Landing on the Canadian soil was scary, only because I didn’t have a job in hand. Otherwise, to keep it simple, my priorities of coming to this country were firmly in place. I came armed with all the research and all the confidence that I would get a job in 60 days of landing. Let’s see what happened..
I came to Canada on a Permanent Residency Visa and just in case you are looking to know more about the Express Entry Program or how to get a PR Visa, this is not the post. You can visit the CIC Website or forums like Personal Blogs, Canada Visa which explain the process in detail. Here I want to share my job-search experience before and after landing in Canada. It is certainly not an ultimate guide, however my intention is to be of assistance to fellow-mates embarking on a similar journey.
Before starting, I want to jot down 3 challenges among other smaller ones that new-comers are most nervous about.
- Funds: Your funds move only in one direction. Outwards ! Also the problem of currency difference. Canadian currency could be 1/2/50/x times the currency you have saved your money in. (I had to constantly remind myself not to multiple every Dollar I spent). So do come financially and mentally prepared.
- Personal Aspects: Figuring out stuff like housing, finding school for children, local travel, banking and insurance, grocery, understanding the tax systems in the country, registering for SIN, health insurance, driving license, etc.
- Job: Where to begin the job search and how to address lack of local experience.
For the first two points, a thorough research on fund requirement and personal stuff is critical. To evaluate how much fund you shall need to survive the initial period there are several websites and forums to help you prepare an estimate. Two of the good sites are Numbeo and Expatistan. These websites may give a good estimate, however it is critical to plan for contingencies. I could manage my entire month in CAD 1500 but may not be the case with everyone. An average of CAD 2000 should be ideal considering a modest lifestyle till you find a job. Similarly to figure out housing, Kijiji is the best classified, there are several international insurance providers for figuring out the first 90 day personal insurance situation (you may want to read the Health Insurance clause here), SIN is usually provided at the airport, registering for banking, credit card, Health Insurance and driving license might be time consuming but not problematic.
Now to address the elephant in the room, ‘How do I get a Job’. I wish to repeat, this is not a guide but a personal experience, with some hits and misses.
PART I: Get the Basics in place
- Have a Strong Social network profile: This is not a 101 on how to build your LinkedIn profile, twitter, professional website, etc but it is critical to have a professional and curated presence on social media. There are several tutorials on how to build a strong LinkedIn profile. I cannot stress the importance of LinkedIn and how it helped me in my job search cause.
- Build a Canada-Specific resume: I was surprised at how different a resume looks in Canada, and that too when I used to boast my resume building skills in my home country. I am sure you want to build a professional Canada-specific resume for the new market you are entering. Spend a lot of time on this (preferably before arriving) and do learn the skill of building ‘Targeted-Resume’
- Start Connecting ‘Just In Time’: When someone e-meets you, how long would you remember them? Let’s say 1 or 2 months or a maximum of 3 months. Beyond that you might have to start afresh. A lot of candidates (including myself) approach recruiters and managers on LinkedIn trying to connect for opportunities immediately after receiving the ITA (Invitation to Apply). I don’t say that is a bad idea, but landing in Canada might not happen for another 6-7 months (considering the average PR visa processing time). This might be a deterring factor for not receiving favorable responses. Two of interesting responses I received were “Since you are any which way coming to Canada in some time, why don’t you connect with me then” and “It’s like booking a seat for someone who may or may not come here and that too 6-7 months from now”. I don’t think they were wrong in their statements and I took it with a pinch of salt. So no point being disheartened. The best thing to do is start ‘Just In Time’.
- Consider registering for a Bridging Program: There are a lot of people unaware of the concept of ‘Bridging Program’. A Bridging Program helps you expand your cultural and professional understanding. These programs are designed for a period of 4-12 weeks requiring a good amount of commitment. (i) Pre Arrival: These are online training programs with frequent telephonic and video interactions with coaches, mentors and trainers. To mention a few I attended programs with ACCES Employment, SOPA, Abbotsford Community Services (ii) Post Arrival: These are class-room based programs offered by ACCES Employment, YMCA, Brian J. Fleming/ St. Gariel Adult Education Center, Dufferin Peel, etc. To share my experience, I attended the 4 week long Leadership Connections program with ACCES in Collaboration with Humber College (among several other programs offered by them). Among other things, I worked and interacted with people from 19 countries during this program. I couldn’t imagine a better way to start my interaction in Canada with like-minded, competent and successful professionals. After all, Canada is a land full of immigrants, just like me. The common thread of being a newcomer bonded us strongly. During this period I got a chance to attend 4-5 seminars, networking sessions and mentoring sessions. Most of these bridging programs are government sponsored and it is key to enroll with them well in advance. I have a positive experience with these programs so do most of my batch mates, but you might find contradicting views on the internet. Research and Register if you may!
