Immigration and Professional Transitions: the Holiday Season

2013-2014 Issue 2

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Throughout this fall, we have discussed important gaps to be filled as you draw out your roadmap to career success in Canada:

1.  Improving your English & French language skills

2.  Ensuring the recognition and updating of your credentials

3.  Highlighting the transferability of your international work experience, together with some local work experience to counter any remaining hesitation.

Remember this last step is less about your technical skills and more about letting potential employers know they can count on your positive attitude, great interpersonal skills and cultural adaptability! These ‘soft skills’ show your ability to successfully integrate into a new work environment, which you can easily prove with any first job or even volunteer involvement, provided you obtain a reference. And speaking of local references and connections…

With the holiday season in swing, we complete our look at overcoming possible barriers to career success with an essential activity that can be intimidating but also potentially fun: Networking!

We’ve all heard that over 80 per cent of jobs never get posted; instead, these vacancies are filled through personal connections. But if the mere mention of ‘networking’ makes you confused or anxious, let us reassure you, it can be enjoyable!

Networking is nothing more than the combination of:

1.  Engaging in light, pleasant conversation with people with whom you have something in common, and

2.  Showing a positive attitude that seeks to help and be helped.

Chances are you already have both traits, especially when you’re in a cheerful holiday mood! Whether you’re reconnecting with colleagues, friends, and acquaintances or being introduced to new contacts, here are two tips to keep in mind when sharing a holiday cocktail with a potential professional connection:

Tip #1: Keep the conversation light

The most effective networking happens when the icebreaker – perhaps even your entire first interaction – has nothing to do with careers. Just like you wouldn’t try to find new friends at the exact moment when you need something from them – like to help carry boxes when you’re moving – you also wouldn’t approach a new professional contact with “what can you do for me today?” People see through this and they may find it intrusive, superficial, or just plain rude.

Instead, since every relationship is based first and foremost on chemistry and trust – in other words, liking each other – put your efforts into listening and getting to know the person, rather than talking to impress. Look for things in common –kids, travel, concerts, hobbies, sports – share insights, laugh together and make a connection! Only then do you follow with “So what do you do? Tell me more!”

It should be fun to meet new people and strength your bond with existing acquaintances, so put on a smile and enjoy!

Tip #2: Help and be helped

Professional relationships, like friendships, should be considered long-term commitments. Of course they don’t require as much time as a friend, but do not expect an immediate ‘return on investment.’ Sometimes your professional network can help you months or even years down the line, and it is precisely because you like and trust each other that the other person will feel comfortable contacting you. It might be to inform you of an opening and even recommend you for an opportunity! And since giving your time is the best way to start building that mutual trust, start by identifying the needs of your new professional contact and offer your help! Share a relevant article, inform them of an upcoming event, introduce them to someone you know that could help, invite them to an event your own company is organizing, or include them in your e-mail of holiday greeting. By first strengthening this connection without asking for anything in return, you invite others to do the same. And you never know what could happen! So share your career goals, but focus on giving, not getting. Be kind and willing to help, and you will be amazed at how this positive energy comes back to help you in turn!


McGill University School of Continuing Studies offers a series of workshops and individual coaching sessions to help you with a smooth, confident and fulfilling transition. Please visit their website for an outline of upcoming sessions.

This article is available in Spanish on Noticias Montreal: Inmigración y transición profesional: La temporada de fiestas y la red de contactos profesionales.

The McGill School of Continuing Studies would like to extend warm holiday greetings to the entire Noticias Montreal community.

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