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  • Writer's pictureAsif Chowdhury

TRANSITIONING TO THE CANADIAN JOB MARKET – A migrant’s perspective.



It was a regular day at work on December 10th, 2018. While I was wrapping up, a notification from our express entry account popped on my inbox. We have been asked to send our passports for issuing the Confirmation of Permanent Residency in Canada!


Moving to Toronto was a big decision. Both my wife and I loved our jobs. I had grown significantly within the UN system over the past 5 years. Every day at work was different, challenging and in turn, very rewarding. I knew it would be not easy to match my skills in Toronto’s job market as a communications specialist coming from the UN system. The UN in Canada is relatively small, and moreover, I had no Canadian experience. So, I came up with a year-long transitioning plan.


In this blog, I will share the steps I have taken and how they have helped me integrate with the Canadian job market.


Start by investing time in diversifying your knowledge


This is perhaps the most crucial step in the process. Before moving to Canada, I had a Bachelors degree in Business Administration, worked in a local Consumer Packaged Goods company as a Brand Executive for sometime before moving to the UN system, where I have tried out almost everything from resource management to project support and eventually settled with Communications. Now that’s problematic as much as the sentence itself! A local CPG experience coupled with UN Communications experience wasn’t going to help me a lot in this journey unless I drew a link to the Canadian job market.


So, I started by researching different postgrad programs around Toronto. In order to broaden my marketability, I needed to find a program that will arm me with the right kind of tools for the job market and open up my job fit. Upon completing several stages, I was able to land on the Master of Marketing program by the Schulich School of Business – one of the finest business schools in Canada. Although the program was relatively new, it gave me the opportunity to learn from the bests like Rice, Belk, Giesler, Konson, Joshi, Waxman and Carson. Within a year, I have learned so much about market research, consumer insights, brand management, digital marketing, marketing strategies and most importantly, about my own capabilities that I could have never imagined.

Graduating with a distinction. Never in my life I thought I was capable of this!


Take up a side gig – paid or unpaid

In February 2020, our classes went fully online due to the COVID – 19 pandemic. Meaning, networking opportunities became very limited, the energy and performativity of face-to-face lectures subsided, and the job market was getting worse. But there was a positive side to this! I had more time to focus on building my skills. So, I started to apply for part-time consulting, marketing and communications roles but had no luck. Then I decided to apply for volunteer opportunities. By April 2020, I started as a volunteer social media manager for a non-profit consulting organization. Not only did the opportunity help me relearn the social media basics in the Canadian context, but it also provided me with the opportunity to build some healthy professional relationships.


Upgrade your profile with certifications

Soon after starting my postgrad, I realized that there are thousands of graduates coming out of business schools every year in Canada. So, I needed to set my profile apart with some add-ons. By March 2020, I had certifications in Google Ads Search and Google Analytics. Coupled with my PRINCE2 project management certification, my profile started to look reasonably strong.



Tell your story

While a strong profile is great, it is unsubstantial unless you are able to tell potential recruiters about your capabilities. In June 2020, I created my website www.asifch.com where I have documented some of the most impactful initiatives that I have taken. A lot of people have advised me that a LinkedIn profile is good enough. I felt that it certainly wasn’t! An impressive LinkedIn profile is a must-have when you are trying to self-brand. The website was also, in a way, a testament to my expertise in designing websites and implementing SEO.


Don’t forget to check out my website. :)

Make job search your full-time job

You have most likely heard of this one, many times. But it’s the only way you can ensure a maximum return on your job search. The pandemic certainly provided me more time to invest in looking for jobs and scanning through the vacancies with a hawk-eye. It wasn’t easy finding the best match considering my knowledge and expertise. However, I am telling this with all honesty, the 6 – 8 hours that I have spent daily over the last 6 – 7 months were truly worth it! It made me better in beating the Application Tracking Systems, identifying keyword patterns in a similar type of job descriptions and tailor my resume many times. It’s often said that you’d hear from only 10% of the total applications dropped. In my case, it was even less – just 6%!


Knock every single door

I was getting increasingly worried by the time my postgrad was coming to an end. Among the calls that I was getting for interviews, most of the recruiters went silent and didn’t even bother to send a regret email. My transitioning plan was falling apart! I had planned to land on a job within 3 months after graduating. Knowing that it takes about 3 months on average to complete a recruitment cycle, I was becoming despondent. I started knocking my colleagues from my previous organization. Thankfully, one of my former supervisors referred me for a consultancy in Kenya, where the country head knew me from my previous role in Bangladesh. By October 2020, I was working with my previous organization remotely from Toronto. My transitioning plan was saved!


Step outside of the bubble

Took sometime off to experience the wildlife in Kenya

Back with my former organization as a short term consultant, I started facing the challenges of remote work. Nairobi and Toronto are half a day apart. So I started my days at 5 am to ensure that there’s an overlap with Nairobi. In late October, I was asked to go down to Nairobi. Despite being in the middle of a pandemic, I didn’t hesitate to travel for once because I had the opportunity to work for an organization that’s responding to the COVID – 19 pandemic on the ground, wherever in the world that is!


Interviews are the last obstacle between you and the job. Tackle them with all your tools!

While reference checks are the final stages in a recruitment process, it’s likely that you’ll receive good references unless you have messed up big time. What’s more important is to ace the interviews. I have spent on average 7 – 8 hours preparing for each interview. I had every possible technical and behavioural questions prepared and rehearsed until they sounded like conversations rather than responses. By the end of November 2020, I was able to land on the type of job that was on the top of my preference list – A Communications Specialist in one of the Regional Governments in Ontario.


Exactly a year from my transitioning plan, I reached my goal!


I will share some tips on resume writing, job search and interviews later, but for the time being, I will leave it here and get back to researching professional development courses.


Ciao!

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