The Home Depot Canada’s Store Support Centre in the Sponsorship department.

“Taking that step, even though it wasn’t my dream merchant job, allowed me to get my foot in the door,” explains Cameron. “The role combined my love for events and retail, and also opened a world of new relationships to build. I was nervous to step outside my comfort zone, but I knew this would bring me closer to my professional goal.”

Cameron knew he needed to build his knowledge set, so he sought a mentor within the merchandising department to coach him. This gave him the confidence to eventually apply for a merchant assistant role when it became available. As they say, ‘the rest is history’.

Paths to attaining a dream career are often winding. Looking back, Cameron can now say three main skills lead him to his destination:

Build strong relationships

“Early on, I always made sure I was connecting with other department associates and leaders in my store. There were times that I would learn about a process or skill and then apply it to my role in a new way. In the end, it made me more strategic, efficient and better at what I was doing. This was a way to ensure I was always growing in my current role.”

Find a mentor

“When first starting out in your career, having a mentor to take you under their wing and provide guidance is an invaluable gift. They can help you carve out your path and potentially help you earn a seat at the table.”

Step outside your comfort zone

“Always look for opportunities to stretch yourself and have the confidence to go for it. The best training, I had was on-the-job experience and taking advantage of every opportunity that came my way. Always have an open-mind and be willing to say yes to those opportunities. The likelihood that you will be able to learn something from the experience is very high.”