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“Do not think that what you’ve done in the past won’t come handy in Canada,” says Yashod Bhardwaj, Corporate Development Analyst working with a leading Fortune 500 engineering and construction company in Calgary. “It definitely comes handy. And if you have been a hardworking person and you have spent a lot of time on your academics, don’t get discouraged by the fact that here people ask for Canadian education and experience. You will always find people who will tell you that you don’t have Canadian experience and good enough communication skills…the list goes endless. But it is very important to believe in yourself and say: ‘I am confident that my work experience from back home is very relevant.’ Make a two-page resume that shows how your skills match with what is required in Canada. Also, focus on your LinkedIn profile. So everything that you have done earlier will surely help you – in my case it helped me a lot. Had I not had the work experience from India, I would have never secured an amazing project manager’s job as my first job in Canada – right after finishing my education in Toronto, and would have not qualified for the Ontario Provincial Nominee Program, that helped me in securing the Permanent Residence of Canada in 6 months, otherwise it could have taken years”

Bhardwaj has a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Delhi and a Software Diploma from India. After six years mostly in the IT or IT-enabled services industries in India, where he worked for IBM and in the field of knowledge process outsourcing and market research, he decided to get a postgraduate diploma in another country. He chose Seneca College in Toronto and in 2007 enrolled in its International Business Management program.

To pay for his education and cover his living expenses, while studying Bhardwaj also had to do part-time jobs. “I come from a middle class family in India,” he explains, “and I’ve never wanted to ask my parents for a lot of money.” So from Monday to Friday Bhardwaj would study for 40 hours and also work at the college and do other survival jobs on weekends.

Even though it was tiresome, Bhardwaj says there was a positive side of doing survival jobs. “It used to be a lot of fun because I was new to the country and I was learning,” he says. “And what I learned from doing these jobs was how to step out of your box and make friends with people from other communities. If you just mingle within your community, you won’t be very successful. Canada is one of the very few countries that really are ‘home away from home’ to people from all over the world, so to be successful in the long term you have to develop the necessary communication skills and confidence. I would advise newcomers to start from day one – set a goal: to make friends with people from different countries and make those friendships very genuine. This is very important and was really useful to me.”

After completing his education, Bhardwaj landed a job as Marketing Project Manager in a research-based institute in Toronto. He held this position for a few years before moving to Calgary for another job in the Oil & Gas industry. Being successful in his job hunting, he is enthusiastic about helping other highly qualified immigrants find employment in their fields. In his free time Bhardwaj volunteers as a mentor at the Calgary Regional Immigrant Employment Council (CRIEC).

Canada is one of the very few countries that really are ‘home away from home’ to people from all over the world, so to be successful in the long term you have to develop the necessary communication skills and confidence.

From his own experience and the experiences of his successful mentees, Bhardwaj concluded that the best strategy for finding the desired job is by conducting informational interviews.  Therefore, he advises newcomers not to completely rely on job search websites like Workopolis and Monster, but to do research and start building their own professional networks.

“An informational interview is a way to get connected with the experienced people in your targeted industry,” Bhardwaj explains. “The first thing you have to do is to create a list of the top companies you would like to work for and the key people you need to connect with. Make a list of about 50 people and send emails directly to them or give them phone calls and ask for 15 or 20 minutes of their time.”  Before writing an email, Bhardwaj warns, the job hunter should always research about the recipient on LinkedIn and find out if he or she has been mentioned in any articles. Such knowledge shown in the email is important to get a positive response for an informational interview. Also, the sender should make sure the email is well written and contains no mistakes. “And when someone agrees to talk to you,” Bhardwaj says, “don’t ask for a job, but ask what kind of qualities and skills are required in the industry in Canada, how you could improve to become the perfect candidate for a job, what kind of salary expectation you should have – questions like this. Be specific. Of course, during the conversation, try to present the best of you. And later, based on the feedback, work on your strategies. Also, your focus towards the end of the interview should be to get the contact information of at least two more industry professionals, this will really help you to build your network. The chances are that out of 50 people at least five would respond to you. And somewhere along the line someone will be looking for someone to hire, and ask you for your resume and you will end up having the perfect job. Sometimes instead of 50 emails you might have to send 100.  It might be hard work, but sooner or later it pays off.”

Most immigrants, however, feel awkward about sending emails or making phone calls to people they don’t know. “Don’t be shy to approach people,” Bhardwaj says. “For example, in a city like Calgary I realized that you can send an email to anyone and ask for 15 minutes of their time and they would give it to you. But things happen only when you are confident enough to go and shake hands with people from other communities and other cultures. So trust yourself, go out there and open up to strangers – it is okay. In some cases people might say that you don’t have all the Canadian stuff, but you eventually will get lucky – because there are people who understand and are helpful. That’s how I got my job; and as a mentor, I see many immigrants succeeding in that way.”

By Lucy Slavianska