To network or not to network? That is the question!
Networking is the dilemma of most newcomers to the land of maple trees, myself included.
In other countries around the globe, one’s professional network is a given. As soon as you get out of school, you grow into it and it kind of happens for you. At any given time, you know whom to call for a reference or you are acquainted with someone who knows the right person. You are doing it and you might even be very good at it – ”back home” as I often hear people reminiscing.
Once you land in Canada, things are different. The facts might put you at a disadvantage on the job market; some of us do not know a single person here. Our network is completely absent. Nevertheless, the Canadian government is supporting immigrants through the settlement agencies where during the different type of workshops one keeps on hearing again and again how important networking is for all professionals.
The answer to our initial question – To network or not to network? – is an inevitable “YES”. You must network if you want to succeed in the Canadian job market. According to PINs (Professional Immigrant Networks), 80% of professionals consider networking a beneficial tool for career growth and success. PINs is a TRIEC (Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council) initiative that presents opportunities for building professional relationships among individuals and organizations. On their websites, you can find useful information to help immigrants find meaningful employment (programs, events, immigrant associations, etc.): triec.ca/pins, triec.ca.
As a PINs member, our association (IWA) often receives job postings via TRIEC PINs and we share them with our members (newsletters, Facebook group).
As the IWA’s Executive Director, I had the pleasure to attend the PIN’s Quarterly Meeting which had as focus “train the trainer” on strategic networking for job-seekers and career growth. The PINs initiative organizes several times a year such meetings to help the leaders of the PINs organization members (like IWA) to build their organizations capacity and help more their members.
The guest speakers of this meeting – Gloria Pierre (founder & president, Clearly Speaking) and Baskaran Rajamani (partner & risk advisory, Deloitte) – shared valuable tips and tricks about networking:
- Before you go to a networking event, find out as much as you can about the topic, the participants, the organizers and decide if it serves your career plans.
- Be specific in setting realistic goals for that event; determine who could help you and prepare to introduce yourself accordingly.
- There is value in the small talk; use it as an ice-breaker. Keep up with the news and write down a few questions to use in conversations. Be curious and don’t complain when you talk to people you don’t know.
- Once you know why you are attending and who is going to be there, prepare several introductions; customize your bios to prove how your skills/service/product/experience could help different people you want to meet.
- Always join groups with an odd number of persons and pay attention to what they talk about. If you didn’t make eye contact with someone in the group within 5 seconds, move on to another one.
- “Networking is like a bank account. You have to deposit before you withdraw” (ABC’s Of Networking, Gloria Pierre). Be present in the moment and listen actively every time you meet someone new; learn how you can help them, offer to help so that later they might return the favour.
- Keep in mind that the first impression isn’t the only one you can make. If you mess it up, find a way to fix it.
- When you receive business cards, take a few minutes to jot down what you’ve learnt about that person. Later you might even consider using an app or a database to gather information about your contacts.
- Thank the organizers and express your interest in future similar events.
- Networking doesn’t finish at the end of the event. Follow up with your new contacts is important in building the trust and the professional relationship; even invite them for a coffee.
- Maintain your professional network by finding ways to help the ones you want to build a professional relationship with.
- As a newcomer, even if you feel scared and inept attending your first networking events … just do it anyway! Networking offers you opportunities to connect with professionals in your field or find a mentor. It could serve as guidance for self-discovery and as a source of reliable resources. It can even boost your self-confidence and your professional development.
- If you want to be successful in Canada, besides English and French, you must master a third language – Networking. The only way to become better at it is to continue to practice.
Many thanks to TRIEC PINs for the chance to learn valuable networking tips that we can pass on to IWA members!
Happy networking! 🙂
– Andreea Munteanu