When I volunteered to be a panelist at the Employment Opportunity Exchange Victoria (EOE) 2019 in May, I thought that it was mandatory to prepare myself beforehand for the event. I kind of ignored all those suggestions telling me to be as authentic as possible. To be honest, such advice sounded naïve. In my perfectionist mind, there was no other way to have a good performance giving a public speech without preparation; so that was what I did. I wrote pages and pages, trying to anticipate any question that would come. I even consulted with a former teacher to help me prepare my speech. While talking with him, I started to realize that spontaneity was the key, after all.
Although the preparation played an important role in making me reflect deeply about my journey so far, I finally understood that the only way to be helpful, inspirational, and sound interesting was indeed “being myself.” How could it be different? After all, the focal point of the discussion was to address the issues and challenges faced by newcomers, and I could only help with that by being honest.
Even if I had that in mind, it was still hard for me the concept the idea of helping my fellow newcomers since I was myself still figuring things out. While listening to several inspiring testimonials in the course of the event, I learned that even people who have lived in Canada for more than 10 years still consider themselves “beginners.” I found that particularly touching, and I empathized with their struggle. I interpreted this as: we are never ready; there is always something to learn. It is not only moving from overseas that can be tough, people who have moved from other Canadian cities and provinces have similar struggles, despite not having to deal with the language barriers. It shows us, one more time, that being an immigrant doesn’t mean being inferior.
Each of us, panelists, received the script shortly before the event. Oddly enough, amongst the topics, the trickiest for me was “the reasons why I moved to Canada.” You know, the simplest questions tend to be the trickiest ones. Immigrating involves so many aspects and sentiments that it is hard to think of each one of them separately. All of us, panelists, were from different countries and had completely diverse backgrounds but one thing in common: we were all looking for meaningful connections and opportunities. We were there to share our concerns but also to demonstrate our competence, skills, and knowledge. On the other end, employers committed to inclusive workplaces and a culture of diversity could understand better our issues while learning about our strengths.
I shared the story about the three job interviews I had had in Canada and how I gradually became better at it. It is all about confidence. Naturally, you don’t master one thing that you have never done before; it takes practice. You need to try things out before getting it right. But it may be hard for immigrants to get it, particularly the ones from a higher professional position back in their countries. I feel that starting all over in a new country is like being a baby again, having to learn everything from the beginning. Many of us are not proud of it but we need to bear in mind that this is an opportunity to prove to ourselves what we are capable of achieving.
My topic was mainly about the emotional aspect of pursuing a career in a new country and how important it is to identify the difference between lacking competence and lacking confidence. Most of the time, we are competent enough for the job position, but frequently uncertain about our capacity.
The smiles and nodding heads gave me positive feedback about the topic I chose to explore. I could see empathy in the attendees’ eyes. Right after the panel, people approached me to chat, to say what they thought about my story and to congratulate me. That was rewarding for me. I then got invited for a job interview and I also got a dinner invitation (because I mentioned how I miss Brazilian food in my speech).
Dynamic Engagement Tables
The EOE agenda was carefully thought out to attend to both newcomers’ and local businesses’ needs. Right after the panel, engagement tables were set up so employers and employees could engage in meaningful conversations. Each engagement table was led by a cultural competency expert who facilitated the conversation, which was very like a group interview—what we could bring to the company and what the company expected from us were the main themes we explored. Everybody had the chance to circulate and connect with mostly everyone. As a newcomer, I could understand better what the employers were looking for in a candidate, and employers could get to know our qualities as well.
Network is everything
A fantastic lunch was provided, which turned out to be an opportunity to build connections in a relaxed environment with delicious food. Strategically before lunch, we got a quick tutorial of how to search for LinkedIn contacts by location. During the lunch break, we got to know better those we found interesting based on their LinkedIn profile. For those who forgot their business cards, that was a second chance to remind them to connect after the event. Moreover, three lucky participants won the opportunity for the Here Magazine photographer to take their professional head shots to feature on their LinkedIn profiles—a prize valued at $200.
The other two final sessions of the event were the one-on-one employer informational sessions and the career fair, both great opportunities for participants to converse with employers. Overall, the EOE was an excellent opportunity for our community to create meaningful and sustainable employment opportunities together.
Finally, to make the most of summertime and to thank all volunteers who contributed their talents to the Employment Opportunity Exchange 2019, we joined together for a picnic at the Beacon Hill Park. A delightful afternoon full of happiness, delicious food, great pictures, and socialization. At the occasion, the Here Magazine Spring/Summer 2019 Issue was launched, now out in bookstores nationwide and available on Apple Books.