Moving to Canada (Part 2): The language, blending in and networking
Thanks a lot everyone for the messages, the calls and the comments, much appreciated. Now I know there are two sides to a coin, so this post is inevitable. I have talked about the potential issues, so I believe it best to talk about everything I have done to improve my professional and social life and also my English.
In the last post I talked about issues with the language, blending in and networking and with making money. It did take a while, but then after a month I made some adjustments and while I have not achieved my goals, I have made a lot of progress.
I think at this point, it is important to note that I haven’t gotten my permanent residency, I am still on an open work permit so there’s a lot I do not yet have access to, here in Canada, but the good news is I am on the last lap on that (new update) and unless something blows up somewhere, I do expect to become a resident this month so… (YAY?). Just like before, I will break it down again, but now with what I have done. So here it goes.
Number One and Two – The Language, blending in and networking
The best way to learn the language and by some extension the culture is by meeting and interacting with people. This is easy if you are an extrovert or if you talk for a living, but sometimes it isn’t that easy and other times, you need a little push or kick to get going. So from experience, here are the ways I got started.
- Volunteer: I am a volunteer at the Calgary Opera, but then there are numerous volunteer opportunities in cities all over Canada. A lot of times all you have to do is google the city you reside in and search for volunteer opportunities. This is a great way because when you volunteer you do not determine the kind of people you meet. The mental adjustments you have to make for the different kinds of people you meet and the experience you get from doing some kind of work helps especially with regards to communasicating with people.
- Meetups: from my volunteering, I met a guy (thanks Norman!!) who told me about an networking site called Meetup they have apps on Google Play and on Apple Store. The app uses your location and your preferences to search out groups around you filled with people that meet regularly (weekly or monthly). It’s a great way to meet people and build your network of personal and professional contacts as a start. I have met some people who I still keep in touch with (Hi Grant, Hi David)
It is important to note at this stage that if you do this with end goal of getting a job or getting something out of it, then you may not get much results. Doing it with the aim of meeting and interacting with people and learning about the culture will yield excellent results and can be helpful in gaining insights about the history, needs and problems within the city.
Number Three – Getting a job (Making money)
Unless you are one of the many people that did get a job before landing in Canada, then you may need to make a whole lot of changes to be able to integrate into the system. Now I can’t tell you what changes YOU need to make, but then I can tell you the changes I made.
Know what you can do: If you are a Nigerian or if you worked in Nigeria (I can’t speak for any other country, yet) you have occupied roles with job descriptions that have other duties (written in small print) that you did not realize until you started the job. Using myself as an example, I have worked as a security analyst, a systems analyst and a service delivery consultant since early 2010. Straight-forward right? Well not really.
In plain English other duties means being able to do anything and everything needed to ensure you can perform as needed for your organization
I worked as a security analyst yes, but I worked implementing ISO27001 and COBIT frameworks for banks which involved performing gap analysis, understanding business requirements, doing penetration tests, reviewing, updating and in some cases writing policies and worked on responding to quite a couple of responses to RFP’s. I also did some work on asset management and was part of a Technical Advisory Board. Here in Canada, that makes me able to work as a security analyst, a business analyst, a systems analyst, a process analyst and required some degree of stakeholder management, conflict management and project management.
I worked as a systems analyst yes, but I worked as a security analyst, coordinated about 5 national projects (at the same time), reviewed and developed policies, was part of teams that implemented PKI, ISO27001, GVCP, Access Control and IPCCTV infrastructure amongst other things. I was a systems analyst but performed security analyst and project coordinator roles as well. Do you see where I am headed? I had to review SLA’s as well, SLA’s that had to do with network services for the organization’s infrastructure in 36 states. All of this done as a systems analyst.
My most recent role as a service delivery consultant, had me responsible for about 40 people, overseeing IT infrastructure and service delivery operations for a client with about 3000 employees this involved a Help Desk, Desktop Support and enterprise support which included Exchange and email services, Active Directory, File Servers, Enterprise Security etc. I had to work with my team to develop policies and procedures which included HR policies, I had to perform vendor management, stakeholder management, conflict management, different administrative duties.
