How can immigrants get their place in Canadian media
As most Canadian immigrants, internationally trained media professionals and journalists immigrating to Canada don’t find a rosy picture awaiting them in terms of career opportunities here. But unlike most others, they encountera few additional bumps on the road they have to overcome.
One of those is the much closed nature of the industry. This lets the very few jobs created get filled with either internal hires or through personal connections, sometimes even before being advertised. Thus, there is a need to access this “hidden job market” with a long-term strategy, which will open “windows” when all the “doors” are closed.
Based on my personal experience and observations, I have some tips and suggestions to plan a successful strategy.
* Get connected with related professional organizations like the Canadian Association of Journalists, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, the Canadian Journalism Foundation and RTDNA Canada-Association of Electronic Journalists. Attend their conferences and professional development events, as they can give you an insight into the local industry, how it works, who are the key people, what are the issues, what are its needs, where the industry is headed, etc. In addition, these events are excellent venues to meet decision makers and for networking. You can make new connections and friendships, promote yourself as a media professional, and offer your services and skills that can be beneficial to organizations interested in hiring you.
Though those organizations are membership based, you can still attend some of their events and activities for free or at low cost. Don’t forget to subscribe to their newsletters and websites. And to get a detailed look at Canadian journalism and its current issues, you have CJF’s J-source.ca and the Ryerson Review of Journalism published by Ryerson University’s School of Journalism. Another organization you might find helpful is the Professional Writers Association of Canada. . PWAC organizes monthly panels which are a good place to network with fellow freelancers, meet Editors of magazines, benefit from their contacts and experiences and learn about freelancing opportunities for magazines, newspapers and online.
* Network with editors, news directors or even retired media professionals, who could give you useful advice on “getting your foot in the door.” Ask for an “informational interview” by either emailing them or in person when you see them at an event, explaining why you would like to meet them. You might be surprised, as most of them would accept your request.
But don’t forget one thing. It’s important to keep these meetings informational and not to expect to get a job out of them, at least not in the short-term. These meetings should be to research and to learn more about the media organizations these professionals work for, to explore opportunities, and become known to them as well.
* Actively embrace social media channels like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook for professional use. Follow Canadian media organizations, Canadians working in local media companies, as well as specialized career sites to read and learn about new developments, job opportunities in the industry, etc.
* Investing in your education and English/French language skills is very important and complements your efforts. After moving to Toronto, I registered for continuing education courses in the Magazine and Web Publishing program at RU, even though I had a degree in Journalism. This gave me another opportunity to get familiar with Canadian mainstream media and make some connections through instructors and fellow students, some of whom werealready working in the media industry. If you have the time and finances, you might consider taking Sheridan College’s 1-year certificate bridging program for internationally trained writers and journalists.
* One of my instructors at RU introduced me to a journalist who used to organize monthly gatherings for environmental journalists. He also happened to be the Editor of a monthly magazine about the eye-care industry. Four months after our initial meeting, he contacted me for a possible freelancing job and that’s how I got published for the first time in a Canadian magazine.
* As a followup to one of my courses at Ryerson, I started this blog, The Immigrant. The Immigrant advocates for immigrant issues and stresses the importance of creating opportunities for newcomers, to help them better integrate into the Canadian society and workforce. Having a blog helps me to write regularly, improves my writing skills and hopefully makes me an expert in the field.
* Volunteer or intern at media–related companies or perform journalistic duties at non-profit organizations. For me, I volunteered at Rogers TV community channel, which might be the only TV station in Toronto that accepts individuals who are not currently enrolled in a degree program. How much you benefit from this opportunity is up to you, but it’s definitely an opportunity that you can use as a new Canadian. When I joined, I initially worked on the morning show, but recently I proposed a show idea which got approved, so now I am working on its production as a community producer.
The show will be an opportunity for me to build a Canadian TV portfolio, after having print samples. It is very important to have a local portfolio in English, published or broadcasted by a Canadian media organization. You would definitely need such a portfolio when applying to jobs or networking.
The upcoming show would also put me in close contact with established Canadian media professionals, who would see my work, get a good idea about my skills and qualifications and therefore would be able to confidently recommend me for any job opportunities that might arise in the future.
* Currently I am working with the Mennonite New Life Centre of Toronto to create a network for internationally trained journalists and media professionals in Canada. The New Canadian Media Professionals’ Network (NCMP) would bring together new immigrant journalists, bloggers, photographers, writers, cameramen and others who have a media-related background and push for mentoring, internship and better career opportunities for them.
* Finally, have a business card as you will need it wherever you go! After all this hard work, you want people to remember you and be able to reach you when they need your services. You can order some fancy cards online or design and print them yourself at home.
The steps I mentioned above are ideas or suggestions and should be part of a long-term strategy to get you a place in the Canadian media industry. Naturally, these steps don’t guarantee any success, but they are steps in the right direction and hopefully at the end will enable you to put your many skills from “back home” in the service of your “new home”.
*Did you find this blog post helpful? Do you have other tips and suggestions for internationally trained journalists in Canada? Please share them with us by leaving a comment in the box below.