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How to network your way to a job as a newcomer

Tips for joining the impact sector as a newcomer

Before coming to Canada to do an MBA, I had worked for eight years in Peru across different sectors in activities including finance, strategic planning, project management and business consulting but I was never involved with a social impact organization at its core. During my master’s, I realized I wanted to work in the impact sector. The transition to get there, however, was a big project and I underestimated the real challenge of it- especially as a newcomer to the country. I wanted to share some tips based on my experience-  I hope they are useful for your career and personal growth.

1. Start reflecting on your strengths

Think about those activities that strengthen you. Start from scratch even though you tend to apply again to the same type of jobs and organizations. Have you explored you strengths in depth? Please do not bypass this question. You are more than a brand manager or a finance person. When do you feel fulfilled? Doing what?

What are those activities where you are good at and rock your world at the same time? I’m talking about any activity in your life. Take this first step seriously, because I’m sure that you don’t want to end up being the best employee in a company while being in charge of responsibilities you don’t like.

Find a time for this exercise. You need to make an appointment with yourself. It took me one full day to do and I got excited when I re-discovered myself by paying attention to those activities that certainly define me as a unique being in this amazing world. Be specific and write statements, not only key words. I strongly recommend to watch any video from Marcus Buckingham on strengths. Check this one out:


2. Size the impact sector

First, Identify the available paths to joining the impact sector. According to the Guide to Finding Meaningful Work and Attracting Top Talent, there are three broad categories: Non-profit organizations, CSR departments, and Social purpose businesses. Where do you see yourself growing?

Second, create a list of potential employers for each of the three categories and narrow your job search. Ask Google. If, for example, salary is the most important concern for you, tackle either international non-profit organizations or a CSR department from strong private companies. You may end up applying to social purpose marketing agencies or consulting firms.

Use your individual criteria to narrow your search and chase them. Never give up!

3. Connect with the right people

Informational interviews:

Show your intentions to meet, ask for a coffee, send that email, wait for that speaker until the end of the conference. It does not matter how many InMail messages you have sent, you are now an expert in the art of repetition:


As a good friend told me, there is no need to ask for any available job during informational interviews. They all know you are looking for one.



Language skills:

As a newcomer, this is the best way to train yourself for a job interview. It was not until the end of my master’s when I improved my English skills and gained important confidence. Make mistakes during this process and improve. Don’t let the language be a barrier to share your ideas and brilliant experience gained overseas. Watch movies, read a book, join a meet-up group, the options are all out there.

Be authentic:

Fake smiles and speeches learnt by heart are easy to identify. You don’t want to meet people only, I’m sure that you want to establish a connection with the right contact. Speak from your experience and heart.

In the impact sector, it is not enough to say that you want to make a difference, because that expression is probably the most traded commodity nowadays. Bring examples on how you can stand out as a contributor by using your amazing skills.

Bring your cultural beauty:

As a foreign professional, you definitely own a set of cultural features that coupled with your personality adds value to the Canadian society. What are they? Is it your body language? Your manners? The way you break the ice and make a joke in an informational interview? We have been told to adapt to this great society, but please, don’t forget to bring your cultural beauty while being yourself.

Make your interests tangible:

If you have not worked for the impact sector before, be prepared to tell your experience as a volunteer either for your local community or as a professional volunteer for an organization. With no exception, I was always asked to tell about my experience as a volunteer (experience that I never had at the beginning of my job search journey).

Offer your help as a professional volunteer: 

Identify ways to make others know the quality of your work. Take the time to understand the challenges or interests of the organization you want to help. Come up with a proposal if they have not identified an opportunity for you. Find a time for it, and do it with passion as if you were paid for that contribution.

There is no small contact: 

One of my initial mistakes was trying to meet “important” people only; those I thought would be decision makers in my application process. There is nothing more wrong than that. During my job search I met brilliant people whose intelligence and generosity helped me learn from organizations as well as open doors, but more important, they taught me a lesson of humility.

Be grateful:

In the end, relationships prevail. Be always grateful for the time spent with you in the coffee chat, the advice received, the information given. Tell them how you job search goes! Share the good news with them.

The best way you can express your gratitude is by doing the same for other job seekers.

4. Keep your body and mind healthy

You need to release your stress. Any physical activity is very important throughout the job search unless you want your brain to collapse. Since you don’t know when you are going to receive THE call, save money, but do not hesitate to drink that magic pint of beer over the weekend with friends. You deserve it.


This is a guest article written by Alfredo Rodriguez.

Alfredo Rodriguez was born and raised in Lima, Peru. He is a Strategy Manager at World Design Organization (WDO) and business consultant at heart. He lives and works in Montreal since 2015 after living two years in Toronto. Live concerts, pub crawl, picnics, table talks with his parents, and giving personal advice are his passions.
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