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How to effectively network in Canada

Connel Valentine Sep 30, 2017
"It's not about what you know, it's about who you know"

If you've been on the search for jobs in Canada, you must have heard this phrase by now. The "hidden job market" eludes a lot of job seekers, because you don't know how to tap into this valuable resource, which can compromise for 80% of the job availability.

If you're a new immigrant or a fresh graduate, your professional network will be very thin, and without a network, your exposing yourself to a smaller percentage of the actual jobs out there.

And it's not just about the hidden job market. It's also about getting first dibs on publically advertised jobs. According to this study conducted by JobVite, if you get referred by someone for a job, there is a 1 in 7 chance you will get it. Whereas if you apply for the job using conventional online applications, there is a 1 in 100 chances of you getting it.

This week's post is about how to get away from the online job boards, and out into the real world to get your name out there so that when hiring managers ask their team "I have a new job available, who do you know?", your name gets into the conversation.

Why is networking important

There is one thing a resume cannot do that is critical to Canadian hiring managers - it does not demonstrate your personality. In Canada, managers pay as much attention to soft skills as they do to technical skills.

If you don't make an impression yourself, the hiring manager or recruiter will make it for you. And this is where unconscious bias is a major problem for job seekers:

- They look at your ethnic name and think "New immigrant. Probably has a language problem"

- They look at your date of graduation and think "Fresh grad, probably no experience"

- They see education from another country and think "Probably not qualified to do the job"

As unfair as this sounds, it is a very real problem.

If you are a fresh grad or new immigrant, you may place a lot of emphasis on your technical skills. But in Canada, soft skills carry as much weight as technical skills. To use the financial industry as an example, according to this survey conducted by Robert Half, under 10% of CFOs place a much greater weight on technical skills.

Soft skills can be stated in a resume in bullet point form but is that really proof? Not in Canada. Stories of the application of your soft skills must be done in person.

Networking events give you this opportunity, not only to demonstrate your personality but also to showcase some of your soft skills, especially communication and speaking effectively. This gets rid of any bias that can formulate in a person's mind from just looking at your resume.

Fore new immigrants, the Canadian Experience dilemma is a major challenge. One of the sources of this problem with hiring managers is making biased presumptions on communication skills of new immigrants. If your communication skills are on the mark with Canadian standards, a networking event is a place you can demonstrate it.

Another reason why networking is important is that you get the opportunity to learn from others in your industry. As a fresh grad, it's important to get insights on how your specialization is practiced in the real world. As a new immigrant, how you practiced your industry in your home country may be different in Canada.

1. Associations

Canada has an industry of specialists and there are associations for every industry and every specialization. As a new

As a new grad, you may be in a place where you're deciding which area you want to pursue your career in. Associations in your industry will connect you to a diverse pool of specialists in your field who have done it all, and you can learn from their experience and they can point you in your first direction.

As a new immigrant, you may have practiced in a generalized field, but in Canada, you need to find a specialization based on your experience to target your job search strategy.

For example, you might have been called a "Civil Engineer" in your home country, but that translates to a whole listing of various jobs in Canada.

The specialists at these associations once again can even point new immigrants in the right direction - translating their skills and experience into Canadian job titles.

Associations give you opportunities to immerse yourself in a community where everyone is speaking the same industrial and professional language. There is a certain level of trust that is attained from a group of people sharing a common goal.

When forming relationships with people at these associations, that trust pays off if a job opportunity becomes available in the future.

How do you find these associations? A simple Google search will uncover a list of associations in your field. When you attend these events and start speaking to people, they may introduce you to other associations and societies that were not uncovered in a Google search. Networking is all about word of mouth after all!

When Googling these associations, take note of the location at which most of these associations are. A lot of people, especially immigrants, make the mistake of assuming that the big cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal are the only cities where they will find jobs.

But if they are in the oil and gas industry, for example, Calgary (Alberta) is where they will have the highest probability of finding a job sooner than later, and the fact that most associations for the oil and gas industry are based in Alberta should be an indication of this fact.

New immigrants may also be tempted to only joining associations where there is a cultural commonality with their home country. For example, an Indian immigrant may target "Indian association of....". Limiting your network reach to your comfort zone in this way will reduce the chances of you finding that opportunity, so remember to be open to every association in your industry.

2. Volunteering

Volunteering is a great way to network and meet people. Here, you have an opportunity to not only demonstrate your personality, but you also get a chance to display your work ethics and practice your skills in a real Canadian work environment.

