By Keith Hernandez
Now that you’re in Canada, you’ll find that government agencies, non-profit organizations and even private corporations are doing a lot to support the integration of newcomers into the Canadian business environment. There are many programs and services, some free, that are offered to support new Canadians. However, it’s up to you to be proactive and take advantage of these services.
Decades ago when I arrived here, this support was limited, so we have come a long way! But taking a job-readiness program or resume workshop, for example, is just the beginning. While such programs are designed to give you the tools you’ll need to apply for jobs, you also have to beproactive in other ways beyond taking a class. It’s up to you to get out there, meet people, develop connections and network.
You can meet people most anywhere, but I find that one of the most effective, targeted ways of making connections in your line of work is getting involved with a relevant professional or business association or group.
With a professional association, meetings and other social activities provide networking opportunities resulting in interactions with potential colleagues, employers and clients. Not only will you enhance your chances of hearing about and vying for potential job openings, but you can stay on top of industry trends, get an idea on what the competition may be doing, and share your knowledge and experience.
For licensed professions, things, of course, get a little more complicated and become a matter of certification. But even these industries often have networking groups outside the official licensing association.
Which to join?
Depending on your field of expertise, there could be several professional associations to join. For example, if you’re a writer, type in “professional association + writer” into Google, and it will lead you to the Professional Writers Association of Canada website. For an annual membership fee, you can be connected to other writers, potential job opportunities, professional development and events. There are also associations for different types of writers as well.
But before you join, you should first know what you are hoping to gain from this group. Is it mainly to network with potential employers and colleagues? Or do you want to meet other newcomers like yourself? Make sure the group is right for your needs.
After you join a group, think not only of how you can benefit, but also consider what value you bring to the group through your participation. While we reap the rewards of enhancing our networking connections, we must be prepared to give back in return as much as we put in. Not only are you doing something good, but it can only enhance your reputation and visibility.
One way to give back is to consider joining the organization’s board or committees. As vacancies arise, these groups look for replacements and are often putting more emphasis on diversity among their directors.
Becoming a board member allows you to participate in the strategic planning of the organization, through sharing your learning and experience. You get opportunities to develop your leadership skills while working closely with new peers.
What you put in
Naturally, the benefits of being in any professional association or group all depend on the effort that you put into it. It’s up to you.