- TRIEC: TRIEC runs a mentoring program where they match the candidate with an experienced professional from a similar field. This facilitates a newcomer to better understand the Canadian market in-person and you never know if the mentor might offer direct or indirect help in finding your first opportunity.
PART II: Getting into the Full Time Job of Job Search
- Research is the Key: On a broad scale, I noticed that certain regions in Canada have sector focus. For eg. Ottawa has public sector, Toronto has Financial and IT opportunities, Calgary has Insurance, Manufacturing, Metal Mining industries and Vancouver has Logistics and Real Estate. There are also smaller towns (Hamilton, London, Oshawa, Edmonton, Regina, Halifax, Winnipeg, Victoria, Kingston, ect to name a few) looking for talent. You may want to research well (about cost of living, earning potential, job opportunities, skill set, etc.) before you make your move.
- Tap your Ex-Employers: In case any of your ex-employer(s) is an MNC and has office in Canada it would be a good idea to connect with them. You may also want to search and approach any competitors that may be in the same field and you may be surprised. Well I too approached them, however it didn’t work for me, it may for you. Timing is critical.
- Network Network Network: I was surprised to learn the approach towards networking in Canada. People are very open, receptive and highly respectful in their approach. It doesn’t end at connecting on LinkedIn or sending an introduction message! (Key Note: I realized sending an invitation to connect on LinkedIn along with a small note improves chances of acceptance as well as further interaction). I did 4 things to network (i) I developed customizable small write-ups that I would use to connect with professionals. In case I would receive a response I would ask them if they would want to review my profile before sharing more time. I felt that was a respectful way to ask someone for their time. If there would be a positive response I would ask then for.. (ii) an Informational/ Coffee Interviewand I got five of them (I had approached 20 people via personal network and LinkedIn. So you see the success rate is encouraging). An informational interview is where – you invite a known/ unknown person over a coffee (of course you must offer to pay) to understand more about the company they work at, job profiles, market and specific professional topics/ skills. Remember, you are not meeting them to ask for a job. I strongly recommend you read Informational Interview, Tips for Non-Awkward Informational Interviews, Questions to Ask. Also you may want to consider registering with TenThousandCoffees to find interested mentors. (iii) Leverage your personal network. Even if it is your friend’s cousin’s brother’s brother-in-law, you never know if they can help. There is no shame in asking for help. Do it politely, confidently and professionally. Do not over-burden them with your agenda. This approach helped me get multiple Coffee Interviews (iv) Try tapping the unorganized market once you are here. It is said that 75-80% of the jobs are not posted or listed online. Smaller companies and organizations are in search of talent but they rely heavily on internal references.
- Job Boards: (i) You may want to explore job boards (Monster, Indeed, Workopolis, LinkedIn Jobs etc. etc.). However the entire world applies from there. You might lose faith, interest and time if you realize you haven’t received a single revert. Several reports claim that each listing attracts 200 applications. However I strongly recommend that you must only apply for well researched profiles where you sense you have a better chance at getting through (ii) Explore Career Edge, Job Banks and Federal Internship Program. Do look out for job listings where you can directly apply via Job Banks (iii) LinkedIn InApply. I did land two interviews out of the three I applied for (one of them I failed and the other one I reached the 3rd round before I opted out).
- Beat the ATS: If you were to believe that a recruiter goes through all the 200 resumes, then you need to upgrade your tech knowledge a bit. Applicant Tracking Systems filter out non-matching resumes by tracking the key terms mentioned in the Job Description and spit out only 10-20% of the most relevant resumes. I would suggest, upload a doc. file and try customizing your resume to match 85% of the JD, almost word to word. Just remember to not lose your individuality in the process!
