As a newcomer, networking can be your gateway to the Canadian job market. It gives you an opportunity to understand the employment landscape, plan your career path based on insights from other professionals, and identify mentors who can guide you and offer moral support during your job search. However, the benefits of networking go beyond just landing your first job.
As you advance in your professional career, you may be able to leverage your network to find future opportunities or build your own team. Networking is essential no matter where you are in your professional journey. This article covers some networking tips to help newcomers to Canada get a headstart in their career.
In this article:
- Focus on quality, not quantity
- Know what you have to offer
- Find networking platforms you’re comfortable with
- Leverage existing connections
- Set networking goals for greater discipline
- Adopt a ‘consultative approach’ to networking
- Prepare and refine your elevator pitch
- Don’t go in looking for a job
- Keep the conversation alive
- Don’t let what others are doing discourage you
Building a network from scratch in Canada can be a stressful, time-consuming process. Many newcomers mistakenly believe that the more connections they make, the better their network will be. However, it is the strength of your network that truly matters, not the size.
Rather than sending dozens of LinkedIn connections requests every day, spend some time identifying professionals who are in organizations or roles you’d like to work in and individuals you find inspiring. Strategic networking will reduce the time and effort you need to invest in building connections and improve the quality of insights you can extract. More importantly, it’ll make it easier to follow up and stay in regular touch with the people in your network.
Networking is about sharing: giving and receiving. Before you start networking, think of the value you can offer your network. Helping others is a great way of building meaningful relationships and positioning yourself as a potential candidate. People are also more likely to remember someone who offers to help them, rather than someone who is seeking their support.
There are numerous ways in which you can bring value to your network, including through problem-solving, providing guidance on a specific subject or skill, connecting them to someone in your network, or offering your support for executing a project.
Networking may not look the same for everyone. While some people might be outgoing and social, others may be more reserved. If you’re an introvert and prefer smaller or less formal social settings, you can look for networking settings you’re most comfortable with. There are a variety of networking platform options you can use.
Social and professional networking events
If you’re an extrovert and do well in a group setting, in-person or virtual networking events might be the best option for you. Keep track of networking events on websites like Eventbrite and Meetup and those organized by industry associations. If you’re still assessing your comfort level around large groups, look for events that have limited seats or breakout sessions with smaller groups.
Social networking and blogs
Social media platforms and blogs are a great way to connect with and engage with people you’d like to add to your network. While LinkedIn is usually the go-to platform for building a network, you can also use other social networking sites or apps like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Clubhouse to connect with professionals.
In-person or virtual coffee chats
Once you’ve connected with someone at an event or social network, ask if they’re willing to meet you for a one-on-one coffee chat. A coffee chat, also known as an informational interview, is an informal meeting with an experienced professional to get insights on their organization, industry, or role. Whether you want to learn about the Canadian job market or the hiring process of a particular company, be sure to go prepared with a goal and a list of relevant questions you want to ask.
When you do hear of opportunities, or begin applying for jobs, coffee chats are also a useful way of getting insights on the recruitment process and the company values or culture to help you prepare for interviews and determine if the position is a good fit for you.
If you prefer meeting people in a work setting, rather than a social one, volunteering can be an excellent way to network. People in all stages of their career volunteer in Canada, so these opportunities give you a chance to meet like-minded professionals, showcase your skills in practice, and build long-lasting relationships.
Survival jobs, side hustles, and other jobs
Many newcomers think of survival jobs and side hustles as just a means to earn extra money, but these can also be great networking opportunities. If you’re working in a field that aligns with your professional interests or meeting people from different backgrounds, you might be able to make some valuable connections. Similarly, the contacts you make in your professional roles might be useful later in subsequent jobs. Be sure to stay in touch with your professional connections throughout your career.
Before you set out to build your network from scratch, check if you have any existing connections in Canada. These could be friends, relatives, alumni from your school, or former colleagues from your home country who’ve also moved to Canada.
Building meaningful relationships through networking takes time, so tapping into existing connections first can help you speed things up. You can ask your existing connections to introduce you to other professionals in their network or refer you for job opportunities. They might also be able to help you create an impressive Canadian-style resume or share insights from their own job search experience.
If you find it hard to set aside dedicated time for building a network, a goal-based approach might help. As a newcomer, you should ideally be meeting three or four new people each week, but this can vary based on your schedule and objectives. Setting concrete goals will help you prioritize networking alongside your job search and other daily tasks.
Your goals can focus on the number of meetings (including follow-ups) you intend to take each week, new connection requests, priority industries or organizations, and information you’re looking to gather from your network. They can also be centred on making yourself a more valuable connection by sharing relevant content on platforms like LinkedIn or offering support to others. Be sure to set realistic, measurable, and incremental networking goals that encourage you to step out of your comfort zone, without causing stress.
It’s always better to adopt a “consultative approach” to networking as opposed to a sales approach. The difference is that you seek to understand before demanding to be understood and you listen and learn before expecting to be heard.
It is quite natural as a newcomer to be focused on addressing your immediate need of finding a job. However, if you come across as pushy, the doors you’re trying to open will close and you’ll lose out on potentially valuable professional connections. Changing your approach to networking meetings can dramatically change the outcomes.
An elevator pitch is a 20 to 30 second introduction that highlights your expertise and area of interest. A good elevator pitch is positive and conversational, and includes a question or call to action, so that your connection can respond to it.
It can take a while to perfect your elevator pitch, so keep refining it based on the feedback and reactions you get. If you have a mentor, you can ask them to help you refine your pitch. In Canada, people are generally very open to providing tips on how to enhance your elevator pitch or better present yourself.
It is true that, as a newcomer, networking can help you access the hidden job market in Canada. However, there is so much more that networking can do for you. The most important thing to keep in mind is that networking is not meant to be transactional, so don’t expect that your professional connections will be willing to give you a job or referral as soon as you meet.
By going into networking meetings with a “give me a job” mindset, you might lose out on the opportunity to improve your networking skills, understand the job market, and learn from other people’s career journey. You will also not be able to build meaningful connections with potential mentors who can help you increase your employability.
The most important part of networking comes after you’ve made the initial connection. Send thank-you notes after someone connects with you on LinkedIn and after coffee chats to keep the conversation going. It’s a good practice to keep track of what you discussed during each networking meeting, so you can refer back to your notes during follow up. This also helps you remember your connections’ interests and create a stronger bond.
Keep in touch with your network and follow up at regular intervals through meetings or email. You can also keep the conversation alive by engaging with their social media posts and sharing information that would be interesting or relevant for them. If you’re seeking support from your network for your job search, be sure to keep them updated about any changes to your professional situation.
Your goals and approach for building a network may not be the same as those of your friends or acquaintances in Canada. Just because someone else is meeting 10-12 people each week or opting to attend in-person networking events doesn’t mean that’s the only approach, or the right one for you. You might have very different schedules, objectives, and comfort levels with meeting new people, or work in different fields.
Regardless of how many meetings you choose to do or the platform you pick, make sure that you have enough time to prepare and follow up with everyone in your network. Don’t be discouraged if someone else manages to get a referral or job through their network before you do. As long as you invest the time and effort to nurture your professional relationships, networking will add value and lead you closer to your career goals.
For many newcomers to Canada, networking is a professional skill they may be new to, and building a network in your new country might take time. Whether you are just starting your career, exploring a different professional path, or transitioning into a new role, these networking tips will help you build strong, lasting professional connections to guide you through your career in Canada.