This week we sat down (virtually) with Josh Schachnow, a Toronto based Canadian immigration lawyer and CEO of Visto.ai. The Visto.ai platform helps skilled workers in Canada and around the world navigate their immigration journey. In his work, Josh has helped many newcomers with technical skills to immigrate to Canada.
In this discussion, we delved into how international students can better position themselves to enter the Canadian tech world with confidence.
Devant – What are some top trends you’re noticing in the Canadian tech world, and how can international students and recent graduates take advantage of it?
Josh – Unfortunately COVID has had a big effect on some companies and their hiring, but there are still opportunities in the tech world across Canada. Luckily for the tech industry, they haven’t been affected too much because of their ability to have employees work remotely. Therefore, a lot of companies are working as usual. In fact, a good number are continuing to onboard talent. Many of these opportunities are with internationally based companies that are choosing to set up shop in Canada. This is a big advantage for international students because they already understand and have an appreciation for international mobility.
Some areas that are particularly growing include larger cities like Toronto and Vancouver, but there are also emerging tech hubs in Waterloo/Kitchener and Kanara (Ottawa). A great advantage for international students is the ability to be mobile, whereas many domestic students are looking to stay in their home communities.
How do international students and graduates find these opportunities?
My focus at Visto.ai is to help with the immigration pathway, but I would say you should take advantage of organizations like Devant. It comes down to doing the employer research and networking. Taking the time and using the best tools to find technology companies – large and small suited to your skillset and goals. You can also look for technology hubs such as TechAlliance in London, Ontario, or TechConnex in the GTA to scout out the various member companies. There are resources like these available in every major region that will help you more effectively conduct employer research.
We also have a ton of awesome content in the free Visto portal that will help with researching companies, improving your resume and networking in Canada.
We often hear a lot from our employer community about the importance of so-called “soft skills.” What can you tell our readers about this aspect of career development?
More than ever companies are looking for qualifications that go beyond grades and hard skills. They tend to assume you have the core hard skills, based on your education and work experience. However, they are very curious about how you can bring value-added soft skills like creativity, motivation, and entrepreneurial spirit to the team. Think about how your experiences in organizations, start-ups of your own, projects at school, internships, and reference letters can showcase these soft skills.
What can you tell our readers about building their tech and soft skill portfolio?
One way to do this is to make use of internships and co-ops work programs. It’s a great way to use your summers off, often make some money, and develop more skills. If you previously completed a ‘work term’, whether in Canada or elsewhere, emphasize the success you had in working on those soft skills. There are ways to talk about those skills that are more effective and consistent with the Canadian workplace culture. As an example, you could attend one or more of the Devant workshops and/or work with a career coach that can help you maximize the language on your resume and cover letter, etc.
Another way to create a more robust portfolio is to “Canadian-nize” your international experience. Think about how you can spin your experience to show Canadian companies and hiring managers the relevance of your foreign experience. Go beyond simply listing experiences. Make it obvious how your past experiences tie directly into the role. Remember to include the broader social skill benefits that you will bring to the team.
Finally, I would highly encourage candidates to network however they can. You may not be able to attend an in-person event right now, but there is a wealth of opportunities for online networking through LinkedIn, workshops, and webinars. Try to reach out to people who have roles you’re interested in or companies your interested in working in. Then, think about how you can take an initial connection to a zoom or phone call. Keep your requests simple and genuine to get the best results.
Let’s bring immigration into this process of resume building, networking, and job search. What are some things to keep in mind for international students and recent graduates?
If you’re graduating, work towards getting one year of skilled work experience for the best chance for PR. If you are currently a student, think about things you can do now that will help you land that job – e.g. getting an internship, attending events (online or offline), building your social presence online. Remember to submit a proper post-grad work permit application after you land your first job. We have a great guide that will help you with it if interested. If you are considering Canada in the long run, your Canadian degree plus one year of work puts you in a great position towards being approved for PR.
In addition, stay up to date with news and changes, IRCC processing practices, and travel rules. You can also follow trusted resources on social media and sign up for industry-specific newsletters to stay updated.
Josh will be participating in our Expert Panel: Careers in Technology for International Students on July 8th alongside Annie Tharani from TechConnex and members of the Devant team. Register now to lock in your spot.