Immigration and Professional Transitions: Investing in Yourself

2014-2015 Issue 1


Those who make the decision to move to a new country share many of the same characteristics: independence, self-confidence, and determination. If you possess these qualities, you may have already considered starting your own business as a newcomer.

But like every professional transition, the shift from employee to entrepreneur takes time and planning. How do you know if you’re ready? Do you have the motivation to keep going when you encounter a closed door? Making the decision one step at a time can help you steer the course.

1. Assess your strengths

You likely want to start your own business because you’ve already developed the skills and experience – paid or volunteer – that will help you succeed. Write it down on paper. This list may include:

– Areas and sectors you’ve worked in
– Skills you’ve developed and demonstrated
– Formal training and practical projects
– Life experience relevant to your entrepreneurial identity or product
– Personal qualities
– Your individual motivation for starting your own business.

“This writing exercise is all about establishing your credibility,” says Maia Korotkina, Career & Transitions Advisor at the McGill School of Continuing Studies. “You will refer to this list in every conversation with potential partners, funders, customers and stakeholders, and it will prepare you with the right words when the time comes.”

2. Research the requirements of transitioning to entrepreneurship

“The government is very supportive of small businesses,” says Dr. Kamal Salmasi, Faculty Lecturer and Area Coordinator for Management, International Business and Entrepreneurship at McGill’s School of Continuing Studies. “They want to encourage entrepreneurship.” As a result, there are a number of local associations supporting Montreal entrepreneurs.

3. Identify your weaknesses

For all your strengths, there’s also room for improvement.

“It’s always difficult to be objective about your weaknesses,” says Korotkina. “Rather than assessing these yourself, you can get constructive feedback from friends, potential stakeholders, and contacts you’ve met through local organizations.”

Perhaps you need to improve your skills in logistics, human resources, or finances. Even those who already have experience running a business “have to get to know the Canadian market,” says Dr. Salmasi.

4. Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages, and make your decision

“If you think this doesn’t deserve a whole step, think again,” says Korotkina. “This is where you anchor your motivation for the months and years ahead. If challenges arise and you’re reluctant to continue, you can remember that you took the time to reflect and consider your decisions.”

5. Establish an action plan to fill the gaps

Formal courses in entrepreneurship may help you prepare for future challenges. Adam B. Coape-Arnold already had experience working in the music and restaurant industries when he registered for the Entrepreneurship program at McGill’s School of Continuing Studies.

“Immediately I was thrown in to writing business plans and really preparing for what I was doing in life,” says Coape-Arnold. “It felt like the whole program was custom-made to me.”

Going back to school is a big investment, but you’re investing in yourself. If you’re concerned by the financial obligations, the School of Continuing Studies has services available to help those who demonstrate financial need.

6. Dive in!

Coape-Arnold founded Cult Yogourt with his partner Eloise Grondin-Bouchard while he was still in school, and went on to win $9,000 in start-up funds competing in the McGill Dobson Cup, an annual entrepreneurship competition.

He still keeps in touch with his instructors, who are all experienced entrepreneurs in their own right. “The instructors came to every class with this vitality and this happiness from being entrepreneurs and owning their future, and that motivated me. These people are in your court, and they want to see you succeed.”

Click for more information on Entrepreneurship courses at McGill’s School of Continuing Studies, including undergraduate, graduate, online and summer programs.

This article is available in Spanish on Noticias MontrealInmigración y transición profesional: Invertir en sí mismo


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