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How to Build Your Network from Scratch in Canada


Published March 4, 2024 • 8 Min Read

In Canada, your professional network will be among the most valuable assets to your career. Your network can help open doors for you within your industry, provide feedback on your resume, pinpoint skills you’ll need to succeed, and offer support during your job search. However, as a newcomer, you probably need to build professional connections in the Canadian job market from scratch.

What is professional networking?

Networking is the process of building and maintaining connections with others in your industry.

Your goal in networking is to have an accessible network of connections so you, as a newcomer, may learn more about the Canadian job market and open positions that may not be publicly posted.

Why is networking important for your career in Canada?

Networking isn’t just something you need to do if you’re a newcomer. It’s essential for your continued career development, job seeking, and business growth. In fact, it’s often said networking is part of Canada’s work culture. Here are some ways networking can help your career in Canada:

Learn from other professionals

Professional networking is a continuous learning process that goes beyond traditional educational settings. For example, a senior executive may be able to give you career advice and guidance, or another newcomer may have tips on getting Canadian experience for your resume.

Your network can also be an excellent way to learn about in-demand skills sought after in your industry, certifications you can explore, and more.

Unlock the hidden job market

Not every job opportunity is advertised. Instead, they may be filled through a recruiter’s networks or professional referrals. The only way to learn about hidden opportunities is by networking with the right people.

Each networking meeting is an opportunity to showcase your skills and enthusiasm, so you remain top of mind for potential employers. Even if the professionals in your network aren’t actively hiring, they may know others who are looking for candidates with your skill set.

Get insights to stand out in interviews

As a newcomer, you may not be familiar with Canadian work culture, or the individual qualities employers look for in candidates.

Most Canadian employers want to hire candidates who fit well within the organization’s culture. Learning about the culture within a specific organization by speaking to current or former employees may give you an edge during your interviews. You can use these insights to highlight strengths and skills that resonate with the employer and help position you as a good candidate.

You can also leverage networking meetings to ask professionals about the skills and technology they use on the job, the performance metrics they are evaluated against, and any advice they might have for a newcomer entering the job market.

Help finding a mentor

A mentor is an experienced professional who can help you prepare for and succeed in the Canadian job market. They can share their experiences, provide job search and career advice, and open their network to you. Essentially, a good mentor is invested in your long-term professional success. They can guide you in your chosen career path and offer advice along the way.

Networking is one of the most effective ways to identify a suitable mentor and initiate a mentoring relationship. Ideally, you want your mentor to be someone who has a successful professional record, some professional alignment with you, and of course, an interest in mentoring you.

6 networking tips for newcomers to Canada

Many newcomers come from countries where professional networking is not as common. In Canada networking plays a crucial role in the professional world. As a result, newcomers often need to learn the most effective ways to build and nurture relationships. These tips can help you grow your network in Canada:

  1. Network strategically (quality over quantity): As a newcomer, your objective shouldn’t be to simply connect with or meet as many professionals as possible. Instead, identify professionals who can add value to your network, offer access to certain organizations, or share their expertise in a particular subject.

  2. Make it beneficial to both of you: The best networking relationships are mutually valuable. Before asking someone for career advice or a referral, think about how you can help them. Be sure to convey where your strengths lie and, when you offer your support, always follow through.

  3. Reach out to people you already know: You may not have to start building your Canadian network from scratch. Some of your family members, friends, former colleagues, classmates, and acquaintances may have moved to Canada before you and may be established in their industries. Reconnect with your existing contacts first and ask if they can introduce you to others in their networks.

  4. Take a goal-based approach to networking: When you first arrive in Canada, you may be dedicating most of your time to your job search. However, networking effectively may reduce how long you must look. It’s a good idea to prioritize networking meetings. If you find it difficult to set aside time for networking, try setting goals for the number of new contacts you make each week, follow-up emails you send, or potential connections you reach out to on LinkedIn.

  5. Don’t ask for a job upfront: Networking isn’t supposed to be a job interview. Avoid asking a professional contact for a job or referral before you’ve built a meaningful relationship with them. You may need to spend time building trust and showcasing your skills before they are convinced about your worth as a suitable candidate for a job.

  6. Stay in touch: After you connect with someone on LinkedIn or at an event, follow up and ask for a coffee chat. If your conversation goes well, be sure to stay in touch over email or schedule a follow-up meeting so they remember you. Sharing industry developments or insightful articles with them over social media may be another good way to keep in touch.

How to effectively use coffee chats to grow your network in Canada

A coffee chat or informational interview is an informal networking meeting that allows you to learn from another professional. A coffee chat may be in person or virtual (over a video call).

These conversations can be a great way to learn about specific organizations, industry best practices, in-demand skills, hiring processes, or someone’s career path.

Here are some tips to help you make the most of coffee chats:

  • Prepare: Take time to research the person you’ll be meeting, their organization, and their role. The more you know about them in advance, the better idea you’ll have of how they might help you. Look them up on the internet to see if they’ve published any work or given any interviews. Go through their LinkedIn profile and other public social media pages. You should also prepare an elevator pitch to introduce yourself and think of the skills, qualifications, and achievements you want to share with them.

  • Make a list of questions to ask: Even though coffee chats are informal, you should know exactly what you hope to learn from the conversation. Prepare a list of five or six relevant, intelligent questions and try to keep the discussion on track.

  • Start with small talk: Small talk can serve as an icebreaker during networking meetings and can help you learn about a person’s interests outside of work. You may want to start your coffee chat by talking about the weather, their commute, or their plans for the weekend. Avoid bringing up personal or sensitive topics such as religion or politics.

  • Be polite and respect their time: Regardless of whether your coffee chat is in-person or virtual, make sure you’re on time. For video calls, test your equipment and internet connection in advance. Let the other person know how much of their time you need; most coffee chats last for 30 minutes or less. Be professional and pleasant during your conversation. Don’t interrupt them while they are speaking. Listen to what they are saying and ask if you may take notes.

  • Send a thank you note: Let them know you appreciate their time and support by sending a thank you email within 24 hours of your conversation. You can personalize the note by including one or two key things you learnt from them and explaining how those might help you. If you discussed any action items, be sure to capture them as well.

As a newcomer, networking can open doors to opportunities, bring you personal and professional growth, and build a supportive community to contribute to long-term success.

Not only will be invaluable as you begin your job search in Canada, but it may also play a role in your life as you progress in your career. Make sure you dedicate time and effort to nurture relationships with people who can add value to your professional life, while also looking for ways in which you can support others.

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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