New to Networking in Canada?

Guest post by Maye Akama, with notes from international students Louise Lu and Nellie Yue

As a 4th year BCom student there is no shortage of networking events and opportunities. It is a great way for students to reach out, build their professional brand and make connections for their future careers. Does the word nevertheless send chills down your spine? Mine too.

As a student who grew up in Canada, there are few barriers I face when networking (other than the obvious shyness and fear of awkward encounters), whereas for most international students, who are not only dealing with cultural differences but learning to speak in a new language as well, the learning curve is much steeper.

Photo credit: Isidoro Emmanuel, courtesy of Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria

In February, I had the opportunity to join the Inter-Cultural Association (ICA) of Greater Victoria and faculty from the Gustavson School of Business at an event that focused on how newcomers to Canada can build networks for success.

We heard from a panel of individuals who had recently moved to Canada, and knew first hand what it was like to network and look for jobs in a new country. Their experiences offer helpful tips if you are an international student networking in Canada, or anyone developing their personal brand in a new country.

1. Learn about Canada’s culture and etiquette.

What kind of greeting do you have in your country? In Canada, it is common to shake hands with a person when you meet for the first time. It is also common to smile, use eye contact and open body language (having your hands by your side instead of crossed in front of you, keeping your head up, etc.).

These small things show respect and engagement when speaking with someone, and you will immediately look confident and professional. Learning and practicing these small mannerisms can be incredibly helpful as a first step into a conversation with a potential employer.

Take a bit of time to do research about cultural differences – it may not only help you avoid awkward misunderstandings but can also broaden your global mindset.

2. Step outside of your comfort zone.

When you’re networking, do not be afraid to start a conversation. Employers are impressed with students who can step up and introduce themselves. It shows great initiative and will immediately make you stand out from the others.

Be yourself and share your unique experiences. Don’t know what to say about yourself? Then ask questions. It will keep the conversation rolling and show interest in your conversation partner.

3. Be explicit about your goals.

Success is defined differently depending on who you are and what your goals are. What does it mean to you? Being explicit about your goals can not only have an effect in guiding you towards success but can also be helpful for those who are in your network to support you.

Prepare some topics in advance based on your strengths, your interests or latest trends in your industry of interest. This will show your ability to represent yourself and articulate what you are looking for.

4. Leverage your existing connections.

Lastly, take a look at your personal network. This can include friends, parents, siblings, professors and teammates. These groups can have a big effect on how you progress in your professional development. Let them help you get there!

To learn more about networking in Canada, please visit the ICA website. The ICA has a comprehensive range of employment services, including mentor services, English language classes, and workshops and training tailored for newcomers in Canada. Hear inspiring stories from newcomers and get inspired by the team at ICA!

Thanks to the Gustavson School of Business for letting us repost this from their blog, The World From Here.

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