lessons i’ve learned after surviving the most brutal job search of my life (pt. i)

A little over a week ago, I got the email I had been waiting for a long time: a job offer from a Canadian employer. After sending 400-500 applications and receiving countless rejections, knowing that my search was over, at last, was an absolute relief, to say the least.

During this process, I received a lot of good advice but also a lot of trash advice, and I would like to give my take on it this time round. Though my experience alone does not qualify me to give career advice, I would like to share my experience in a blog that I will divide into two parts.

This way, I hope I can indirectly help people that are looking for employment as immigrants just as I was. For me, it was even harder because, as my work visa is only valid for 6 months, I had to mention this fact to employers hoping that they could sponsor a new work permit after that.

Without any further ado, let’s start!

It’s all about the network

One of my former managers used to tell me, “it’s all about the network.” She wasn’t wrong.

Building your network from scratch in a new country is hard, but if you target a specific field and/or industry, then you’ll start to recognize who to connect with on LinkedIn, Indeed and Glassdoor.

Make sure your profiles on these platforms are flawless and appealing. If you’re relocating, select the city you’re relocating to as your current location (you can always justify why you did so during the first interview).

On LinkedIn, send personalized requests to internal and external recruiters but also to professionals in your field, perhaps saying that you’re new to the local job market and would like to get some insights into your field of interest. Ask to schedule an introductory call so you can listen to your connection’s first-hand experience and ask whatever questions you might have.

At the end of the call (and this is very important) do not forget to ask this professional if they have any connections they feel comfortable introducing you to, for the purpose of an interview.

This way, you’ll increase your chances of said professionals keeping you on their radar should new opportunities arise. It’s not a guaranteed ticket to employment, but it’s better than nothing for sure.

Recruitment agencies won’t solve your problems

When I first started looking, I got asked the same question all over again: why don’t you try a recruitment agency? Though that’s a fairly good idea, if you are an immigrant with severe work restrictions like myself, that might present quite a few complications.

Firstly, (at least in Canada) recruiters are not legally allowed to request sponsorship on your behalf, if your work permit is supposed to expire before the end of your contract or if you’re applying for a permanent position. Employers are already paying a commission fee to the recruiter (which takes nothing away from your salary) to hire you. Of course, HR people cannot ask them for the legal hassle of sponsoring you as well.

Some recruiters might still be able to help by sending you job opportunities privately or representing you for temporary roles in the hope that you can work something out with the employer once you start working.

Here are some Toronto-based recruitment agencies you might want to check out:

  • 4 Seven Talent
  • 3 Step Recruitment
  • Robert Half
  • 3 Degrees Inc
  • Aquent
  • Vitamin T
  • IQ Partners
  • Hays
  • Creative Circle

What I just want you to know is: do not believe that recruiters will be flooding your inbox with opportunities. They have tons of other applicants that might bring home better results than you do, and, since their pay depends on how many people they can get hired, they’ll give priority to those they think can perform better at a certain role.

Let me reiterate: recruitment agencies will not solve all of your problems.

You have to be as good (if not better) as any local applicant out there

If you’re going to request sponsorship from an employer, you need to give them a very good reason to do so. Generally speaking, if you’re looking to relocate to another country, your employer needs to prioritize local applicants to ensure that citizens and permanent residents do not find themselves unemployed.

Of course, if your employer likes you and your work is essential to the company, there’s always a way this can be proven. But you need to keep this in mind: that you’re not on the same level as your competition. You’re below that, and that’s why you have everything to prove.

Though I wouldn’t recommend selling it too hard, you do have to keep yourself to a certain standard. Yes, your company needs you, but don’t forget that you were also privileged enough to be chosen among other candidates that can work without restrictions or special requirements.

Consider purchasing a temporary local phone number if you’re applying from abroad

It happened to me that, every time a recruiter would ask me for my phone number, I wouldn’t hear back from them again. And I think I know why that was the case: I had a foreign phone number. No matter how much to follow up or insist that you’ll soon be relocating, recruiters don’t have time for that, and they might reject your application for this reason alone.

But this is where technology comes to help.

Apps like Text Me, Nextplus, 2nd Phone Number, 2nd Line, TalkU and so on all provide local phone numbers that work through Wi-Fi. I don’t think the caller can tell the difference between that and a “real” local phone number, so if you want to get started early with your search, I would highly recommend purchasing a one-month plan and seeing how it goes–can be as low as 5 euros!

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