BY KEISHA JOHNSON
In February I had the opportunity to attend the 13th annual Internationally Educated Professionals, (IEP) conference in Toronto. The one-day forum is a hub for connecting IEPs and key stakeholders in industry, government and academia.
The room was abuzz with hundreds of mostly newcomer professionals eager to learn how to effectively navigate the Canadian job market and leverage their skills for success.
The dilemma for Canada is underutilizing these professionals and the skills they bring.
The dilemma for IEPs is remaining resilient as they navigate the landscape towards a suitable career path.
So as an IEP how do you find your way in this vast expanse of newness? What must you do to remain resilient when the job hunt proves disappointing? How do you position and posture yourself as the best candidate for your ideal job even if you lack ‘Canadian experience’?
These were some of the issues addressed by the various panelists and below are a five of the many tips they gave.
Get connected: The most ubiquitous advice of the day for IEPs on the job hunt is to get out and get connected. This is a lifeline for success both as a starting point and also as a means of thriving generally. Getting connected helps you to gain experience, understand the culture and unique Canadian nuances, build and maintain a sense of community and support and get known.
Network and Net give: The Canadian job market is akin to an iceberg: the majority of the jobs available are ‘below the surface’ and filled through connections and networks as opposed to the much smaller fraction that is publicly advertised. Hence the importance for newcomers to network and get engaged. The panelists suggest a key consideration when networking is to have a bigger purpose than networking. Murali Murthy author of the Ace series of books recommends, prioritize your net give as you network, i.e. consider what you can offer, what skills you can bring and become known for adding value to your network, mindful that your network is your net worth.
Tune your station and turn up the volume: Successful businesses and people know you, know what you want and how to sell it to you. They are emotionally intelligent. CEO of Global Network Bob Lank suggests that IEPs model this strategy as they job hunt. “Tune your station by clarifying a. what you are passionate about, i.e. your passion; b. what you are good at, i.e. your competencies; and c. what you have that others will pay for, i.e. the value you bring. Then turn up the volume by becoming a master at packaging and marketing this well.”
Maneuver the lack of ‘Canadian experience’: A common frustration for IEPs is being bypassed for a job due to ‘lack of Canadian experience’. This is often viewed as a disadvantage but the upside according to several hiring managers among the panelists is that IEPs have skills that Canada needs especially today when immigrants represent 50-60% of the population in major Canadian metropolis and 20% nationally. IEPs international experience is therefore a valuable contribution to the diverse Canadian marketplace.
The winning approach some panelists suggests to maneuver concerns over the lack of Canadian experience is for IEPs to recognize their value and that people hire because they have a problem. Therefore, show that you have the solution they are looking for. This is how to turn it to your advantage. When you enter an interview for example, know that in the Canadian marketplace you are equals. You have brought a value that the company needs. They need you as much as you need them. Steer an interview by highlighting your value and skills to the organization instead of allowing an employer to highlight your deficiency. Share stories that illustrate the strength of your problem solving skills and that demonstrates your leadership abilities so that they can see you as a potential leader in the company or industry. Additionally, “show your interviewer passion and excitement. Demonstrate confidence not fear, a good attitude towards work and a desire to succeed”, recommends Cheryl Phillips of Metroland Media.
Maintain your resilience with these five factors: Keynote speaker Dr. Kwame McKenzie, CEO of the Wellesley Institute offered five essential factors for maintaining resilience and balance in the career building process for new immigrants. Connection, Activity, Mindfulness, Learning and Giving Back. Connect with like-minded people who you can serve and they in turn add value to you. Be active. Stay in the here and now and embrace the opportunities around you. Keep your mind engaged with new learning. Find opportunities to volunteer and be a part of something bigger than yourself. When these five factors are present in your life he says, it enhances your well-being, preserves your mental health and boost your resilience and ability to thrive.