How Meena Dowlwani Delivers Career Results For New Canadians

Meena Dowlwani​, CHRM

Meena Dowlwani​, CHRM

Moving to a new country is exciting. Immigration is often the result of months or years of planning, research and logistics. Unfortunately, many highly educated and capable new Canadians struggle to find rewarding professional opportunities. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Enter Meena Dowlwani.

Among other roles, she serves as a Humber College instructor who has achieved great career results since arriving in Canada in 1999. Even better, she is now sharing her experience through courses, seminars and the forthcoming book Destination CEO. I discovered Meena earlier this year via Kickstarter and happily signed up to support her Kickstarter project.

Why This Article Is For Everyone, Not Only Immigrants

Some readers may assume that this article will only help new arrivals, new Canadians or immigrants. That is not so! Starting over in a new country represents a significant career change to be sure. The strategies developed to overcome that challenge apply to other career changes: switching industries or moving from an individual contributor to management. With that note, let’s dive into Meena’s perspective.

1. How have you developed your career?

I arrived in Canada in 1999 and faced major challenges in my career. I learned the importance of making the most of jobs I held early on when I started as a receptionist at the YMCA. By connecting with other managers and learning about what people wanted from the organization, I was able to advance.

Later on, I developed my business skills and went into the recruiting industry for several years. In recruiting, I set a goal to build relationships with many of Canada’s best managed companies and developed many connections. That experience helped me to understand what employers want from candidates and the hiring process. All of these experiences inform my current work teaching at Humber College and my other projects.

2. What results have your students achieved at Humber College?

I teach Career Connections at the Humber College School of Media Studies & Information Technology. Through this program, I guide IT professionals – including many new Canadians – in finding new career opportunities.

By applying what they learn, the majority of students have found professional IT positions jobs in many companies including CGI, QA Consultants, and Dynacare. In addition, I have also presented a successful workshop at Centennial College where sixty employers connected with students. Many found excellent professional level jobs through that program as well.

3. What is your approach to informational interviews?

Informational interviews are one of the best ways to learn about people and employers. My recommended approach is to develop a portfolio that combines company research, a presentation of the individual’s capabilities and how they can contribute to the company. Students and professionals have had excellent results with sending this document and obtaining positive responses to their request for informational interviews. Knowing your dream job or company matters. Doing additional research on the manager or executive you are addressing takes the process to the next level.

4. What are some of the common job search mistakes you see people making?

There are several common mistakes I see people make that hold them back from success.

First, many people rely on the traditional process of applying to an open job posting and then simply waiting for a response. This job search approach is only one part of the overall strategy.

Second, many people assume that they need 100% of a job’s required skills in order to apply – my view is that you only need the “must have” items (or 50% of the requirements if there is no must-have list).

Third, many professionals decide to take a “survival job” instead of a professional role that relates to their skills. In addition to the reduced income, most people become deeply frustrated after a year or two and then decide to restart their professional job search while having to catch up.

Finally, some people become highly discouraged during the job search process. This mindset prevents otherwise successful and intelligent people from finding an opportunity and connecting effectively with other professionals.

5. What is the forthcoming Destination CEO book about?

I launched a Kickstarter campaign to support the creation of my book, “Destination CEO – Beyond the Traditional Way of Job Search in the GTA is the most comprehensive guide to hacking the local job market.” With 58 backers and over $5000 raised, I’m looking forward to presenting my ideas in book form.

I decided to write a book because I was starting to become overwhelmed with requests for career help and guidance. This book presents job search tactics and strategies for new Canadians looking to develop their career in the Greater Toronto Area. The Kickstarter page provides an introduction video as well as video messages from the individuals I have helped.

6. What is your approach to events and networking?

I think it is important to look for focused events. For example, there are many technology related groups and events organized by Meetup.com. These are great events to connect with others who share the same technical expertise as you. Regarding career fairs, my suggestion is to look at these events as the opportunity to connect and have a conversation rather than immediately seeking an employment opportunity.

[Editor’s Note: Active Meetup.com groups in the Toronto area include: Toronto Big Data University, Women In Technology, Toronto Hadoop User Group and Toronto SharePoint Business Users Group].

7. What resources have you found valuable in your career and work with other people?

There are several outstanding resources on the market to consider. I took a Dale Carnegie course and found that highly valuable – it provided me with connections and new skills. LinkedIn is a powerful research tool to learn about companies and the people with hiring power.

8. Where can readers find out more about you and your work?

There are two ways to connect with me. People interested in the Destination CEO book and related activities, please visit the Destination CEO website for details on events and training. In addition, readers are welcome to connect with me on LinkedIn.

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4 thoughts on “How Meena Dowlwani Delivers Career Results For New Canadians

  1. Good to read, as I am still in the middle of an international transition. In July 2015, I moved overseas and resigned after 18 years within one government agency. Challenging to find work here, I think largely because it takes a while to ‘translate’ what I did to what I see in the market. Different country can mean different terminologies, software skill requirements, even different meanings for the same job title. #4 above has been key for me to get interviews – go for it! learn by doing, and continue to aim high despite setbacks and frustration. I will also try #3. I also saw what certifications were needed and am pursuing them (moved from a PMI country to a PRINCE2 country), as well as joining the local PM chapter of the national organization.