When you’ve spent years climbing the career ladder, jumping off and restarting at the bottom rung doesn’t seem like a smart career move. Unfortunately, it’s what many newcomers to Canada are required – even expected – to do. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
WoodGreen’s Personalized Career Accelerator helps newcomers to Canada land jobs that match their skills and experience, ideally continuing a career trajectory already underway. It was exactly what Suraj Wadhwani needed.
The 38-year-old was a successful Business Head based in South Africa. An executive at a multinational corporation working in food supply and packaging, he had spent more than 15 years building a career. Then last year, Wadhwani, his wife, their 4-year-old daughter and their pet Beagle all moved to Canada. It wasn’t a career move.
“I’d heard about the Canadian dream,” says Wadhwani, who is originally from India, “but the move wasn’t so much about what Canada could do for me, it was about what Canada could do for my daughter. Getting her to a country where it’s safe and secure, and where she could grow up in a healthy environment.”
Strong interviews didn’t translate to jobs
After a short transition to working remotely for his old company, Wadhwani began his Canadian job search.
“I started looking for jobs and the interviews went really well, but I still couldn’t get through. I couldn’t understand what was going on and didn’t know if it was me or something else standing in the way.”
He reached out to WoodGreen’s Personalized Career Accelerator, which partners with the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) in arranging mentors for newcomers to help kickstart their careers in Canada. Wadhwani says, for someone with an established career, a mentor in his field was exactly what he needed.
“I didn’t need to redo my resume or develop more skills, it was about the approach to job hunting, for me.”
Program helps newcomers get career back on track in Canada
That’s exactly why WoodGreen developed the Personalized Career Accelerator program, says Azfar Islam, Manager of Workforce Development at WoodGreen.
“So many newcomers bring great talent and experience with them when they come to Canada. However, if you don’t know anyone here in the field you work in, it can be difficult to find meaningful work,” he says. Islam says many newcomers end up accepting what are often called “survival jobs” just so they can have income, but are employed well below their skill and experience level.
It’s a story Islam has seen up close. When his father, an accomplished civil engineer in his home country, could not find work in his field in Canada, he worked the rest of his life as a banquet server to support his family. That's why Islam says that programs, such as WoodGreen's Personalized Career Accelerator, are so needed to help skilled newcomers thrive in their new country.
‘Amazing outcomes’ for career accelerator participants
The program, which accepts applicants monthly, takes about 255 newcomers a year and has had “amazing outcomes”, says Islam. Funded by Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada, the program is open to Permanent Residents and Convention Refugees.
Participants take part in workshops to fine-tune their job search and maximize their competitiveness. They receive one-on-one career counselling with a job coach and settlement counselling to support opportunities to network in the community. WoodGreen initially matches participants with one mentor for a three-month period but newcomers can continue the program or connect with a new mentor after that time.
Wadhwani has only praise for his mentor, Gavin. “He was really helpful in getting me to speak with good professionals in my industry,” he says, “More importantly, he’s been instrumental in the way I’ve changed my networking style.”
Wadhwani says he’s learned that in Canada important contacts can be anywhere, and that someone you meet casually once and then perhaps go for a coffee with, may eventually turn out to be a source for a job connection. He says he then began talking with people anywhere he went.
“One day in December, about a month after I’d begun my job search, I took my dog to the dog park where he then outran another dog. I got to chatting with the owner of the dog, and they are now my boss.”
Participants pass on what they’ve learned
For the past 18 months, Wadhwani has been working as a Manager in Data and Analytics at BMO Financial. He is still in touch with his mentor and the WoodGreen job counsellors.
“The great thing about this program is that the people are a great sounding board for you when you’re not sure if you’re taking the right approach or not,” he adds, noting that he now has a plan for his Canadian career path ahead.
WoodGreen’s Azfar Islam says the best part about seeing the success of newcomers in the program is that, after a few years working in their fields, many of the participants come back to mentor other newcomers.
“They want to help make things easier for the next group of newcomers, and how great is that?”