Finding the first job

It’s easier to find a job when you have a job, or so the story goes. When you’re a newcomer to a new country it’s a bit more complicated. Most often, you’re not coming with a job in place.

You have to get a job:

One of the most difficult things for newcomers is getting that first job. You know what you were before you moved here: Engineer or Teacher, Doctor or Lawyer, Plumber or Carpenter and so on. You arrive and find that your qualifications need to be assessed and the process is long and complicated; or you find it difficult to have any response to your search for employment.. You hear: ‘you don’t have the Canadian Experience,’ ‘your qualifications don’t meet the BC professional requirements,’ or ‘you need to take one or two courses to have your credentials articulated as equivalent to BC standards’ (only to find that the one or two courses are near impossible to get). You find that you don’t know what you are anymore, or how you can make your old life fit with the new.

As your dreams of landing a job in your trained career wanes, it’s important to remember that sometimes, you need that first job to then get the job you want. The first job gives you a pay cheque. The first job counters the ‘Canadian experience’ argument as you begin to live Canadian workplace culture. The first job gives enough breathing room to let you figure out the rest.

My advice to newcomers on finding the first job:

Set your ideal target and set your bottom line:

  • Apply for the jobs that you want, and that you’re qualified for. Apply for the jobs you want, but think you’re not qualified for. The worst that will happen is…nothing. You won’t hear anything back from your prospective employer, or you may hear any of the above variations of why you’re not qualified. The best – you’ll get the job.
  • Apply for the jobs you don’t really want (your bottom line), but could do for short periods of time. Plan to accept a job you don’t necessarily want with a goal of continuing your search. Temporary employment provides breathing room to look for new employment, contacts in the community, and experience. It also looks better on a resume when applying for other positions – employers tend to prefer hiring those who are employed.

Talk to as many people as you can:

  • The folks at your BC Public Libraries are well equipped to refer you to the appropriate resources, whether it be employment assistance, translation of documents, language training, online resources and so on.
  • Contact the organization or governing body of the career field that you wish to work for. A simple Google search for Association of _______ (fill in the blank), BC will likely put you in touch with the governing body of your career. Call them. Ask them if to tell you what you need to know. Ask if you can volunteer in some capacity. The more you connect with others, the more you learn what you need to know to transition to your career in BC.
  • Look for a MeetUp group to connect yourself with others with common goals.
  • Connect with current employees and ask if they are willing to provide you with an informational interview. It may seem awkward, but most employees are willing to share insights into what their job entails. This also builds new connections.

Ask for feedback and practice:

  • Have others review your resume and cover letter to gain feedback. Make modifications if you feel a valid point has been demonstrated and you feel comfortable with the advice.
  • If you have been declined for a position, ask them to provide you feedback. A simple question such as ‘do you have any feedback on how I performed in the job interview?’ will let them know you’re motivated for possible future positions. Take notes of what is said and take time to reflect on how you can improve.
  • Research possible interview questions and have prepared answers for as many as you can. The process of thinking through an appropriate response will save you time and energy in the interview and will help you relax.

There are many more steps to securing employment; especially in a targeted career. The keys to securing the first job are to be open to alternatives, understand that this position is not permanent, and use the resources around you. Consider this practice for your move into your ideal career.

Posted in Careers, Foreign-trained Professionals, Immigrants, Public Libraries, Settlement Agencies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Library, My World

It’s Canadian Library Month. A month to celebrate what libraries mean to you and the rest of us in Canada. The Canadian Library Association invites you to share your story with the rest of Canada in form of a short video, or a written story in English or French, on how a library has impacted you. Submissions can be made online. Here’s my story:

I grew up in a small, farming community called Warner, Alberta. The current population sits at just under 400 people. Set in the middle of canola, wheat and hay fields, among the cattle ranches, this village offered ample time for the imagination to reach as far and wide as the prairie sky. As a child, I got to know every nook and cranny of this village through my daily adventures. As I got older and bigger, the town got smaller. I needed more. Thankfully, we had a library.

Warner Library

The library operated on a part-time basis. When it was open, I would gather my books to return to exchange for new ones. What a treat it was to be the first to check out the newest book that came in. The status and power awarded to the first borrower was akin to being ‘Queen of the Castle’ on the playground that day. I would relish it; knowing I was the first to read what was contained within the pages of that book. It was hard not to spoil it for others. Of course, this was a seldom occurrence – we all had a sixth sense as to when the next book would arrive and competed accordingly.

My favourite thing about the library was that it opened up a world beyond Warner. I read about cities larger than Lethbridge. I learned of countries outside of Canada. I discovered cultures that were foreign to me. I thumbed through pages of the encyclopedia and learned things I wouldn’t have even imagined learning. This small room contained the world.

Later, as I moved throughout Canada, I would discover that libraries have much more to offer. Imagine to my child’s eyes, the discovery of:

  • Read along programs
  • Parent and tot programs
  • Employment programs
  • Language programs
  • eBooks
  • Workshops
  • Speakers series
  • Community engagement events
  • Etc.

