From an interview with Laura Stürmer, Senior Associate Brand Manager, and Arrive Ambassador.
Laura Stürmer came to Canada from Brazil as an international student in 2016. She started as a marketing coordinator at a major Canadian retailer, where until very recently, she was an Associate Band Manager. Laura interviewed and landed a job as Senior Associate Brand Manager at a major consumer goods company. Then COVID-19 changed everything.
Laura took time out of her busy schedule to talk to us about how this brand new social environment has changed the way we work, the way we look for work, and the way we help each other. Laura shares how, perhaps surprisingly, she has been making deeper connections with her new workmates while being socially distant, and how people in Canada are even more willing to connect with and help newcomers in achieving their Canada goals.
I just started a new job. The recruitment and interview process took place before social distancing, but the onboarding was completed online. On my first day, a new laptop was delivered to my home; everything was set up, with a lot of meetings already scheduled in my calendar. After that, I had a video call with the entire team, where I was introduced to everyone.
Usually, during onboarding, you walk around the office, you meet the people you will work with, and they explain their roles. But now, on video calls, I’m having meetings with each team member. These individual meetings take more time (20 to 30 minutes), but it is so great because I hear each person’s story, understand their background, and what they do. This is a much deeper connection than a “hi” in the hallway.
The biggest difference now is not being able to just pop up at somebody’s desk and ask them a question. At my previous job – before social distancing – I worked very closely with my direct team. We could just ask each other questions on the spot.
Following COVID-19 working from home protocols, we are all working distantly – doing it all online. Instead of messaging someone on my team with a question, I prefer to call with video, so we’ll have as close to the same experience as popping up at their desk.
Read more about how to structure your day when working from home
Canada is a giving society. Right now, people are even more willing to help.
I think people here in Canada are more givers than takers. As a society, we help each other. One of the great things that I found is that despite COVID-19, or because of it, people are more willing to talk and work with each other. I found this in my previous company and with my new team as well. Everyone is open with their calendar. I find in these times, people are even more warm – more willing to help others.
Professionals are more open on LinkedIn too – so reach out
I am very active on LinkedIn, and I see this happening more and more with professionals than ever before: Everyone is busy, but they now have time to answer your questions, or just talk about themselves, what they do outside work. Way more people are accepting cold calls for coffee chats, or taking the time to review your resume or your LinkedIn profile, or to help someone who just got laid off. I think professionals feel a duty – you are lucky to be working, so it’s your duty to help others who aren’t so lucky or maybe recently lost their job.
From a cold call perspective, job seekers should reach out to people for a virtual coffee chat. The newcomers I mentor are getting more positive replies, and they are able to talk to executives at the manager level. These are people who may not have replied to a request for a video chat before COVID-19.
I am also seeing a lot of professionals posting proactively on LinkedIn, saying, “I am here to help. If you want someone to have a quick look at your resume, if you need tips…” or “I know of some job opportunities – let me know if someone you know might benefit.”
Looking for tips on how to use LinkedIn? Watch our webinar on LinkedIn strategies for newcomers.
When in Canada, do as Canadians do
There is an expression, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” I like to joke, When in Canada, do as Canadians do: like having coffee chats and talking with people, and helping people; these are all part of the culture here. You will be helping others someday, so if you need some help at this time, don’t be shy to ask.
Approach people from your community to start. For example, when I arrived, I reached out to Brazilians who were already working in the market and had faced the same challenges I did. I’d say, “Hey, I’m also Brazilian. I just arrived, and I would like to understand more about how brand management works here. Would you mind sharing 10 or 15 minutes over the phone or on a video call to talk to me about what you do as a brand manager?” Get in the habit of doing video coffee chats, you will gain confidence. You can then expand your network and reach out to another executive or another brand manager.
Know what you are looking for so that people know how to help you
You really need to know what the issue you are facing is, and what kind of help you need.
It can’t simply be, “I need a job.” It might be “I am interested in branding, I need to know what brand management looks like in Canada, what people do, how they start their careers.”
Be clear about your goals and objectives, and understand what makes the other person the one who can help you. You don’t want to look like someone who is copying and pasting the same message to everyone. For example, my LinkedIn has a lot to do with branding, so if I reach out to someone in finance at a pharmaceutical company, or something really random, the other person is going to find it hard to know how they can help me.
“At my last job I got a lot of generic requests on LinkedIn, like “Hey I saw you work at this company and I am interested in working there. Can you help me?” The answer is of course, no. My job is not to be a recruiter. The right approach would be to first identify the issue you are trying to solve.”
Once you frame the problem – maybe your resume is not getting responses, or maybe you are having difficulty because your job skills don’t match the same job description here – then the person can help you. They will say, “OK, this person has done their homework, they know what they need, and they’ve taken the time to find out about what I do. I know how I can help in 15 or 20 minutes.”
Canadians are known for being polite. Don’t forget to say thank you
I get responses from a few people who say, “Laura, I did what you suggested, I talked to this person, took the course you recommended, and I got the job. Thank you so much!” Unfortunately, many people don’t do this, but those who do create a much stronger connection. You don’t forget those people. So, remember, networking is about human relations: be grateful, follow up and always say thank you.
There is activity in this new job market. Companies are hiring
I meet a lot of recruiters and start-ups while networking. I see a lot of positions in finance, accounting and IT. I also see Consumer Packaged Goods companies hiring for marketing roles, manufacturing, logistics, supply chain, and operations.
Know yourself and know what you want (not just a job)
This is one of the main struggles that I try to help newcomers with. They say they want a job, but it’s not just a job. Try to understand or know yourself. Know the things you want – your objectives for life in general and also for your career. What do you really want? What do you really like to do? Once you pick these out, when you have passion for something and you demonstrate it, things will get easier. Things will happen in a natural way.
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Remember, it’s important to support one another and be mindful of other people’s circumstances. Understand that everyone has their own challenges; they might be dealing with kids at home, health concerns, loneliness, job insecurity or financial concerns of their own. Remember to be kind and patient.
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