Even though many countries around the world, Canada included, are making progress when it comes to ‘flattening the curve,’ the COVID-19 pandemic continues to drastically affect all aspects of our lives. Undoubtedly, the economic effects are some of the most challenging fallout and for jobseekers, especially those who are newcomers to Canada, this downturn creates uncertainty that has left many scrambling to figure out their next move.
As an immigrant myself, and a researcher by profession, I wanted to find out if the situation was really as bleak as it seemed, and hopefully find some insights from employers and the sector that could help newcomers navigate this volatile job market. So, I went to the data.
I won’t sugarcoat it, as it stands today, COVID-19 has definitely had a brutal effect on Canadian jobs and economy, with International Monetary Fund estimating that the Canadian economy will contract around 6.2% in 2020. In March, the country lost around one million jobs, particularly in the service sector (retail, hotels and restaurants). This was followed by another two million jobs in April, with the losses spreading to the manufacturing and construction industries.
But, the news isn’t all bad, we also know that not all sectors and jobs are equally affected. The scale of the crisis is unlikely to leave any sector unscratched, but as things stand, some sectors (ones where immigrant jobs are concentrated) such as finance and insurance and professional, scientific and technical services are under less pressure. And while these industries are managing, others are even on the rise, with employers in fields like e-commerce and IT reportedly trying to fill jobs.
Looking longer term, while economic recovery plans are rolling out slowly, and differ based on industry, and even organization, we do know that the contribution of immigrants has been a key source of growth and global expertise for Canada, with the federal government saying COVID-19 has further validated the country’s need for robust immigration.
So within this rapidly-shifting job market, what could you, as a newcomer, do to navigate the uncertain and find quality jobs?
- Diversify your job search: Given the varying impact of COVID-19, consider looking beyond the sectors that you have previously worked in focusing on your transferable skills. Many occupations exist across multiple sectors. Using some online research determine what kind of roles companies are hiring for, or letting go of, to inform your job search- it’s completely fine to customize your resume for different job applications, emphasizing your skills and experience that best apply.
- Build your network virtually: Many jobs are not posted publicly, but shared through contacts in a hidden job market, so networking is critical to access these opportunities. Social distancing has grown many professionals’ comfort with virtual communication and connection so take advantage of the digital tools at your disposal by using this time to ramp up your efforts on platforms like LinkedIn. Reach out and connect with people who share your interests or work in your field and aim to build genuine rapport.
- Expand your skill set: There is more online learning content for professional development than ever. For instance, a Toronto Public Library card, provides free access to video courses on Lynda.com on a wide range of topics, from web design and software development, to project management. A range of other learning providers who usually charge for their courses are offering free trials and steep discounts, so allocating some extra time now to learning new skills can pay off later in improving your career prospects.
- Advance your professional brand: Hand in hand with networking is communicating your personal brand – let your professional connections know what your skills and expertise are, and equally importantly, where your passions and ambitions lie. One of the best ways to do this is creating content – for instance, consider writing about how a certain skill or a course you have taken helped you to solve a business problem your or your colleagues were facing, or an inspiring member of your volunteer community who has made a difference during the pandemic. This not only showcases your skills but also help your connections to learn from you, creating opportunities for dialogue as you work to grow your network.
- Use available supports: There are many free-of-charge employment support services available to newcomer professionals. You may think as an experienced professional that you’re beyond workshops or trainings, but since these services are geared towards professionals (and some are even sector specific) they can provide you with new perspectives and job search skills unique to the Canadian hiring environment. Committing to online research and choosing the right set of services for you, whether it’s the occupation-specific language, networking and/or resume-building skills that you would like to improve, will make sure you find the programming most relevant to your immediate and longer term career needs.
- Be compassionate: During your job search, you will be reaching out to others to connect, often asking for advice and tips. It is important to remember that the existing uncertainty is taking a toll on everyone. Established immigrants or people born here are facing their own myriad of challenges, so they might not have the same time to dedicate to mentoring and support. The informational interview that used to be an excuse to meet someone new for a cup of coffee outside the office is now another Zoom call – on top of remote work, childcare and all the worries of a pandemic. Exercise patience, kindness and compassion for others, and for yourself. Remember the ways your immigration journey has required your resilience, agility and flexibility and lean on those internal resources as we all work toward economic recovery, and you work toward finding your place in the job market.