It’s been exactly a year since job hunting became my full-time job.
“Send out 300 résumés, get 10 interviews and one job” read the golden rule of job hunting featured in the “101 – Intro to Canada for Immigrants” booklet, which I read religiously while getting ready to finally start a “better life” in a “better country,” famous for its spirit of acceptance and famously polite people.
Many months and years have passed me by … I am currently completing my 14th spin around the Sun while in Canada and I still think Canadians are extremely nice people. However, I am beginning to doubt Canadian employers’ spirit of acceptance when it comes to hiring a communications specialist with a foreign background and accent (well, I guess British or Australian don’t count since they are perceived as “sought after”).
In the past 12 months, I have sent several 1,000 job applications (close to 3,000 by my rough count). I received a few hundred “thank you for your applying” letters, spiced up with polite-yet-utterly-soulless phrases such as “… but we have decided to pursue other candidates” and ”… please keep visiting our career section.” I almost prefer being sent a rejection letter full of expletives and insults. It would at least feel like I’ve been rejected by a person and not by some cutting-edge software.
I did land one face-to-face interview with RBC’s (Royal Bank of Canada’s) communications manager and five or six telephone (screening) interviews, one of them with IBM. Every single time, while preparing for the interview, I could see myself as a rising star in the company, being the creative force behind their success and finally gaining respect and appreciation for my knowledge and skill.
I almost prefer being sent a rejection letter full of expletives and insults. It would at least feel like I’ve been rejected by a person and not by some cutting-edge software.
Alas, as soon as the overly polite and full-of-praise recruiters started interviewing me, I could almost visualize their enthusiasm jumping on to a passing train of thoughts and fading away into misty nothingness.
Fairly intelligent guy
Hey, after all, I like to think of myself as being an educated, informed and fairly intelligent guy, with more good than bad personality traits (well, at least I hope).
Math was never my strongest suit (that’s one of the reasons I studied journalism), but it doesn’t really take Stephen Hawking to realize the improbability of this statistical outcome: a dude at the apex of his career, with a Master of Journalism degree from a reputable Canadian university and many years of experience (most of it Canadian), cannot find a job in his field of expertise in the city where some 65% of Canadian media industry is found. And I’ve been sending résumés day in and day out. I can enter all my personal information into the “register your profile” fields blindfolded.
Three thousand résumés, six interviews. One year.
Nada, zero, zilch, null, no jobs!!!
50% my fault
There must be something else at play here. Either that or I should consider visiting that black-magic curse removal parlour in my neighbourhood that used to make me chuckle every time I passed by. Perhaps that Haitian old woman who tied some sort of hairy string around my wrist had something to do with my unemployment situation?
Call me crazy, but I prefer to think it’s only 50% my fault. I have read more career advice articles than I can remember. I tried every single approach, from “shotgun” to “sniper” distribution. I polished my résumé to the point where it can be used as a mirror for the latest generation of space telescopes. I networked (as much as possible when on a low budget), learned new skills (even started learning Mandarin), and even took classes on public speaking at Ryerson. The only thing I didn’t do was to beg. I don’t do begging.
I’ve seen people much less skilled and educated making it up the corporate ladder by skipping several steps in one go.
It is not hard to imagine why this happens. People are, in general, hard-wired to distrust strangers. Of course, no one likes to admit it because it goes against the official policy of inclusiveness and feeling of self-righteousness, but modern corporate language is sophisticated and meaningless enough to convey all the ambiguities one can come up with. So, please, feel free to apply for any job, because they have thousands of extremely polite ways to reject you: “Although your qualifications were impressive, we regret to inform you that you have not been selected for an interview” means: “I don’t think you can do this job as well as someone born and raised in Canada.”
This is a vicious circle and self-fulfilling prophecy, because the people who don’t get opportunities cannot gain experience, and without experience they cannot get a job. Without a job, people lose self-confidence and become desperate or bitter. And no one likes to work with the bitter desperados.
Invisible force field
It is also a part of the deep-seated subconscious defensive mechanism that insiders in every human society (yes, it does include Canada, too) use to protect their status and privileges. I am certainly not the first nor the last person to experience this invisible force field, and much ink has been spilled over this phenomenon, but this problem persists in being the major hurdle for immigrants in Canada.
Surely, people can be more useful to Canadian society than sending out countless CV’s.
People are, in general, hard-wired to distrust strangers.
I am aware of the contemporary mantra that “It takes only seven seconds to make a first impression,” which is deeply ingrained in the neural patterns of Human Resources (HR) folks. I also know that 90% of all candidates are automatically eliminated by the screening software. I am not completely oblivious to the fact that cutthroat competition and return-on-investment rules do not tolerate risk and mistakes, making everyone in the business, including HR people, fear for their jobs more than “Game of Thrones” actors.
What boggles my mind is the fact that members of the general public would rather “Ooooh” and “Aaaah” about a “cute puppy” story than take a minute to think about how much knowledge, education, hard work and invaluable potential is wasted by judging immigrants superficially. We are all biased in one or another way, but for the sake of this country’s future, don’t listen to how I speak. Listen to what I am saying.
Zoran Vidić is a communications expert and journalist. He began his career in 1997 as a reporter for a major daily in Belgrade, Serbia, and moved to Ottawa, Canada in 2001. Upon completion of his Master of Journalism degree at Carleton University, he worked as a communications officer for the Métis National Council, and completed various contracts for the governments of Canada and Ontario. Since 2012, he has been based in Toronto and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read also: Zoran’s review of Josip Novakovich’s Shopping for a Better Country, Dzanc Books, 2012