The first thought which comes to mind when it comes to job search in Canada is networking – building connections. The synonym for networking comes out to be ‘Interacting’ which is much easier to understand.
Interacting does not seem to be a difficult task when we know that we are good at speaking one of the country’s official languages – English, but the reality is different from our beliefs. It’s just a myth which we have developed in our minds due to lack of knowledge and overconfidence. This statement is the outcome of a brainstorming endeavour which me and my peers Maham, Olga, Faizan, Satoshi and Avideh were able to do while we were networking constantly.
But why it is a myth and why it would not work for us as immigrants?
We got the answer of this question while attending Ottawa Job Match Network Program (OJMN) organised by World Skills Employment Centre. They showed us a different perspective on networking.
Your language skills would only be useful if you have the courage to go ahead and interact with a stranger. Stranger – yes, this is the biggest challenge immigrants face when they move to a new country. The world around them seems to be a world full of strangers, making the situation intimidating for them. We as a group realized that it is a difficult task to be accomplished, but it is not impossible.
As skilled immigrants, we are well versed with the concept of Networking, but we are unfamiliar with the massive impact it can have on one’s professional and personal life. So now it was more about understanding the challenge which impedes us from approaching people and it was fear of rejection. Yes, this is the biggest challenge and the root cause of not taking that first step which may lead to the path of ultimate success in the future.
One should fear the regret of not trying rather than the fear of failure or rejection, even if you fail or get rejected you will have an opportunity to begin again more intelligently
Moreover, our apprehensions of rejection are so strong that we presume the negative responses and because we continuously think in this direction so they are bound to happen as we have not worked enough to receive positive results. With lost hopes we approach people and we get rejections. Your positive attitude and efforts may reduce your chances of rejection.
Preparation ─ Be well prepared with your elevator speech and questions to ask which may lead to good conversation
Action ─ Act to build rapport with the other person – eye contact, listening attentively, responding appropriately
Follow up – Remember the reminder emails, calls, pop ups, small advertisement conveying that ‘we exist’, so send thank-you notes, follow them on LinkedIn, Twitter and make yourself available and show your existence in industry and your surroundings.
As a part of networking exercise during the OJMN Program we also went on streets to see how people react to strangers approaching them for conversation – Some were very delighted with the positive responses they got while some faced rejections – but at the same time they felt that every rejection was increasing their comfort to approach the next person.
Our visit to the bank was a wonderful experience, the lady at the front desk smiled and answered all our questions – Satoshi and Avideh (Finance and Banking professionals)
People thought we were sales executives as we were carrying notepads and pens in our hands while a few were good enough to share their business card – Ishoo and Maham (HR and IT professionals)
We got good responses as we started with easy interaction topics, the conversation with the logo on a lady’s shirt as we knew that people like to talk about themselves – Ruth and Pamela (Administration and Finance professionals)
I did preliminary research regarding the structure of an organisation where I intend to work in future. I arranged a direct visit to the organization and got an opportunity to have an informational interview with a professional. He gave me more insights about the profile, role and how I can I use my skills to perform a similar role – Olga, Biologist and Environmental Scientist
After this exercise, we realized that networking should not always trigger our minds and hearts with daunting thoughts of faking around with people, stalking them on social or professional networking sites, being stressed out or giving stress to others. You can prepare your speech in advance to avoid the occurrence of such scenarios, but at the same time it has to look natural.
Is it difficult to tell people about who you are and what skills you possess?
It’s all about presenting yourself in front of someone who does not know you, and you are the one who can spark that interest and unfold the best part of your personality!
Networking does not have to be a huge mission to be accomplished as all public places give you ample opportunities to network – How?
We do network with people at parking lots, grocery stores, bus stops, schools, parks, libraries, airports – this is where it begins and we often undermine the networking which happens here because we don’t follow up or reconnect. It’s completely on us to strategically derive benefit out of the networks we build on daily basis irrespective of the place of networking, which can be public places, or social/ professional networking sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.
Also, the return offer which you should make does not always have to be instant – so don’t feel vulnerable about it, it can be a future transaction.
But trust me, making an impression, a positive impression, is an offer in itself
Networking is the first step towards the brighter future for a skilled immigrant in a new country and a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Don’t be afraid to take this step. It is difficult to come out of your comfort zone, but you will be pleasantly surprised how welcoming and helpful the people around you are. All you need is to let them know that you are here – with your skills, your experience, and your willingness to work. Don’t forget there is light at the end of every tunnel!
Authors: Faizan Jahangir, Maham Aman, Olga Kiseliova, Avideh Mahdavi, Satoshi Miyauchi, Ruth Solomon Ayalew, Pamela Togoch, and Ishoo Brar