Nikki Simone isn’t just a campus recruitment leader – she’s a campus recruitment champion.

Winner of the Campus Recruiter of the Year award at the 2014 TalentEgg National Campus Recruitment Excellence Awards & Conference, Nikki has made her mark in the campus recruitment community.

A graduate from the University of Windsor, Nikki found her start in recruitment more than a decade ago – since then, she’s built a rewarding career where she’s had the opportunity to see the profession from all angles.

We sat down with Nikki to learn more about the passion and motivation driving her successful career.

Why did you want to work in HR? How did your career in campus recruitment get started?

NIKKI SIMONE: I actually started out in sales with a recruiting company! I brought in a large recruitment order and was asked to help fill it – I began doing recruitment and thought: “I love this! This is exactly what I want to do!”

I moved into recruitment with a financial institution and found my way to RBC, where I’ve been involved with Campus recruitment for nine years. During that time I’ve had an opportunity to do many different things, and I’m able to leverage that experience in my current role. I manage the campus recruitment team at RBC, specific to our Wealth Management and Insurance businesses.

We connect with students at every level, from MBA to middle school – anything campus-related, we’re involved. I work with teams to develop pipeline, retention and recruitment strategies and engage the best student talent with our brand.

Describe your greatest career challenge. How did you overcome it?

The first career challenge I faced was figuring out where I wanted to be once I graduated university. All of my friends seemed to come out of school and find something they were excited about right away – I realized sales wasn’t really for me, so figuring out where to go next was a challenge.

My biggest career challenge at RBC was finding a way to balance work with family life. I have three children, but RBC is very flexible/accommodating and my team is very committed – they jump in and support me when I need it. RBC is a top employer for that reason – they’re truly committed to helping people achieve work-life balance.

Describe your greatest career highlight. What made it so special?

Winning Campus Recruiter of the Year at the 2014 TalentEgg Awards! When my team nominated me for the award I thought they were crazy – I didn’t think I had a shot! Looking over the application, I remember thinking that we had done amazing work. I didn’t think I would win – but I was honoured to be nominated.

When I made the list of finalists, I tried to focus on what an accomplishment it was to be named a finalist and to be thankful for that – I was over the moon when I won!

At the end of the day, if students actually feel like they can connect with me directly, it means a lot. When students recognize me and feel like they can reach out, that is a testament to that fact that I’m doing my job well. From myself to my team, I know that we’re all invested in connecting with students.

What is the most rewarding part of working in your field?

Helping people realize their potential. It’s very rare in a role or in life that you get to impact as many people as we do. When I went through school, my goal was to help people and I find I’m always that go-to person in every aspect of my life. I’m kind of called the “work parent” in the office, but I really enjoy the helping aspect of my role. If students find value in the work I’m doing, that’s all I want.

Do you have an ultimate career goal?

My career has grown organically since graduating and I think it’s because I’ve kept my options open. I took the blinders off and really believe that the sky’s the limit. This quote is on my Instagram profile, and I really think it holds true:

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”  – Joseph Campbell,  Author of The Power of Myth

What is the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

Celebrate your victories. I meet so many students who are focused on the next thing; they finish exams and worry about getting a co-op, they graduate and are so focused on their next step. They compare themselves to their friends and get discouraged.  School is competitive and there may be someone who gets the job ahead of you – but there will always be someone working to get where you are too.

Don’t always be worrying about what’s next – it’s important to celebrate your accomplishments! Think about what you’ve achieved in life and take joy in it.

What advice would you give to someone starting a career in campus recruitment?

Campus recruitment is fun – there are always new things happening and we’re always innovating and pushing forward to be on the cutting-edge. Every day is different, and that’s what keeps us all here.

At the end of the day, you really have to love what you’re doing. You’re going to put a lot of energy and heart into your career and you need to have a love and passion for it. If you’re on campus and you don’t love what you’re doing, people can see through that. Be yourself and have a passion for your work – you’ll go far.

Follow Nikki on Twitter @Nikki4RBC