How can I secure a job in Canada while living abroad?

Globe and Mail Update

The question
I have recently been granted the permanent resident status further to securing immigration under the skilled worker category in Canada.
I am a corporate finance professional of Southeast Asian descent and have been working at a large sovereign wealth fund in the Middle East for the last five years analyzing, executing and managing multi-billion-dollar joint venture investments and also managing a portfolio of 5 Star U.K.-based hotels. I studied in London, where I completed my ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), through which I was also able to get membership of CGA Canada (under the mutual recognition agreement). Lately, I have been studying for the CFA (chartered financial analyst) program and completed CFA level 1.
This year while visiting Toronto for 20 days, I was able to meet three recruiters (very respected names in the financial services recruitment sector) and received a good response. They appreciated the overall profile, particularly my communication and interpersonal skills which they said remains a lacking skill amongst other immigrants. But all emphasized the importance of being in Canada to be able to attend interviews with prospective employers that sometimes ranges from three to four sittings over a period of two to three months.
I want to confirm if my understanding from these meetings and other discussions that I had with professionals working in the financial sectors are right or not.
Firstly, I believe that being able to secure three meetings with large recruiters in Toronto was a big achievement considering that I only e-mailed my résumés to them while in the Middle East and not having any Canadian work experience. I understand from this that my profile will be able to land me some good interviews. Secondly, most of the people mentioned that a minimum salary of $85K is easy to achieve with seven years of total experience on my résumé and good North-American qualifications. Thirdly, confirmation of the notion that being physically present in Canada helps in securing the job. This decision is very critical since it means resigning from my current position and moving to Canada without a job in hand.
Lastly, a lot of people mentioned to me that February is by far the best month to start a job hunt since people resign after bonus payments and banks or firms implement their hiring plans for the new year thereon. They also said that six months is a reasonable time to measure one’s ability to secure the right job.
I would appreciate your advice on the above and a brief view of how you see the job market in the financial services sector to perform in the year 2012.
The answer
It’s great to see that you’ve done your homework, and that you are doing all the right things to set yourself up for a new life and career in Canada. It sounds like the recruiters with whom you’ve met have given you sound advice.
It will be easier for you to secure a job when you are physically in Canada. A local address gives prospective employers the impression that you are accessible and available to them when they need you.
There are a few different schools of thought in terms of the best time to look for a job. Keep in mind that in “peak” hiring seasons, more candidates may be looking for work, in which case you may have increased competition. Year after year I see many candidates who are hired over the summer and Christmas holiday seasons – a time when people typically think the job market slows down.
Given your goal of settling in Canada, there are a few things you can do to help your job search, both while you are in the Middle East, and when you arrive here:
Continue working on your chartered financial analyst program and gain a thorough understanding of the Canadian financial and business landscape. In your interviews, you must demonstrate that you understand, are knowledgeable and are comfortable with the local laws and business dynamics, to show you can “hit the ground running.” Follow Canadian media, read, watch and listen to news segments (in the online world, all of these sources can be accessible to you from outside Canada). Monitor trade publications, so you can build your knowledge of the local landscape
On your résumé and in your communications with prospective employers, highlight your education from the United Kingdom and the North American and European companies you’ve worked for. Globally recognizable company names often give prospective employers a frame of reference that they are familiar with. Add a short summary on your résumé for other companies that Canadian employers may not be familiar with to give them context. Consider comparing them to local Canadian organizations in terms of scope, and size of business, local reputation and market position, etc.
Last but not least, consider seeking out virtual mentors by researching and reaching out to Canadian market leaders, and immigrants who have succeeded in the path you are about to follow. They may be able to offer unique insights through their personal experiences.
Julie Labrie is the vice-president of BlueSky Personnel Solutions.

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