Public library helps newcomers tap into the ‘hidden job market’

Calgary has been billed as the land of opportunities for immigrants. But many of them have difficulties tapping into those opportunities – something the city’s public library is trying to change.

“Many immigrants come with extensive international experience; but, to their dismay, find out that it is not adequate enough to penetrate the labour market in Calgary,” said Anuradha Ramkumar, a program co-ordinator at Immigrant Services Calgary. 

The reason, according to career developer Gurpreet Dara, is that 80 per cent of the jobs in Calgary are obtained through networking.

 “There are more jobs in the hidden job market that hardly ever get advertised,” she explained. 

That is why, a year ago, the Calgary Public Library started a program called ‘Thursday networking nights.’ At those meetings anyone — not only immigrants — can get input on their resumes and, most importantly, learn how to start a conversation that could get them their dream job.

“It is about finding the opportunities to create these relationships. They do not come as easily for a newcomer because they do not know that many people,” said Lidia Bomba-Sorbo, volunteer facilitator for Calgary Public Library’s strategic networking program.

However, the co-ordinator of that program, Roberta Kuzyk-Burton, said its participants “turned out to be this lovely collection of people from all different backgrounds and all different types that just come together to share ideas and share leads.”

Padma Gurung is one of them. She is an accounting professional who moved to Calgary five months ago from Nepal.

“As a new immigrant you hardly know people when you come to a new country,” she said, adding the networking sessions also give participants an opportunity to make “friends in the long-term” and “feel more social.”

Gurung expects to find a job in a month or two with the help of the networking sessions.

But Silvia Pinto, a Venezuelan lawyer currently living in Calgary, said more still needs to be done for immigrants – especially professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, who can have difficulty getting accredited to practice their careers in Canada.

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