Immigration and Professional Transitions: How do I stay on track?

2013-2014 Issue 2
The 7-Step Employability Roadmap

Immigrating is a trying experience, and the professional transition can be particularly overwhelming. We arrive clutching suitcases filled with the information we gathered, the courage we mustered and the confidence we sometimes faked, all wrapped in a layer of faith that things will indeed work out for the better.

Yet despite our best intentions and the wealth of organizations offering their support, sometimes it’s precisely this abundance of resources that clouds our vision. It is in these anxious moments, when we can no longer assess whether a particular course, accreditation process, ‘survival job’ or networking event would be useful, when the pressures of family, finances, and self-esteem just seem to sink us in deeper, that we need to revert to a roadmap. Am I on the right track? Am I informed of the requirements of my occupation? Am I optimizing my time? If you take the time to draw a roadmap, you can minimize the detours. Here are four steps to get you started.

A roadmap can help you assess your candidacy and establish new connections

Step 1: My professional profile

The first step is assessing your skills. For some, this writing exercise takes the form of a résumé (note: this document is not ready to be sent to employers) or a few notes. Make sure to include your:

Experience: Fields and industries in which you have worked, and the specific skills – hard and soft – you’ve developed

Education and Training: Emphasize courses, case studies and internships that have been instrumental in your career path

Broad Career Goals: An exact title is not required. Descriptions such as ‘Logistics coordination in the freight industry,’ ‘retail management,’ or ‘marketing research’ will do

Language Skills: Make sure to include your levels of English and French, written and spoken

Qualities/ Strengths: Examples include quick learner, ambitious, collaborative, adaptable, etc.

This exercise will help you find the right words to describe yourself to an employment counsellor, academic advisor, hiring manager, or potential partners and investors. It will also serve as a solid foundation for your CV-writing and interview preparation efforts down the line.

Step 2: The labour market in Quebec
Step 3: My occupation in Quebec

Contrary to Step 1, these research exercises require personal distance. We tend to be selective in the information we gather when it affects our own prospects, and being too hard or too soft on ourselves would be equally detrimental. Focus on two components:

Descriptions and Requirements: Research as much as you can about industry trends, demand forecasts, task descriptions, accreditation requirements, salary ranges, and desired skills; this information is available on government websites and various career resources portals. In addition to this general information, try finding 15 to 20 relevant job offers and compare their requirements. For example, is fluent French required 30 or 90 per cent of the time? Is a specific professional designation (PMP, CPA, P.Log) consistently featured as a desired qualification?  This allows you to clearly assess your candidacy in respect to your competition, and guide you toward a constructive gap analysis in Step 4.

The Unwritten Candidate Profile: In addition to collecting information online, it’s also useful to talk to people who currently or previously occupied these roles! How did they get to these positions? What kind of background, industry experience or transferable skills would put you at the top of their list? If you start at a lower position within their company, are there real opportunities for growth, or are you limiting your options? What are some of the pathways to being promoted?

Gathering this information will not only help you gain confidence, it can also establish new connections that may help you later on.

 Step 4: My gap analysis

Once you’ve catalogued both your current skills and the desired requirement needed to succeed in your chosen occupation, Step 4 is where you compare the two, thus identifying the strengths and gaps in your candidacies. Your list should include:

Language skills


Work experience


There are still three more steps in creating your roadmap, but as you complete Step 4 the risk of blurry vision decreases and what was once an overwhelming amount of information is now a clear, sound career project.  So when the clouds roll in – as doubt, disappointment, and uncertainty are an integral part of any transition – you are better able to put things into perspective, stay the course and find comfort in the fact that you had thought this through!

McGill University School of Continuing Studies offers a Newcomers’ Workshop Series, Job Search Series, and weekly networking events to help you with a clear, confident and fulfilling transition into the Quebec labour market. Please visit for an outline of upcoming sessions, including the complete 7-Step Employability Roadmap, and other activities offered through our Career Advising & Transition Services.

By Maia Korotkina, LL.M., Career and Transition Advisor at the McGill University School of Continuing Studies.

This article is available in Spanish on Noticias Montreal:: Inmigración y transición profesional: ¿Cómo mantener el rumbo?

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