Your professional network will be one of your most valuable assets in the Canadian job market. Whether you’re trying to land your first job or are looking for a mentor, your network can play an important role in helping you achieve professional success in Canada.
As a newcomer to Canada, you’ll have to work harder and refine your networking skills to build connections from scratch in your new country. This article will provide you with tips to help you build your networking skills, so you can start nurturing meaningful professional relationships.
1. Understand that communication is two-sided
One of the many advantages of networking is that it’s as much about promoting your personal brand as it is about learning from the experience of others.
When someone takes time to speak with you, give them a chance to talk. Active, attentive listening is an essential networking skill that ensures you absorb the information being shared with you. You can then ask intelligent, relevant questions and get insights that might be useful for your professional success in Canada.
Keep distractions away and focus on the conversation. It is rude to interrupt when someone is talking, so save your questions until they’ve finished speaking.
2. Improve your public speaking skills
Many newcomers avoid networking or public speaking as they lack confidence in their English language or interpersonal skills. However, practice is the best way to overcome the fear of speaking in public.
Take the time to work on your language skills. There are many English as a Second Language (ESL) resources and community groups available across the country to help newcomers improve their speaking and listening skills.
Practice speaking in front of a mirror or with your friends. Don’t feel insecure if you have an accent or have trouble understanding some words. Remember, Canada is a diverse, multicultural country, and most people are accepting of the fact that English may not be your first language.
3. Practice both verbal and non-verbal communication
What you say is only half the image you present—non-verbal communication is just as important. Your body language conveys a lot about your personality and how engaged you are in a meeting.
Avoid crossing your arms, closing your fists tightly, or hunching your shoulders, as this can make you seem unfriendly. Practice smiling and gesturing with your hands as you talk in front of a mirror. Be aware of your posture and make eye contact with the people you are talking to.
While networking in-person, speak confidently. Respect people’s personal space and avoid standing too close to them.
4. Learn the art of small talk
Small talk is culturally important in Canada. It serves as an icebreaker before you get to the actual topic of conversation.
Since small talk is meant to create a safe, comfortable environment, be sure to choose non-controversial, light topics. Some common small talk topics include the weather, sports, arts, entertainment, hobbies, and current events. Stay away from topics like politics, personal or family matters, income, and religion.
As a newcomer, you can build your small talk skills by staying up-to-date on the news, developing an interest in Canadian arts, culture, and, of course, sports.
5. Ask for constructive feedback
An easy way to build your networking skills is to get an honest opinion on what you maybe doing wrong or need to improve. Before an important networking meeting, do a practice run with some friends and ask them for feedback on your small talk, elevator pitch, questions, and overall communication skills.
You can also ask for constructive feedback towards the end of your networking meetings. Be open and humble when you ask for tips to help you build your networking skills. In most cases, people are willing to offer guidance and insights that you can leverage in future meetings.
6. Give before you get
One mistake many newcomers make is to only think about what they can get out of a connection, without considering what they may be able to offer in return. Networking is not one-sided, so be sure to make a list of your unique skills and strengths before you start.
Even if you are new to the Canadian job market, review the LinkedIn profile of the person you’re going to meet to understand their role and see where you can contribute. During your meeting, convey your willingness to help and ask if there’s anything you can support them with.
By offering to give before you get, you can build meaningful connections and also prove your value to your network. Once they’ve seen your skills in action, they’ll be more likely to offer guidance, connect you to others, or refer you to job opportunities.
7. Attend networking events and workshops
One way to build your networking skills is to jump right in and start networking. Look for both virtual and in-person networking events on industry association websites or on platforms like Eventbrite and Meetup, and attend as many as you can.
In addition to making connections, this will also give you a chance to observe the way other people network. You’ll be able to pick up best practices related to small talk, ways to introduce yourself, verbal and non-verbal communication, and questions to ask. If you meet someone particularly impressive, don’t hesitate to follow up and ask if they would be willing to share some tips to help you network better.
8. Prepare, prepare, prepare
When it comes to networking meetings, preparation can make all the difference. Put your research skills to good use and learn as much as you can about the background, role, and career path of the individual you’re going to meet.
Know what you want to get from your networking meetings—further connections, guidance, or referrals. Prepare a list of questions accordingly, and customize your list based on each person’s industry, skills, and position.
Finally, spend some time creating an engaging, authentic elevator pitch. Remember that an elevator pitch is not a sales pitch, but a chance to tell your story and highlight your skills in an impactful way.
9. Ask for recommendations and introductions
In Canada, every professional you meet will likely have their own network. As a newcomer, it might not be easy to ask the people you meet to connect you with others. This is a networking skill that you’ll need to build as you start to grow and nurture your network.
Before you meet someone for a coffee chat, go through their LinkedIn network and see if they know someone you’d like to be introduced to. If you’re looking for specific information or trying to build a particular skill, it is a good idea to ask your connections if they can recommend someone in their industry or organization who might be able to help.
If you’ve cultivated a meaningful relationship, you might also be able to get an introduction to someone in their network. When you are introduced to a person by someone they know and trust, they are more likely to take out time to speak with you.
10. Keep track of your networking meetings
For most newcomers, the first few months of networking can be overwhelming. Since you’re building your network from scratch in Canada, you might be meeting as many as four or five people each week. This makes it hard to keep track of who you’ve met and what you discussed. As a result, you might forget valuable insights or miss out on following up with some people.
Keeping track of your meetings is an important networking skill. Create a list with names of people you meet, meeting dates, their designations and organization, discussion points, and follow-up actions. When you set up follow-up meetings, you’ll be able to refer to your list to review points that you had discussed with them earlier.
This list can also help you identify connections who might be useful when you’re applying for a job. You’ll also be able to clearly see gaps in your network, such as industries you don’t have connections in, so you can focus on those in the future.
11. Follow up and follow through
Building meaningful professional relationships takes time and in most cases, the first meeting is only an introduction. The value you can leverage from your connections often depends on how much time and effort you invest in maintaining them.
You can start by sending a personalized thank you note within 24 hours of your meeting. If you’ve agreed upon any action items during your meetings, don’t forget to deliver on them.
After your initial meeting, you can keep the conversation going by regularly sharing relevant developments and insights, engaging on their social media posts, or asking for their opinion on topics related to the ones you discussed.
12. Don’t give up
Finally, patience is another skill you’ll need as you start building your network in Canada. It’s easy to become demotivated when your LinkedIn connection requests go unanswered or when the people you connect with online are unwilling to meet you. Even after the initial coffee chats, some of your connections may not be able or willing to offer you the advice, guidance, or contacts you need.
It takes time to nurture relationships and identify how and where someone might be able to add value. You might also have to demonstrate your own willingness to help before someone agrees to support you. Even if some meetings don’t go as well as you had hoped, don’t give up. Each new meeting is a learning opportunity, so keep an open mind. Remember that it only takes one connection or referral to land your dream job in Canada.
Networking plays a crucial role in the Canadian job market. However, networking may not come naturally to everyone. As a newcomer to Canada, improving your networking skills will help you build meaningful relationships with people who can bring you closer to achieving your career goals.
Arrive is powered by RBC Ventures Inc, a subsidiary of Royal Bank of Canada. In collaboration with RBC, Arrive is dedicated to helping newcomers achieve their life, career, and financial goals in Canada. An important part of establishing your financial life in Canada is finding the right partner to invest in your financial success. RBC is the largest bank in Canada* and here to be your partner in all of your financial needs.
Shikha Bhuchar Co-Founder, Arrive | Director, RBC Ventures
Shikha Bhuchar is a proactive, purpose-driven leader who is passionate about solving complex customer and community-based challenges.