You may think you are a sane, well-grounded person but have you ever tried hunting down a job in a new city where you don’t know a soul?
In theory, it should be simple, – you are young, highly qualified, ambitious, hardworking and a nice human being so you deserve at the very least, a chance to prove yourself in your chosen field. Unfortunately, getting that foot in the door can seem like mission impossible for new arrivals in Toronto, especially for the ladies.
If you have travelled over here with a significant other or friend who works in the construction industry, you will no doubt have noticed a sharp contrast between their job hunting experience vs. your own. In fact, on more than one occasion during my first few months here, I wondered was it too late to re-train as a bricklayer or an electrician.
When my man friend who works as a carpenter went looking for work in Toronto, he made two key moves:
a) He joined a GAA club
b) He went for a pint in an Irish pub & got chatting to a few ‘lads’.
Before we knew it, he had two job offers. However, my experience was a little different. On day one I was determined, confident and excited.
Fast forward two weeks and I was a broken woman. Hundreds of emails had been sent, almost as many follow-up phone calls and there wasn’t even a faint sniff of employment in the air. Why didn’t they want me? I had the experience, I was educated! They didn’t even have the decency to return my calls!
As each day passed, I got more bitter and stressed out. With my savings dwindling, I decided to park my plans to find a job in editing/publishing and instead concentrate on finding any job that would just pay me and pay me fast! Within a week of restructuring my expectations, I had a job. Not a very exciting one (in fact it was duller than dishwater) but it was a start, it paid and I was no longer sitting idle everyday cursing my luck. After three weeks temping as a receptionist at an office that no-one ever seemed the call, I then got offered a three month contract working as an administrative assistant in an insurance company. This line of work was not even in the same stratosphere of what I actually wanted to be doing but I kept telling myself it was money coming in the door and in my spare time I could keep looking for the dream job. Wouldn’t it be great if I could say to you that a year on I am now Managing Director in the Toronto office of a global publishing firm? Yes, it would be great but alas it would also be a big, fat lie. The reality is I am (happily) working in a field close to where I want be, the job is permanent and I enjoy what I do. So, for all of you just starting out don’t give up, keep knocking on doors and realize you have to start somewhere.
Helpful tips for job-hunting in Toronto:
Get your resume looking great – Canadian-style resumes are a different format to Irish CV’s so make sure you put in the time & effort to doctor yours accordingly. Don’t forget to tailor your resume to fit each individual job application, use formatting tools like bold and bullet to make important information stand out and use as many keywords as you can to enhance skills and qualifications.
Get social – Do not under-estimate the power of social media when it comes to finding a job. Pages like Irish and New in Toronto are a prime example. Every week, people post a diverse range of jobs on here – from bar-work to IT so check it out as often as you can. Then there is LinkedIn – if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile set one up ASAP. Canadians are big on checking out your credentials via LinkedIn so make sure it’s up to date.
Join a job agency – Love em or loath em, temping agencies can be very useful when you are first trying to find a paying gig. And the truth is, a lot of companies in Toronto hire via agencies instead of directly. To get on an agencies books, email through your resume, follow up with a phone call and set up a meeting for you to meet them in person (this is crucial – without a face-to-face meeting, you are not going to be considered for any roles). After you have registered with the agency, don’t be afraid to call them several times a week to see if there is anything available (this will keep you fresh in their minds). And don’t feel you can only register with one agency – register with as many as possible to keep your options wide open. Here are a few of the most popular agencies to check out: http://www1.altishr.com/, http://www.bagg.com/, http://www.hays.ca/, http://www.adecco.ca, http://www.randstad.ca/.
Put yourself out there – Make a list of companies in Toronto you would like to work at. Email through a copy of your resume (with an introductory letter), give it a few days and then follow up with a phone call. They may not have anything available at that point in time but at least the ice has been broken and they now have your info on file (in a filing cabinet – sorry, couldn’t resist).
Network – They say it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. If this is true then you can’t know enough people. Your connections in Toronto will obviously not be as strong as back home but put in the ground work in your new city and by increasing your network of contacts you will increase your chances of finding a job. Volunteer, join sports clubs, if a friend of a friend gives you the number of someone who works in the area you are interested in then don’t be shy about reaching out to that person and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.