Do you see what I mean? If I was to talk about everything I did, I would most likely have a five page CV (which is called a resume here by the way) but the point is if I focused on just the roles I did in the past, I would be limiting myself.
So you have me a service delivery consultant, a security analyst and a systems analyst, who is able to do these roles but who can also be a Service Desk Manager, a Help Desk Manager, Infrastructure Coordinator, Project Coordinator, Service Coordinator, Change Analyst/Manager, etc. The list can go on. And I have not included the certifications and trainings I have done. However people, you need to do this first because this will be very helpful with what comes next.
Update your resume: I remember taking up Jobberman’s resume service in 2015 in a bid to improve my resume and prepare for a life in Canada. I remember the results I got and I remember my level of satisfaction (which was close to my feet). I was not impressed at all. I used another resume writing service last year, this time in Canada and although it was a bit better, I wasn’t very impressed. You see resume writers can only write based on what you give them, they can use fancy words, change the format of your resume and so on, but then it is very limited. If you haven’t done the first step (which I did only after coming to Canada) then paying someone to write your resume would only be a waste of time.
So after spending N18k and about $100 on rewriting my resume, I got something I myself was not proud of.
I got calls, yes, but then it didn’t lead to much. I had a chat with a couple of people after getting to Canada, sat down and with the help of a resume writing service which cost me $3 for 2 weeks, I totally improved my resume and I am improving it at least monthly with tips I get during my job search.
You should check them out. Resume Now. After doing that, if you really want to improve your resume, you can use this service as well Job Scan which compares your resume with the job you are applying for and suggest tips for improving your resume. It is stressful (and it is a paid service) but then it helps in identifying and tweaking minor things in your resume.
Searching for jobs: You know what you can do, you have updated your resume to reflect this, now you can search for jobs. This is what I suggest, it helps…
- Search for recruiters in the city: If you have not landed in Canada yet, this is the best place to start from as it will help you gauge the reaction to your updated resume. The best way to find recruiters is not by searching on Google as you may have done in the past. Open Google maps, go to the city you plan to live in and search for recruiters using Google maps. Believe me, you will find people you won’t have dreamt of that way.
- Join job boards: There are the more obvious ones like Monster, Indeed, LinkedIn, but then you will need to find the ones local to your area too. Local recruiters have great job boards for their organizations. Using step 1 is a great way to find them. Another great way to find jobs is through Kijiji. Try that.
I am sure you think it is over? Nah, this is the first step and the easiest. So you have updated your resume, it looks good. You have a cover letter, excellent!!! Now you have to convince a bunch of people that you, with zero Canadian experience, are a better fit than all the other people that have some Canadian experience. This people, is the greatest hurdle. There are a couple of ways around this.
- Networking: getting to meet people, the ones you know, the ones that know people you know. Reach out, preferably before you land in Canada and get to know these people, they will get one foot in. Chatting with people in a professional capacity will do 2 things. It will prepare you for interviews and it will provide some sort of reassurance that you can do the job if someone refers you.
- Do a Canadian program: I am in IT, so I am aiming to become an I.S.P. which is sort of verifies that you do know something about IT in Canada. I am also enrolling in some certificate courses in SAIT in Calgary as an IT Business Analyst and a course in Applied Management. These are courses local to Calgary and SAIT is recognized by many employers. Each city as something similar to find courses local to you.
Now I am not saying this would guarantee you a job or it would help you settle, I am sharing my experiences and the steps I am still taking to help me adjust with life in Canada. I am also writing this to help people avoid making the same mistakes I made in moving. Start early and life here might not be as difficult as you think.
If you work for an international company, feel free to see what they can do to help your move. If you are coming as a permanent resident, sign up for whatever programs that Canada has for newcomers that would be helpful.
Try and integrate with the religious community too if you are religious and I wish you all the best.
PS: I live in Calgary in Alberta, a city and region that was hit hardest by the dive in oil prices so jobs are difficult for everyone, that has contributed to employment difficulties although my lack of knowledge contributed the most. Please note that I am an IT Professional but then most of these steps should work for you.
So there you have it, my experience and the lessons learned. I hope it helps you!!
Now I don’t believe you would want to waste your time going through my resume, I mean you have better things to do, so here are screenshots of the first page of each resume.
Thanks for reading!!!
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