- Let Recruiters Know You Are Looking For Opportunities: I used two ways to do this on LinkedIn (as well as Twitter) (i) Changed my status as ‘Looking for Exciting opportunities in Toronto’ along with my title as Risk Advisory Professional. Recruiters search for people with title and this may attract some much needed attention. (ii) On LinkedIn – Under privacy and Job Seeking settings I activated the option called ‘Let Recruiter Know You Are Looking For Opportunities’. This lets the recruiters know that you are looking for a job, without letting your current employer know.
- Reach out to Recruitment Consulting Firms: Recruitment consulting firms (Hays, RobertHalf, Randstad, AltisHR, NTTDataCanada, Veritaaq, Infotek Consulting, Kelly Services, etc.) work actively to track good candidates for their clients. I have had mostly-positive experience with them, if not the best.
- Overcome the Non-Canadian Experience Hurdle: I did not experience any major hurdle related to this point but I have some friends who did. It may depend on your past experience and your field of work. Nevertheless, I decided to arm myself with the best answer possible in case I had to face this issue. The Canadian workplace may be different in terms of work-culture but the work they do is not 180 degree different from how the world functions. Keeping this in mind, I decided to do 3 things. (i) Enroll with a bridging program to better understand the work culture (ii) Tried preparing all my answers which displayed my transferable as well as technical skills. This makes the most difference & (iii) identify certifications which could help me upgrade my technical skills. Good education credentials, relevant certifications are highly regarded in the Canadian marketplace, rightly so.
- For the Big Day : Five things you must and must do when you get an opportunity for a job interview. (i) Research about the company. In and Out. Explore about the company on google as well as Glassdoor for reviews from employees, past interviews experiences, ratings, salary range, jobs posting by the company, etc. (ii) Research about the interviewer. Do not stalk them on Facebook and Instagram. But visiting their LinkedIn and Twitter is acceptable and most of the interviewers won’t mind being referred or looked up on LinkedIn. After all, LinkedIn is built for that. In case you do not want the person to know about you visiting their profile, you can temporarily change the settings to “View Profile in Private Mode” (iii) Understand the job description well. It is the most under-estimated part by a lot of candidates. My experience is that the JD is created by the hiring manager and if you can use the same lingo during your interview, things may get smoother (iv) Send a thank you e-mail and follow up only after a week with a second follow-up only after 15 days. You can find templates on the internet. (v) Get over it if the recruiter/ manager doesn’t respond after 2-3 reminders/ 3-4 weeks. At the end of the day, you might not want to work for an employer who doesn’t value your time.
I am going to end this long article by sharing how I fared by doing all of these listed things.
(i) I tried connecting with 100+ people via all mediums and only around 20-25 ever got back. I did end up having a meaningful interaction with 10-12 people. Along with that I had 5 Coffee interviews out of the 20 requests that I sent out.
(ii) Attended 4-5 seminars and mentoring sessions (mostly via bridging programs) getting a chance to connect with successful professionals.
(iii) I got 13-14 screening calls from the HR managers/ recruiters of which 50% progressed at varying levels.
(iv) I got interviews at 4 companies.
(v) I got frustrated on not being able to get a job when I reached my 60 day benchmark. But just when I knew any better, I got my first offer from one of the companies I interviewed with. In 75 days (not too much off my target).
All the running around, preparation and networking paid off. Some of my friends got a job in 1 month and some are still trying to get their foot in the door since 6-7 months. All I recommend is, do things correctly, and you shall find someone who will bet on your skills and hire you, at the right time.
PS: As you can see, all the above listed things are not extra-ordinary. It is just a lot of research and action towards your own development. All what is mentioned here took me a year to gather, hopefully this article saves you some time and effort in your journey.
On this amazing migration journey, all that is required is Patience and Persistence and most importantly Faith!
–Thanks for reading–
Edits (covering some excellent points made in the comments sections):
(1) The undertone of the article, it is “Go out and Meet people”. Leverage every possible tool available to gather meaningful in-person networking opportunities.
(2) This article also doesn’t mean that finding a job will be easy or Canada is a wonderland. It is demanding and requires a lot of effort in the right direction.
(3) The job market usually is slow in some regions during winter. Do plan your entire migration likewise
(4) Get a relevant experience in the form of a temporary position or contract positions (I don’t mean survival jobs) if an opportunity is available. Leverage this exp further down the line to get full time employment.