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How CultureLink Helped Me

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I decided to move to Canada with more than eight years of work experience in global business management and an international MBA. As someone who hired and managed senior professionals in India, Japan, and South Korea, I thought, what could be so different? I thought I knew how to find a job in Canada, yet it took me four months to find a job.

The truth is, finding a job in Canada is both easy and difficult. It is easy when you are well-prepared and difficult when you ‘think’ you are prepared but haven’t done the groundwork. For the first 50 days, I read online guides and did my best based on what I thought was obvious, but I still struggled to get an interview.

While looking for online resources, I met a fellow newcomer on LinkedIn who introduced me to JVF Toronto. At this point, I had heard of newcomer support agencies, but I thought I could do without them. I was so wrong! As I look back, I regret not applying to them before moving to Canada. Long story short, my JVF Toronto counsellor Irena Qatipi stepped in to give me a reality check. And among the many resources she offered, the CultureLink program has been the most useful.

CultureLink offers a very well-planned program spanning over a month. At first, it looks like a lot of investment and you wonder if you need to wait for a month to really know how to find a job in Canada, but then, it is worth it. Let me give you a snapshot of what I learned and found most impactful:

Reviewing the Resume: Oftentimes, our resume speaks in a manner we think everyone will understand. We underestimate the importance of numbers and underplay the impact of some of the initiatives we undertook during the course of our careers. Here, a panel of well-distinguished mentors who offer their guidance becomes very useful. We went through multiple rounds of revisions with different mentors. Some of the sessions were group discussions, picking examples of common errors and others were 1-1 discussions. My sincere appreciation for Sonya and Andrew Lockhart for being excellent teachers (and now friends!). Their dedication in helping me bring out the best of my experience onto the resume is beyond compare.

Beating the ATS: If you don’t know what ATS is, let me introduce it by calling it a machine-based security guard who doesn’t look at your candidature beyond a few lines of coding. When you apply to most well-established companies in Canada, your first barrier is ATS. If the keywords in your resume don’t overlap well enough with the ones in the job description, the system will throw you out of the list in most cases. From a logical standpoint, it may make sense, but we all come from different countries where terminologies differ and it is not immediately easy to speak in a language that the machine can read and evaluate our experiences positively. Again, CultureLink’s guidance on beating the ATS helped find a way through it.

Acing the Interviews: If it has been years since you interviewed for a job, and doing so in a different country will likely be your next hurdle. CultureLink’s sessions on understanding interview types, how to best prepare and master them, and the 1-1 practice sessions were of great help. A team of over 25 mentors from the industry stepped in to help us face real questions and become confident. In my opinion, technical interviews are far easier and more objective. It is behavioural interviews that are tricky. The tips and practice on handling STAR and non-STAR-based questions came in handy.

Networking: With so many sessions, mentors and participants – you are at one place where you can meet so many people with similar purposes and experiences. They are here to help, and that makes networking and referrals easier. It doesn’t matter what stage of your career you are at; you will find someone who can help you with local industry knowledge, perspectives, and best practices. 

In less than two months since I met CultureLink, I am now working with Assent Compliance as a Senior Consultant. Assent is a company that values diversity and has been more than fair in evaluating my candidature and welcoming me into their team. It’s been a pleasure interviewing with them, and I am glad I am starting my professional journey in Canada with them. Before joining Assent, I also spent a while volunteering with ‘Business in the Streets’ and LetsStopAIDs. I came across them through one of the sessions with CultureLink and I think the experience working with them made my days more purposeful. If you are someone who enjoys helping and working with people, I think the volunteering opportunities will help you meet similar minds, contribute to society and enhance your local experience.

Last but not least, the most important of all links at CultureLink is Eman El Atawy. The one lady who has kept us all together: the program, mentors, and the participants. She is our guardian in the new land who strives to make the best opportunities available for us. A wonderful person and a positive source of energy and motivation, she is one of the best programme leaders I have worked with. Thank you, Eman!

Kushal Bhardwaj

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