By Maria Montemayor
Posted on January 19, 2021
Networking is necessary for building new professional connections in Canada, and it could be the key to finding your next job. For some, the idea of socializing with strangers for the purpose of finding a job may seem intimidating, especially if English isn’t your first language. These tips can help you put your best foot forward.
What is networking?
Networking is about creating beneficial relationships that lead to work or business connections. When you network, you establish contacts and relationships that help lead you to your next job or business venture. When you meet new people, you never know if the company they work at needs someone with your skills or if they know someone who works in your field. Networking is all about making connections, so that you can exchange information (related to work and business) with other people in mutually beneficial ways.
Over the years, networking has developed a somewhat negative connotation. At networking events, people may seem more concerned with handing out their business cards than speaking to each other. At job fairs employers and recruiters receive hundreds of résumés and often don’t spend more than a few minutes speaking to one person. You may feel like your résumé is just another paper for employers to sift through.
Networking is still relevant
Contrary to what people may think, networking is not meant to be self-serving. In the book, The Successful Introvert: How to Enhance Your Job Search and Advance Your Career, Wendy Gelberg, a certified career coach and résumé writer, writes that “networking at its most basic is simply sharing information and resources for mutual benefit.”
The essence of networking is creating productive relationships—getting to know other people and having them get to know you— to the point where they would feel comfortable recommending (or even offering) you a job or working with you. The people you speak to must be able to trust you and view you as the competent and qualified person that you are.
Standing out as a newcomer
As a newcomer, you may feel disadvantaged as a result of having to face various challenges, such as not speaking English fluently, not having many— or any— contacts in Canada, not having Canadian (or recent) work experience, or not having a Canadian education. However, there are also some advantages to being a newcomer.
One advantage is that you are able to speak fluently in a language (or multiple languages/dialects) other than English. It will be easier for you to connect with people who share the same culture as you or speak the same language as you due to your similarities. During networking events, you can mention the languages that you speak. People may be able to recommend you for jobs that require fluency in your native tongue.
By coming to Canada, you have also demonstrated courage and determination, which is something that sets you apart from individuals who did not immigrate to Canada. Coming to Canada is not an easy endeavour, and as part of your journey, you may have had to face obstacles, make sacrifices, and leave various aspects of your life behind. Your proven tenacity will help you stand out from people who have the skills and education but lack the drive and willingness to go outside of their comfort zones. You can also join a professional immigrant network before you arrive in Canada.
Speaking English with confidence
If you are afraid of networking due to language difficulties, a good idea for building up your confidence and strengthening your language skills is to work with a tutor who can help you practise English. The more you practise forming sentences and speaking in English, the more comfortable, confident, and at ease you will feel speaking the language in front of strangers for the purpose of networking.
First impressions matter
For networking purposes, you want to leave others with a positive first impression of who you are. That means looking and acting presentable wherever you go because you never know who you will meet. When attending networking events, you can dress up with a suit or blazer, as if you were heading to an actual interview. If you have social media accounts, you can upload a professional headshot of yourself and select it as your profile picture. You want people to view you as professional and capable.
Another way you can make a good first impression is by warmly approaching people. When you are friendly and exude confidence, people are more likely to trust you and want to be around you.
Offer your services
When you talk to someone about your skills and experience, it’s a good idea to speak as passionately and enthusiastically as you can. If the person is established in their field, ask them questions about their work and find out how they got started in their career. Before the end of your conversation, ask them to share your information with anyone who may be in need of your services. You can also offer them your business card if you have one or email them your résumé.
When you have an in-depth conversation about an occupational field, you show that you care about what they have to say and that you could be of help to them or someone they know.
Networking for women
In the book Some Assembly Required: A Networking Guide for Women, authors Marny Lifshen and Thom Singer note several differences in networking between men and women. A woman may attend a networking event and find herself as the only female there. Attending a male-dominated event may be intimidating, but a woman can stand out from the crowd if she is confident and shows tenacity. If she is ever worried about being the only female at an event, Lifshen and Singer recommend bringing a female colleague or friend along.
Women have certain strengths that are useful for networking, which include attention to detail (remembering and noticing things), ability to develop rapport, and good etiquette (introducing people and RSVPing). On the other hand, Lifsen and Singer mention that women can also take things personally, be people pleasers, and be subject to sexual harassment. When it comes to connecting with mentors and people in their industry, women may feel more comfortable reaching out to and meeting with female mentors and industry leaders.
Do’s for networking
- Do dress professionally — business professional or business casual.
- Do be pro-active and approach others.
- Do be friendly and confident whenever you speak to someone.
- Do speak passionately and enthusiastically about your skills and work experience.
- Do ask for tips and advice.
- Do give out your contact information and ask possible employers to consider you for future opportunities.
Don’ts for networking
- Don’t act bored, desperate, annoyed, frustrated, or sad when you speak to someone.
- Don’t engage in gossip or share private information about yourself or others.
- Don’t ask personal questions (ex: Are you single? How old are you?).
- Don’t ask employers to hire you on the spot.
Going to event after event may be exhausting and discouraging especially if you encounter job seekers in your field who seem more qualified than you. Even reaching out to people online can be tiring. You may have attended events and felt drained after meeting so many different people.
Keep in mind that your goal is to build connections. People naturally want to connect with and help others. Many people are happy to give you advice, encouragement, and support. When you attend networking events, remember that you have skills and resources that other people may need. You want to promote those skills and resources to others so that you can obtain a job that can financially sustain you.
If you feel like you need a break from attending networking events, you can take one. During breaks and between events, you can read up on personal and career development books, upgrade your skills through workshops, seminars, and online courses, and plan and write out your career goals.
Keep in touch with new contacts
Lastly, even if you only managed to speak briefly with people at networking events, stay in touch with them. You can start by adding them on LinkedIn or following them on Twitter. You could also try to invite or treat them for tea, coffee, or lunch so that you can ask for their advice, hear about their career path, and possibly tap into their connections.