It’s astounding how far, for me, libraries have come: from a place of books and self-discovery, to a place of that plus community, interactions, philosophy and dialogue. And now, for you as a new resident to BC, I see libraries are a first contact point in your new community, a place to get your bearings, a welcome place. Libraries are unbiased, thought provoking and growth invoking.

It’s Canadian Library Month. How have libraries inspired me or touched my life? They’ve made me more open. They’ve helped me grow into a better human being. They’ve made me more welcoming, more understanding and more worldly. How has a library touched your life? Leave your response in the comments. Submit your story online.

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NewToBC? Head to Your Local Library!

If I moved to a new country, the first place I would go is to the local library. In British Columbia, the library is the hub: the community; the information centre. Just walk into a library in BC and you’ll notice flyers advertising workshops and information referrals to a wide array of services from computer assistance, to language learning, employment services, housing, counselling, etc. This is just at the front door! Never mind the information you will find within! The moment I walk into a library, I feel like I’m overwhelmed with helping hands waiting to guide me. It gets better!

The Libraries decided to join forces. NewToBC was created to support Libraries in Metro Vancouver help people who are new to BC. Instead of one library promoting their services, this service aimed at jointly promoting programs, services, community events and resources available to newcomers. The goal was to improve each libraries’ ability to help build welcoming and diverse communities. United, libraries are be able to meet the diverse needs of new Canadians based on location, language and resources.

Folks who are new to BC live in a large geographical area.It is to their advantage to choose a location near them and orient themselves to their new neighbourhood.  Library booksThey can head into their nearest library to discover the possiblities, simply by asking at the information desk. Folks looking for literature in their own language will be happy to know that some libraries specialize in specific language selections AND their local library is able to request materials to be delivered to their own branch! There are various service providers who are closely connected to BC Libraries who assist with learning languages, gaining employment, finding services for early childhood, youth, seniors, refugees, and settlement.

To top this off, NewToBC created the Library Champions project: newcomers to Canada vReading Buddiesolunteer in their local libraries to share the vast resources available to other newcomers in BC: services listed above, events happening in communities, inside tips, connections, friendship, community. The best part? You, too, can become a Champion and a part of your library community. Training is provided and gives you invaluable information about libraries and services in BC. Newcomers have found it useful in finding services, employment, books and new friendships. Information sessions are scheduled at various libraries in October – December.

Don’t take my word for it:

“It helped me first to know more about the library and to improve my communication skills. It helped me to feel that I belong to Canada. I made new friends and meet new people with different backgrounds who helped me to learn more about their culture. The best thing was helping the newcomers and others to learn about the library.” – Ola Sheiy

“As a newcomer, I felt welcomed by Canada, and got to know about Canadian life through the Library Champions Project. This project opens a door for me for my new life in Canada. Thank you!” – Melissa Xu

“The program is a benefit for the new immigrants to increase their confidence and to integrate more into the community, also learn more about the library facilities.” –Sawsan Al. Ramadhan

As an insider, I wish all new Canadians were given the opportunity to know where to start in their pursuit of unbiased, honest and useful information. If you were to respond, in kind, with what your country hast to offer for newcomers, what would you recommend?

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Culture Days – Create, Participate, Celebrate

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September 26, 27 & 28 will have Culture Days sweeping across BC and the Lower Mainland. There’s really no better way to introduce you to the arts and cultural life of communities in BC. This event is designed for us to participate through hands-on, interactive activities; to discover the world of artists, creators, historians, architects, curators and designers at work in their community. It cannot be successful if we do not attend. We cannot enhance our community if we choose to not participate.

Information about this event can be found through the Culture Days Website. They have provided the ability to search by community, by organizer and by date. You will find that your BC Public Libraries are also on hand to participate.

A popular activity for libraries is, of course, story-time activities. There is nothing more joyful than sitting in a room with an enthusiastic librarian reading to children. What better way to infuse culture than to introduce children to the love of books and language? Children five years and younger, along with their parents and caregivers, will enjoy stories, songs, rhymes and puppets.

In addition to stories, many libraries offer something in addition related to arts and culture. To list a few, I have added the link to workshops taking place at various libraries. Click on each Library’s name for more detailed information from the Culture Days website:

The Burnaby Public Library

  • Game Face – Boardgames for teens
  • Papercraft Lab
  • Oral Storytelling Circle

The Fraser Valley Regional Library

  • A celebration of Art in Fibre
  • Pom Pom making
  • Multicultural Tea and Treats

The North Vancouver City Library & the North Vancouver District Public Library

  • Culture Cram at the Library

The Richmond Public Library

  • Writer-in-Residence Launch: Meet Mark Leiren-Young
  • Word of Mouth: Local Writers Read

The Surrey Libraries

  • Family Lego Club
  • Scrabble Club
  • Bookslam: Find your next “buzzer beater” read!

