Newcomers to Canada already faced an uphill task of adjusting to their new life and starting a career in Canada, but COVID-related restrictions made things even harder. However, after an initial period of adjustment, virtual networking and remote job interviews have become the norm.
Now, even with COVID-19 restrictions easing and people getting vaccinated, some aspects of the “new normal” are expected to continue for the foreseeable future. Due to its relative convenience, virtual networking will likely remain a popular means of building professional connections.
This article covers key aspects of how to network virtually and the things you need to know about virtual networking for professional success as a newcomer in Canada.
Advantages of virtual networking
Start building your Canadian network before you land
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, networking was mostly done in-person, which meant that newcomers to Canada could only start building their network after arriving in the country.
However, with virtual networking, newcomers have the opportunity to start building their network well in advance of their arrival in Canada. You can start attending virtual networking events or meeting people for online coffee chats while preparing for your move. It can take months to cultivate meaningful professional relationships, so the sooner you start, the better prepared you’ll be to enter the Canadian job market when you land.
Opportunity to look beyond your city
One major disadvantage of in-person networking is that it geographically limits the people you can meet. With virtual networking, you can connect with experts or professionals, regardless of where they live.
If you’re still preparing for your arrival, this gives you a chance to speak to people in different cities and figure out where the best job opportunities are for your industry in Canada. You can also learn about different job markets within Canada and plan your career path based on insights from a more geographically diverse set of people.
The convenience of networking from home
Attending events and networking meetings is time-consuming. By networking virtually, you can save the time it would take you to travel to the event venue or meeting place. This means that you can accommodate more coffee chats in a day and build your network faster.
Many newcomers find it much easier to network from the comfort of their homes, compared to the unfamiliar and chaotic environment of a coffee shop. Since you are the person requesting the meeting, it is expected that you’ll be paying the bill for coffee during in-person meetings. These amounts can quickly add up and might impact your budget, especially if you’re meeting several people each week.
In most cases, virtual meetings are also more convenient for the professionals you’re meeting, so your acceptance rate for virtual coffee chats may be higher than for in-person meetings.
Easier to follow up and stay in touch
Once you’ve made a connection and had an introductory meeting, it is important that you stay in touch with your new contact. However, as your network grows larger, it can become challenging to follow up with everyone on a regular basis—especially if you’re doing these meetings in-person.
It’s much easier to stay connected and engage virtually over follow up coffee chats, emails, or social media. This will allow you to follow up more often and build stronger, more meaningful connections.
How to build your network virtually as a newcomer in Canada
Whether you’re looking to network or find a job, it is important that you keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date. Your Linked In profile will likely be the first thing people see when they connect with you. Unlike a resume, which is customized for each job, your LinkedIn profile should be generic and should highlight all your skills, experiences, and certifications. Be sure to use a professional headshot and grab people’s attention with a compelling headline.
Use LinkedIn’s advanced search filters to find new connections based on their organization, job title, and other criteria. Always personalize your LinkedIn connection request messages. You can also increase your visibility and promote your personal brand by being active on LinkedIn. Post, share, and engage with relevant content to get noticed by other professionals.
Interact over social media
As a newcomer, LinkedIn is not the only social network you can use to build a network. You can also find professionals you’d like to connect with on Twitter and initiate a conversation. Depending on your industry, Instagram and Facebook groups might be useful platforms for networking—but make sure your profile is professional! Clubhouse is another app where you can virtually meet and share ideas with like-minded people, listen to expert speakers, and ask questions. If your initial interactions go well, ask for a follow up coffee chat to take the conversation forward.
Online networking platforms and virtual events
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, most networking events have moved to a virtual setting. Virtual networking platforms bring together people from similar industries and give you an opportunity to start making connections.
Events hosted by industry associations are a great place to meet other professionals in your field. You can also find virtual networking events for different industries and interests on websites like Eventbrite and Meetup. Arrive webinars and workshops are also a great place to learn from and connect with experts. Leave a positive impression on others attending the networking session by behaving professionally and asking intelligent questions.
Virtual coffee chats
Online coffee chats (also called informational interviews) using tools like Zoom, Google Meet, and Webex, are a great way to build your network virtually. Once you’ve connected with someone on LinkedIn or at a virtual networking event, ask if they’d be open to a one-on-one meeting. Virtual coffee chats give you an opportunity to introduce yourself to established professionals in your industry, showcase your skills, and position yourself as an ideal candidate for future job openings. You can also seek recommendations on other people you should add to your network.
If you’re looking for information about a specific organization, role, or industry, informational interviews can be particularly helpful. Be sure to do your research beforehand and have a list of questions ready.
Reactivate your existing network
As a newcomer, you’ll have to start building your network from scratch in Canada. However, there might be others in your network who are already in Canada. Speak with your friends and family to find out who you might already know here. You can also use LinkedIn to find alumni from your school or colleagues from your previous organizations who’ve since moved to Canada. Leverage your existing network to get introductions to other people in your industry or for job referrals.
How do you effectively network virtually?
- Do your research. Learn what you can about the person you’re meeting beforehand and customize your questions accordingly. Going in prepared will make it more likely for you to get the information you’re looking for, and to make a good impression.
- Do check your technology. Make sure your internet connection, microphone and camera are in perfect working order before your virtual meeting. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the video call platform prior to your meeting. Always keep your camera on during meetings and if there’s noise in your background, put yourself on mute when the other person is talking.
- Do be professional. Go in with a list of topics you’d like to discuss and don’t ask personal questions. Be punctual and dress the way you would for in-person networking meetings. Create an appropriate work setting and keep your desk and background distraction-free. If you don’t have a dedicated workspace, apply a professional virtual background in your video call tool.
- Do be authentic and offer value. Express genuine interest in what people have to say and learn from their experience. Find ways to help the people you’re meeting—it’s a great way to demonstrate your skills in practice!
- Don’t skip the small talk. In Canada, small talk is a cultural practice, so make sure you allocate some time for it while creating your meeting agenda. It’s also a great way of breaking the ice and getting to know people you’re meeting and relate to them outside of their professional life.
- Don’t mistake your elevator pitch for a sales pitch. Your elevator pitch is a brief 30 second introduction meant to capture the other person’s interest. Highlight your skills, strengths, and achievements, but don’t oversell yourself.
- Don’t interrupt or multitask. Appreciate the fact that someone has taken the time to talk to you and pay attention to what they have to say. It’s rude to interrupt or check your phone when someone else is speaking. It can be very distracting, and more importantly, it gives people the impression that you aren’t interested in what they have to say. Be sure to put your phone on silent during networking meetings. There might be other distractions around you at home, such as children or pets, so find a quiet place for meetings.
- Don’t forget to follow up. If you’re meeting several new people every week, it can be hard to keep the conversation going with all of them. However, regular follow up is the best way to maintain professional relationships. Keep track of all your virtual meetings and create a realistic follow up schedule.
- Virtual networking has made it easier and more convenient for newcomers to expand their professional networks. As a newcomer to Canada, there are many online platforms and events you can leverage to start building your personal brand and growing your network virtually一even before you come to Canada.
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.