If you took our Canadian Workplace certificate course, you might remember an engaging interview video with Ndumiso. In the video he explained his creative way of finding work in his chosen field of telecommunications.

After moving to Canada from Swaziland, Ndumiso registered at NAIT and received his telecommunications diploma. Finding work after graduation, however, was not easy. Frustrated with online applications that never resulted in a response, he decided to go directly to the reception at a telecommunications company and ask where the employees who had the job he was looking for parked their trucks.

The receptionist indicated the correct parking lot and Ndumiso parked nearby to see if he could meet an employee and get some tips about finding employment. After a few conversations with the men as they left their trucks, one person told Ndumiso,

“Ask for my supervisor (name) – tell him I sent you.”

Equipped with both the employee and the supervisor’s name, Ndumiso went back to the reception and requested a meeting with the supervisor, who came out surprised thinking he didn’t have any interviews that day.

The short story is that Ndumiso gave his pitch, the supervisor liked his resume, set him up with an interview and Ndumiso was hired within the week. The title of Ndumiso’s video is, “If you don’t have a network, make your own.” That was three years ago.

Equipped with both the employee and the supervisor’s name, Ndumiso went back to the reception and requested a meeting with the supervisor, who came out surprised thinking he didn’t have any interviews that day.

The short story is that Ndumiso gave his pitch, the supervisor liked his resume, set him up with an interview and Ndumiso was hired within the week. The title of Ndumiso’s video is, “If you don’t have a network, make your own.” That was three years ago.

Recently I asked Ndumiso if I could interview him again to see how things had progressed in his career. He agreed to a videoconference interview, and was very helpful in pointing out my slow Internet speed and how I could get it fixed (having telecommunications friends certainly has benefits!).

Ndumiso is basically happy in his work.  He found that the job was pretty much what he expected and had been trained to do at NAIT. He didn’t have trouble integrating into the company or making friends in the workforce.  From setting up residential Internet, he learned to deal with a variety of residential problems and to feel comfortable with people from all kinds of backgrounds.

Personality-wise, Ndumiso has a very laid back and relaxed disposition. He is friendly and warm and is extremely knowledgeable about his field – all traits that easily win him the confidence of both his customers and his colleagues.

When I asked him about the kinds of struggles he had experienced he said the most difficult part of the job had been explaining to residential customers how the Internet works and why they needed to have upgrades or repairs. Most people were very reluctant to spend money on something as invisible and incomprehensible as the Internet, although they didn’t have trouble understanding that they might need new hardware.

He also found it strange understanding unionized environments. Having no experience with unions from Swaziland, making sense of the rules and regulations from both the management and the union was confusing at first. The bureaucracy of both could be frustrating and making sense of attitudes of union versus non-union employees also took some time.

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When an opportunity came up to apply for commercial internet work at the same company, Ndumiso took it and was happy to move into a position where he could continue to learn about the industry and advance towards his goal of becoming an expert in the field.

Ndumiso was hired for the commercial position and found that there were some differences he needed to get used to. For one, business owners understood very clearly how much they had at stake if their Internet was not functioning properly. They were quick to choose an option that would give them the best ability to serve their customers, and did not haggle about the price or complain that the service was too expensive. Additionally the commercial customers had much more complex problems to solve and the jobs took a long time to finish.

The upside was that Ndumiso had a great team to work with and access to other expert resources whenever necessary to get the commercial jobs done. Another perk was the appreciative attitude of commercial customers – something I can personally identify with…my gratitude at getting my business internet functioning properly and up to speed was over the moon!

I asked Ndumiso if he had experienced any inequities or problems in the workplace since starting to work in his chosen field. He said that there were issues with salary differences between groups and that it was clear minorities were not being provided with the same salaries or opportunities to advance as Canadian-born employees. He has brought this up twice to decision makers who agreed it was a problem and said they are “working on it”.

After 18 months there have not been any changes and that has been disappointing. In response, Ndumiso has considered applying to work in other companies. He is confident that he can bring up problems to his workplace and not be targeted for doing so, which is somewhat consoling. He also said his salary allows him to cover his mortgage and basic living expenses, so he has decided to stay and see what happens. He would like to continue learning as much as he can and that is his key goal at the moment.

As an aside, Ndumiso has been learning about real estate investing and is doing well with this initiative. He is using the opportunity of having a steady job and salary to build up his real estate investments and experiment with the market. In his spare time, he is playing soccer and has become an avid hockey fan.

So what are some takeaways from Ndumiso’s experience?

Here are the 9 lessons I want to share:

#1. It can be difficult to find work if you only apply online – Better to think of creative ways to find real people to get around this problem.

#2. Put yourself out there and be willing to pitch your skills – A confident job applicant makes a good impression. Focus on your goal, not any fear of being rejected.

#3. Take the time to know your workplace – Be patient with what you need to learn to make sense of the new environment.

#4. Observe your colleagues, get to know them, & make efforts to be helpful – Finding “inside advocates” can be one of the best ways to move up in your organization

#5. Permanent positions bring greater job security – When you are settled in an organization, particularly if there is a union, it is possible to take issues to decision makers without fearing loss of employment.

#6. You may not get results when you bring an issue to a decision-maker – Reflect on what you want to do and make a measured decision that is not based on emotion.

#7. You are the builder of your own career – Look for opportunities to advance within the company and don’t wait for someone to offer them to you.

#8. A job is only one aspect of your career – Think about other ways you can make money, such as real estate or a small business.

#9. Take time to do the things you love – Pursuing a hobby makes you a happier person and a more interesting colleague.

Building a career in Canada takes perseverance, creativity, and a willingness to share a piece of yourself with your organization. It will always be a process – always new options, challenges, and opportunities – and the more skills you have to navigate that process, the better.

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