The Vancouver Public Library

  • Animate it!
  • Kits House Story Sharing Circle
  • Painting and Photo Exhibition

The West Vancouver Memorial Library

  • Book Some Time for the Crime

Of course, there’s so much more to offer than what’s listed above. Many other organizations are participating. Have a look. Explore. Attend. Be a part of your community. When you’ve finished participating, be sure to share your experience by leaving a comment below! Have a great weekend!

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Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC)

Have you ever had an interest in taking a course at university, but didn’t want to pay the price required to enroll? Not only is there the cost of tuition, there’s the additional cost of the application fee, the required textbook and additional student fees. Post-secondary education offers a chance to improve your knowledge in a particular subject or work-related area, but it comes with a very high price tag. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to try the course without the financial cost, to see if you liked it before embarking on the path to a post-secondary education? You can.

West Vancouver Memorial Library will be hosting an information session, to provide insight into a way that you can take university courses, through accredited and recognized universities, for minimal, or no, cost. MOOC – Massive Open Online Courses, are a recent development in distance education that allows access to online courses aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web[1]. The courses are typically non-credit, but there are often options for receiving recognition for having taken them, and opportunities for receiving credit (which does come with a cost)[2].

MOOC_poster_mathplourde

MOOC courses have many things in common: video based lectures, interactivity through online quizzes, the ability to participate in online discussions, and frequent feedback so you can monitor your own progress. To find out if you’re interested in participating, it’s as simple as looking through the West Vancouver Memorial Library’s list of MOOC institutions and going from there. The library offers these tips to help you decide if a MOOC is right for you:

  • Watch the instructor’s introductory video
  • Check the course outline for prerequisites and the level at which the course will be taught
  • Look at the instructor’s college webpage and search the web for course reviews[3].

If you’re interested in finding out more, head to the West Vancouver Memorial Library on Tuesday, September 23, from 7:00 to 8:00 pm. Give yourself the gift of learning without the financial strings attached.

[1] Wikipedia
[2] West Vancouver Memorial Library
[3] West Vancouver Memorial Library

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Learning Mango Language Style

If you’re looking for that extra help in learning a new language, look no further. Your BC Public Libraries offer a solution that makes it easy to learn when convenient for you. Search for Mango Languages on your Library webpage and follow these easy steps to getting started:

Step 1: Create your Mango Languages account. You will need your Library Card to access this service, and you will require an email and be asked to create a password.

Step1

Step 2: Pick your language. I found this hard with so many choices available. In the end, I closed my eyes and pointed to the screen. I landed on French. I jest; I actually want to learn French to support my daughter in her French Immersion Education and my French skills are limited to say the least. I imagine us, 10 years from now, going on a trip to France together and being able to converse our way around with ease. It’s a long term goal, but one to work towards.

Step2

Step 3: Load the program. It doesn’t take too long. Remember the days of dial-up-internet and rejoice that technology has come so far.

Step3

Step 4: Start your program by clicking on the appropriate starting point. I’m starting with the basics because my French is so limited. Some of this will be review, but most of it will be new to me.

Step4

I have made it through Lesson 1. My daughter likes to laugh at the progress I’ve made so far and corrects me often, but it has been a fun experience for the both of us. Her ability to teach me only reinforces her learning so far and gives her the added confidence of being smarter than her mother. Nothing wrong with that….for now.

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School alternatives

For me, the start of the school year is like a new beginning. Summer draws to a close, ending the frenzy of activities that are brought forth by warm days and late sunsets. School returns as does routine and normalcy. The calm of the season slows me down enough to set new goals; look for ways to expand myself in some way. Except this year.

The teachers’ strike has prolonged this transition. My normalcy is not returning. I am scrambling: instead of setting new goals, I am researching what I can do with my children to keep them on track in their learning and keep their minds busy. I am fortunate enough to have daycare lined up for them, but I worry about their minds not being stretched to new heights.

The BC Public Libraries are my first point of contact. In their everyday normal operations are set up to expand the minds of its users. If my children gain delight from story-time at the library, I am happy. If my children get lost in books, even better. If they play on the computer, I know the programs are friendly for them and will teach them something. If I find a program for them to participate in, I know their minds will benefit. The libraries have not changed because of the teachers’ strike. They just continue being awesome by doing what they do.

I also want to review the BC Teaching Curriculum to see what the learning outcomes are. Somehow, I am going to keep my children up to speed with their learning. This is a bit more difficult as I am limited with the amount of time I have to do this. I do not have the hours per day that my children would normally have to learn a curriculum set forth, but every bit of effort will pay off.

Finally, I look around at the various clubs and organizations to see what types of day camps are available. There are a multitude of services being offered through activity and community centres: gymnastics, taekwando, canoeing, etc., that are at a discount rate to give these kids a chance at socializing with their peers while learning a new skill.

Somehow or another, this strike will end. The kids will be back in school expanding their minds. I will go back to setting my own goals and expanding myself in some way. In the meantime, I have to work at creating an interim routine to bridge the gap.

 

 

 

 

 

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