March 27, 2017 - Amandine Martel is a Data Analyst with Northern Policy Institute. A summer internship in Thunder Bay introduced Amandine to Northwestern Ontario and its opportunities and challenges. After graduating from l’Université Laval with an MBA, she decided to return to the north and joined Northern Policy Institute. The strong analysis skills Amandine developed during her studies, as well as her proficiency in French, are assets and are beneficial when collaborating with Francophone stakeholders. Here is Amandine’s story:
“Three years ago, I was finishing my Masters in Communications at the French Grandes Écoles, the cream of the crop of France’s post-secondary education system. My family had moved to Canada two years before. It had been their dream for a long time, and my dad, a computer engineer, easily found a job in Quebec City.
At that time, I was facing a choice: accept the (almost) unpaid internship I was offered at a large French multinational firm and start my career in France, or roll the dice, follow my family to Canada and try to find better prospects on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. After a moment of hesitation, I chose the latter and booked a one-way ticket to Quebec City.
I started looking for a job almost as soon as I arrived. I applied to the jobs I could find online, and sent resumes to employers I would have liked to work for, whether they were in the communication, marketing, or business strategy sectors. However, after three months, I had found nothing; not even one interview. I could not understand what the problem was. I was not being picky, I was looking for both internships and long term positions. I did adapt my resume to the Canadian standards to the best of my abilities, according to what my parents had been told when they immigrated and what I had researched online. I was a permanent resident, so I was allowed to work at no additional costs to the employer. I was seriously discouraged, and started to regret my decision about moving to Canada more and more as the days went by.
One day, I was chatting with my mother’s boss, a very nice Quebec-born and raised financial advisor. When I explained my situation, he told me that for recent graduates with a degree in Communications, the job market was very tight in Quebec and that it was essential to know the right people to get in. Suddenly I saw the light. Here were the three – or at least main three – reasons why I could not get anyone to call me back:
1. I did not know the right people, I had no network in Canada;
2. I was fresh out of school with no work experience. In France, you study first, and then you get work experience through unpaid internships. But in Canada, many students work and volunteer during their studies. I had done none of that;
3. Lastly, people did not know my school or the value of my degree. Although my degree read ‘Masters in Communications’, I had to take accounting, finance, business strategy and management courses to get it. In France, my school was top rated, and I could have worked anywhere based on the name of my institution alone.
From the discussion with my mother’s boss, I concluded that I had to go back to school in order to find a job in Canada. I had to get a degree from a known Canadian university, to validate my existing business management knowledge and to help employers see what was already there. Thus, I chose to go to Laval University, in Quebec City for an MBA.
My objective was clear: get a job. And I was determined to use all the university resources to achieve this. I went to career fairs, the resume workshops, talked to the student placement advisor; everything I could do to support my goals.
Finally, someone called me back for an interview. It was for a summer placement, for a Francophone non-profit organization in Thunder Bay. The interview went very well and I felt lucky that the General Manager of the organization was French and knew about my school back in France. At the end of the interview, she asked for references. Seeing the confused look on my face, she explained that, in Canada, employers will often want to contact previous supervisors to verify the applicant’s character. Later, she would tell me that the fact that I had no Canadian references had been an issue. Only because she knew my school was she was able to convince her hiring panel to give me a chance. This experience highlighted another reason that I did not get responses to all of the applications I had been sending. From there, I was in. I had started to build a local network, acquire Canadian work experience and gain my first Canadian reference.
On my journey to get a job in Canada, the hardest challenge was not knowing what the problem was, or which questions to ask. I was very lucky to meet wonderful people who helped me better understand the job market. Now I can say that I made the right choice three years ago. My advice: Seek the resources out there, be open to understanding the Canadian workplace and, most of all, be persistent!
Amandine Martel is a Data Analyst at Northern Policy Institute. First published on Baakaakonaanan Ishkwaandemonan's Something to Think About, March 2017.
Baakaakonaanan Ishkwaandemonan - Opening Doors For You is an innovative new project led by the North Superior Workforce Planning Board, your Local Employment Planning Council (LEPC) in partnership with Northern Policy Institute. The project aims to help employers identify and access existing supports to hire individuals from these growing labour pools.
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