From an interview with Guilherme Grunthal
Guilherme came to Canada from Brazil as an international student in 2018. He had graduated from university in Brazil in the field of oil and gas engineering. He was looking to change his career to business consulting. His journey was one of growth and discovery. While changing his career plans, he also changed his life plans. Guilherme shares tips on making connections, getting Canadian experience and the importance of telling your story well. Here’s his story.
I wanted a career change. I didn’t want to work in engineering anymore, so I decided to pursue an international master’s degree. There is a program called Master of Management that’s offered in many places around the world. I applied and was accepted at universities in both Spain and Canada.
While continuing my education, I wanted to be in a place that had opportunities. I researched the labour conditions, job markets, and economics in both countries, and Canada was so much better than Spain – especially for immigrants.
Changing countries and languages is challenging
I was an English teacher in Brazil. When I came here to do my master’s, I discovered that there are different expressions – it’s a different vocabulary. I struggled with presentations. But it’s what I signed up for. You know you’re coming here, and that language is going to be a challenge, and you just have to get through it. Believe me; it’s going to be difficult; it’s going to be tough! But eventually, you’re going to get it. You’re going to adapt to it. I struggled through the beginning, but afterwards, it got easier.
I also found there was an overwhelming amount of information. You’re in a new school, a new program, a new country with a new language. I had no idea about the healthcare system, setting up a bank account, choosing where to live and paying rent.
Friends from your community who have been through this can help
Even though people are very nice in Canada, it can be difficult making new friends. So, I made a lot of friends who are also immigrants. We were all going through the same issues, the same problems, the same situations. We could understand each other more. For example, there’s a Latin community at the university. It’s good to have someone who shares the same background as you, who has been through some of the challenges. “Oh, you need to do this, you need to do that. Your driver’s license works this way.”
When you finish school, you start your fifth semester: job hunting
Friends told me that looking for your first job out of school was like another semester. They were right. You need to put in a lot of hours. I applied for more than a hundred positions. It’s not easy – and I had some help. The school I went to was a business school, so throughout the year, we had work opportunities, networking events, and assistance writing resumes and cover letters. But even then, it was a struggle.
I wasn’t expecting it to be that hard. School finished at the end of August, and I thought, “Okay, by October, I will have a job, an office job, a regular job.” And that didn’t happen.
You have to do all that work. But at the same time, you also have to build connections. First of all, so you’re not alone in your new country. But also, here in Canada, networking and referrals are a very big thing. They say 80 per cent of the jobs are found through networking. From my experience, I have found it to be 50/50. I was applying online, and sometimes I was doing more through networking.
Basically, you start doing both, and if one is not giving you the results, change the approach. A colleague referred me for the position I’m currently in. I applied, and the company said, “Yes. Let’s take it to the interview stage.” So that was the beginning point.
I also found out that your education back home doesn’t count for much here. I was making a career switch, so I wasn’t counting on that. But your experience, what you have done counts much more than your education. People are much more interested in what you’ve done here: your Canadian experience.
Volunteering is a great way to get Canadian experience
A good friend of mine who had volunteered at the Brazil-Canada Chamber of Commerce suggested I should do it too. He said volunteering helps you get out of the house, and it helps get you out of the “I need a job, I need a job” mindset. It also helps you get Canadian experience.
So, I volunteered at the Brazil-Canada Chamber of Commerce. I also volunteered in the university with some student consulting groups. I highlighted this experience on my resume and in my cover letter and interviews. It showed, first of all, that I could balance the workload of studying and volunteering. It also demonstrated that I had real experience talking to people and negotiating and working here. It helped me get over the hurdle of Canadian experience.
It also helped me build a community while I was studying because outside of job hunting (when you’re an immigrant), you need to have people around you. You need to make new friends – keep making connections. It’s very important. It can help you stay mentally healthy.
You have education and experience — now, it’s time to tell your story
It’s all about how you tell your story – how you present yourself. It can depend on the position you’re applying for, the role, the company and the industry. In Canada, the job market is very specific, so you need to be very specific to where you’re applying. You need to tailor your story based on that.
In every single interview I’ve done, people begin by saying, “Oh, tell me about yourself.” So, you have to pitch yourself. I learned that the hard way, by going to interviews and not pitching myself properly, and not getting accepted. You need to learn how to pitch yourself, and practice: pitch to your friends, pitch to your colleagues, pitch to everyone you can. See how they react and ask for feedback. If they are bored, change the story.
When you’re doing your pitch, highlight three points. Talk about what’s most relevant for the position and the company. Don’t talk about things that are not really relevant, because you want to highlight those three points. First, I write it down. I like writing things down. But it’s not something that you do once and get it perfect. It’s an ongoing process. I have written down my pitch, but then I didn’t practice with my friends. I should have. I went to interviews and learned from my mistakes. Remember to share your pitch with your network too. Your connections will remind you when they see a position that fits.
Guilherme’s career-search tips for newcomers
1. Make connections.
People are going to share their experiences, and they’re going to tell you what you need to do. It’s smart.
2. Be active.
You need to go after it and don’t give up. Every step you take, every experience you have builds your knowledge.
3. Build your interview skills.
Practice makes perfect. I’ve had a lot of interviews that helped me build my skills. I’m much better at interviews now.
4. Tell your story.
It’s all about you, what you’ve done and what you came here to do. Let as many people know who you are and how you can help them.
Each job interview is an opportunity to practice and improve
Take the approach that the interview is a test run. Don’t go into your interviews like “Oh, I really don’t want that job.” Think of it like, “Oh, I’m training. It’s a pilot.” Take each interview seriously: the person will either offer you the job or not, and you’ll either accept it or not, right? But until then, use each interview as a practice run. Also, I know some friends who have taken an interview for a role that they didn’t really want, but through the interview they were offered a different position that was much more relevant to their career.
In Canada, I’ve found that most interviewers go by the book; the questions they ask are very similar. I have created my own question bank – with appropriate answers, and I’ve never had a question outside of that bank. Know your questions; be prepared; know your pitch; tell your story. Focus on what’s most relevant for the position.
Guilherme’s top questions to prepare for an interview
Practice your answers to these questions because interviewers are sure to ask them.
I came to change my career, and I also changed my life plans
When you come to Canada, you have an idea of what you’re going to do. Of course, that changes when you start feeling your progress every day. First of all, I changed my career plans. I discovered I have a passion for the area of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and that’s the role I’m in now.
Also, my life plans changed. At first, I was planning on getting some experience, staying for maybe two or three years, making some money and then going back home. But now it’s more about building a career and building a life here.
When you are a newcomer, you feel like you have to put much more effort to get the same results. I thought, let me put all this effort into a place where I can receive a better return. I’m glad I came to Canada.
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