If you would like your volunteering opportunity to help with your job search, it's important to utilize your specialized skills at this non-profit organization. Once again, just as you did with associations above, Google "Volunteering opportunities for ......."

For newcomers to Canada, understand that volunteering is a core value in Canadian culture, and once you've completed an opportunity, don't hesitate to publish your accomplishment on LinkedIn. You've not only helped your community, but you've also shown a hiring manager that you're integrating into Canadian culture.

Taking part in volunteering opportunities, especially in your field, serves as a meaningful filler for gaps in your resume. Don't underestimate its value in Canada.

3. Mentoring

For a new grad, a mentor will help you understand how your industry is practiced in real life. This will help you understand the common problems and challenges faced in the industry, and you can speak to those problems in your customized cover letter and resume.

For a new immigrant to Canada, what you specialize in may be practiced differently here in Canada, especially if it's a regulated job. A mentor is someone who has extensive experience practicing in your field in Canada and can explain to you how things are done here.

Just as important, a mentor can also explain the cultural norms in the workplace in Canada. Ask the following questions to your mentor:

- What is the relationship with management like?
- How are you expected to work in teams?
- How do you give/receive feedback?
- What are common communication traits in the workplace?
- How is conflict resolved?
- What are the dos and don'ts in a Canadian workplace?

You can find a mentor at Everwise or Ten Thousand Coffees in Canada, or you can Google for mentoring opportunities in your local city.

Forge a positive relationship with your mentor. They can also tell you which associations and volunteer opportunities to join so you can immerse yourself in your professional community which will not only get you a referral to a job but create job security for you by being well-known by many hiring managers in your industry.

4. LinkedIn

Finally, since being physically present, although effective, takes up much of our time, we can always resort to online channels to be more efficient at what we do.

While in-person networking will help you form deeper and more meaningful relationships, which is important if you want to come to mind when an opportunity comes up, LinkedIn will help you reach a larger audience.

It's a great relationship starter, that could lead to in-person contact later on.

Make sure your profile has your professional picture so it adds personality to your outreach. And also make sure that your LinkedIn profile is powerful by being complete so the other person knows enough about you that they want to connect.

Once a connection is made, be mindful to periodically reach out to your contacts so that they know you exist. Having them exist as a passive contact serves no purpose. Share articles with them, share and like their posts. Constantly remind them of your online presence so that you come to mind if an opportunity arises in their world.

Do and don'ts

We conclude with some basic dos and don'ts for each. You will be an expert networker with consistency and effort and will learn the skills in time. But these pointers should give you a good start.

Associations 

- DO attend events and volunteer at events if you can
- DO target associations that are specific and specialized in your industry or field
- DO form a positive relationship with the organizer
- DO NOT ask for jobs at the event or hand out resumes
- DO NOT limit your associations by cultural or racial commonalities
- DO NOT neglect to follow up with your new contacts

Volunteering

- DO offer your services willingly
- DO form positive relationships with the people around you
- DO make an effort to understand and be positive about the cause
- DO NOT ask for jobs at the event or hand out resumes
- DO NOT shy away from tasks or regard any task as too menial
- DO NOT show disinterest by paying more attention to your phone than the event

Mentoring

- DO learn as much as possible with the time that you have
- DO ask for advice and suggestions
- DO keep the discussions positive
- DO NOT take feedback negatively
- DO NOT belittle the mentor's experience
- DO NOT act like a know-it-all. The relationship is about you learning

LinkedIn

- DO add a personalized note to every connection using the "Add Note" feature
- DO periodically share relevant news articles with your contact
- DO share their posts
- DO NOT nag your connections with constant messaging
- DO NOT ignore them as passive contacts
- DO NOT connect with anyone and everyone. Stick to you professional industries and close ties

If you're still skeptical about the value of networking, consider this. A lot of people who attend these networking events are senior level executives. According to this study by SilkRoad (talent management software company), a referral from a director and above has a 91% chance of getting the job.

Networking is about forming lasting relationships with people. It won't happen overnight and it will take time. If you are a fresh grad, start while you are still in school. If you are a newcomer, start networking now, even if you are still in your home country.

If networking scares you, especially if you are an introvert, you need to break through that barrier and get into the habit today. Start slow. Go to meetup.com and look for a group in your industry or even a small common interest group. Go with a friend initially if that makes the transition easier.

I promise that you will eventually get accustomed to meeting new people and turning on that "Networking Mode" switch in your head.