What is networking?
In Canada's private sector, there is a huge "hidden job market." The size of the hidden job market -- that is, vacancies that are not advertised -- is estimated to be between 70% and 80% of the total job market. You hear about these opportunities through people you know, that is, your network.
Networking is the process whereby you market yourself. You need to mix with people so that you can find out where the opportunities are, and you need introductions to people who have the authority to hire you.
The public sector operates somewhat differently. There the employment process tends to be more transparent. Vacancies are posted on the relevant organization's website, advertised in the newspaper, and so on. This article primarily addresses job-hunting in the private sector.
Networking from the UK
Some posters on the British Expats forum have managed to network all the way from the UK.
They usually have done it by phoning prospective Canadian employers from the UK. Remember that Canadian employers like to have personal contact with job candidates.
It helps if the job applicant has a qualification that is in high demand and if they are willing to go to a region that is crying out for people with specific skills. For example, some of the BE members who recently have moved to Alberta, which currently is enjoying an oil boom, fall into this category.
Doing a recce trip to Canada also helps. If you do a recce trip, it's ideal if you devote a substantial chunk of your time and energy focusing on relocation-related issues rather than simply holidaying. Seek out people who work in the field that you want to work in. Pick their brains about what it's like to work in that field.
If it's feasible to do so, time your recce trip so that you can attend a trade show that is relevant to your field and that is being held in the area to which you're considering moving. Attending a trade show is a great way to network fast.
See Wiki entitled Scouting Trip-Canada.
An effective strategy is to ask people who work in your field to meet you for a cup of coffee so that you can pick their brains. This kind of informal meeting is known as an informational interview. You are not asking the person to consider you for a job. You are asking him/her to tell you what it's like to work in the field in which he/she works, to give you names of other people who work in that field and the names of companies that hire those kinds of people, and so on.
Target specific people
Whenever you can, find out the names of people who work in the departments of companies in which you would like to work. Say you're an accountant. Endeavour to find out names of people in a company's accounting department, and if possible the name of a senior person in that department. This is more useful than contacting a company's human resources department, although the HR department is all right as a fall-back position. Contacting the person who runs the department that you want to join, or at least a senior person in that department, helps you to get past the gatekeepers (the HR department, administrative assistants, and so on). Linked Inis a good website for finding out who's who in a given company.
Expect your networking efforts to meet with mixed reactions. Some people will be friendly and helpful. Others will be abrupt or will ignore you. They may be having a bad day. They may be very busy. They may be jerks. It happens.
You need to make numerous approaches in order for some of them to get concrete results.
Familiarize yourself with the crunch periods in your field. For example, personal income tax returns are due on April 30th. Accountants are very busy in the period leading up to April 30th. This would be a rotten time to ask an accountant for an informational interview.
A good way to meet people who work in your field is to attend functions of relevant professional or trade organizations. Whether you're a lawyer, engineer, Project Manager or an IT person or an administrative assistant, you can be sure there is an organization that provides opportunities for people in that field to meet each other, to keep up to date with developments in that field, etc.
Another constructive way to network is to do a course that's related to your field, even if it's just a single course. The lecturer and your classmates, all of whom work in your field or want to work in your field, become your fledgling network. In addition to that, if you're able to add a local qualification to your resume, it shows you in a positive light. It demonstrates that you are committed to making a go of things in Canada and that you are eager to learn how things are done in Canada.
Job Finding Clubs
Service Canada hosts job finding clubs in many Canadian cities. Job finding clubs are groups of people who gather to brainstorm, coach each other on self-marketing techniques, and share networks and contacts with each other.
Meet Up Groups
A great website for finding groups with which you have interests in common is Meetup.
It'll benefit you to get to know Canadians, so it would not help you to hang around with expats exclusively. Nonetheless, networking with expats can act as a bridge during recce trips and when you've newly arrived in Canada.
In addition to our own British Expats forum, whose members have get togethers from time to time, here are some more expat websites:
The community in which you live is a rich source of contacts. You'd be surprised how many work-related introductions come from activities like coaching the local junior soccer team, inviting your neighbours over for a barbeque, and so on. Obviously, this is a form of networking in which you can engage only once you're in Canada. But, if you're already living in Canada when you read this article, you would be well advised to get involved in your community. You can find out more about this kind of networking by reading the BE article called [How can I network to find jobs in Canada?]
What a support system is
When you've lived in a place all your life, you have a network, but you may not be conscious of it. You have family members, old friends from school, colleagues at work, etc.
When you move countries and lose that network, you also lose an invisible, previously unappreciated -- but vast -- support system.
You need to build up a new support system from scratch in your new location.
Many North Americans are highly mobile. After moving cities a few times, they are conscious of the value of networking, and they know how to do it. Experienced expats also know how to do it.
But, even if you've never consciously networked before, you too can learn how to do it.
Ingredients of networking
An important ingredient of networking is listening to other people, finding out what their needs are, and helping them to fulfill their needs.
Usually you reap the rewards of your networking activities some time after you've invested the effort. Today you give someone the name of a person who might be useful to them, or you share a helpful tip with them. Then they may return the favour later -- tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year.
Hurdles while you're in the UK
You obviously are at something of a disadvantage if you're networking in Canada while you're still in the UK.
At that point you're still at the receiving end of the equation. There is little that you can give.
You are phoning Canadians and relying on them to give you useful information, to provide you with the names of relevant people in their company or in their industry, to tell you what qualifications and experience you need to work in their field, and so on.
But there still are some things you can do to give back:
When people give you their time and talk to you on the phone, you can send them thank you emails. People really like their assistance to be acknowledged.
People also like to hear that you've put their information to good use. They like to hear you say, "Thank you for telling me about Joe Blogs at XYZ Corporation. I've contacted him, and he was kind enough to give me the name of the Manager of the Tiddlywinks Division at ABC Company."
You also can share whatever you've found out so far about moving to Canada. For example, many members of the BE forum who still are in the UK share with new posters what they've found out is involved in getting a temporary work permit in Canada, what's involved in flying a pet to Canada, or whatever.
Once you have a job in Canada
Once you reach Canada, there will be more ways in which you can help people.
Once you have a job in Canada, your opportunities for helping people will be expanded even further.
Networking is forever. Networking is not something that you stop once you've found a job.
Your current job could evaporate in the future, for any number of reasons, and you may need to find another job. You always should be thinking about your exit strategy.
Your network is like a garden and, like a garden, it needs regular tending.
Sources of info about networking
Two brilliant video clips on the website of Christine Comaford-Lynch, a highly successful business consultant. Check out the ones entitled Networking and Drive By Schmoozing. Her information is spot on.
How can I network to find jobs in Canada? by William Allen.
The Working.com website has an excellent article called Following up is the key to networking. This article is a MUST READ.
Other job hunting articles
- This is only one of a series of BE Wiki articles about job hunting in Canada.
- To find links to the other articles in the series, please go to Job Hunting in Canada.