Sunday, July 20, 2014

Networking is the Most Important Skill for New Canadians

by Priya Ramanujam (@SincerelyPriya) in Toronto
Only eight per cent of the jobs in Canada are advertised. An astounding 76 per cent of the jobs are hidden or created. New Canadians packed into a Metro Toronto Convention Centre conference room to gain this type of insight about the Canadian job market from human resources professional, Sujay Vardhmane
Vardhmane’s presentation, Winning Ways – The Formula to Your Job Search Success, is just one of nine interactive speaker sessions part of a free, day-long Career, Education & Settlement Fair presented by Canadian Immigrant Magazine in partnership with Scotiabank and Centennial College. The annual fair, which also includes a trade show, resume clinic and speed mentoring sessions, is in its fourth year. Gautam Sharma, Publisher of Canadian Immigrant, says its goal is to provide real advice to newcomers. “The idea was to have a very sort of holistic opportunity for everyone to listen to,” he says.
Vardhmane’s main message during an hour-long presentation is that sitting behind a computer sending resumes all day long will rarely lead to securing a job. He gives newcomers a challenge: for six months, give yourselves points for every job-related action they take – 500 for an interview, 250 for an information meeting, 100 for making a phone call and 50 for applying for a job via the internet. If someone achieves 3,000 or more points weekly for six months he is confident they will land their ideal job.
But many of the attendees, who face barriers such as not knowing the language, not knowing anyone in Canada, and not having any Canadian work experience, may find his challenge daunting. Having immigrated to Canada in 2002 from India himself, Vardhmane can empathize with these struggles.
“[New Canadians often] develop a very negative mindset very early on that I’m a loser, I’m a victim and everyone is treating me badly,” he explains. “What you may find surprising is this, every person at every stage in life has challenges in a job search, I could be a white male who is 45, I will have some challenges in my job search, I could be a 60-year-old, I could be a 20-year-old I could be having challenges, whether I’m born here or not born here. But what tends to happen is we tend to look at it this way, I’m new in this country and I’m being penalized because of that.”
[New Canadians often] develop a very negative mindset very early on that I’m a loser, I’m a victim and everyone is treating me badly.”
During his workshop, Vardhmane shares that he has never been hired in Canada for a job that he has applied to in the traditional way of e-mailing a resume and cover letter. Rather, the opportunities that have come his way (he is also a part-time professor at Centennial, Seneca and George Brown colleges and the University of Toronto), have been because of relationships he’s built over time and networking.
“I think listening to people and positioning myself professionally with people [is why] people were willing to help me,” he shares, reminiscing about his early days in Canada. “Consistency of behaviour is very critical for people to be comfortable to refer you.”
Networking was stressed throughout the day as the number one most important thing newcomers must do to achieve whatever success they are pursuing. Corporate trainer, career specialist and workplace coach, Colleen Clarke, emphasizes this in her workshop, Networking How To Build Relationships That Count. She says newcomers should start the process even before they set foot on Canadian soil.
“I had a client a few years ago, he’s become a huge success here. Before he came to Canada – he knew he was immigrating here – we worked together long distance,” she shares. “He came here with the names of 20 people to contact of people back in Mumbai who knew people in Toronto. So when he came to Toronto he already had 20 phone numbers from the people in Mumbai who had family or relatives here.”
“Consistency of behaviour is very critical for people to be comfortable to refer you.”
Upon arriving in Canada, continue connecting with the people who you know from your day-to-day life, she adds. “Try to start with people that you know. Your bank teller, your hair dresser, the people within your own ethnic community, your children go to school, you must know some of the parents of the children.”
She closes by reminding attendees that it isn’t the first person they network with that will give them a job, but by building strong, positive relationships with several people, through the ideology of “six degrees of separation” where someone knows someone who knows someone, job referrals can and will happen. 
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be freely re-published, with appropriate attribution, please.