entries filed under 'mcgill' tag:
posted by Odin on Mar 25, 2009
'Pick better references' by hartboy, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License
A couple weeks ago, I read an article from Métro Montréal about how the Region of Montreal wants to spend money and effort on immigrant integration and acceptance in the labor market.
This came as wonderful news to me, as the article reminded me of the tough time I had back in the late 90s getting my credentials the respect and recognition they deserve. I have already written an entry on my experience, but today I want to attack it from a different angle, one that addresses foreign education and work experience.
I actually immigrated to Canada in 1991 and became a citizen in 1994. From 1997 to 2002 I attended McGill University, and then in 2003 I obtained my Master's degree from Cornell University in upstate New York. During two of my summer breaks, I completed internships with IBM in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Merrill Lynch in London, England.
As far as I was concerned, my CV was top-notch! The reality, unfortunately, was grimmer. Upon my return from the States in 2003, I started looking for work in Montreal. To summarize, most responses I got from my interviews fell into two categories: "You're over-qualified" or "You don't have any local experience". What are you kidding me? I'm not going to address the first category, since it's another topic for another day maybe, but as for the second one, I thought it was ridiculous!
First of all, I'm sorry but the names on my CV are worth anything Montreal has to offer or more! I mean come on, IBM, Merrill Lynch and Cornell for crying out loud. We're talking two MAJOR corporations and an Ivy League school here! I'm not trying to brag, but it was really frustrating to think that I went through all the trouble of going to grad school in the states only to get these kinds of reactions, especially considering how expensive it was!
Second, other countries consider foreign experience an asset, not a drawback. I currently work in France, and everyone here is amazed by my diverse background. It is actually an enriching experience and one that proves that you are able to surmount cultural differences and fit in various environments. Apparently not according to these rigid HR people that interviewed me. All they cared about was having local French-speaking references they could call.
The article I referenced above clearly relates more to immigrants trying to get integrated in Montreal, which is not exactly my case since I studied here but gained experience and education abroad. I really hope that the new measures they are introducing can help future qualified immigrants get their due respect and recognition. I actually once worked with a Chinese woman that worked as a chemical engineer for around 8 years in China prior to immigrating to Canada. All she could find in Montreal was a phone-based customer service/tech support job.
The city of Montreal really needs to work harder on retaining its diversified talent and put a stop to or at least reduce the brain-drain phenomenon.
posted by Odin on Mar 11, 2009
'Graduates Share a moment' by Will Hale, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License & 'Panama Business 2' by thinkpanama, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License
Today I just want to share the experience I've had with job-hunting in Montreal, particularly when I graduated from university and was looking for my first permanent job. Overall, the experience was on the negative side, as I couldn't find anything dignifying for several months.
Montreal is known for its slow and small labor market (one of the few things I hate about the city), but to be fair, I graduated with a degree in Computer Engineering during the summer of 2002, soon after the high-tech crunch and dot com bubble burst. In other words, the timing was bad and the odds were against me.
Still, I remember how most of my graduating class, as well as friends from other faculties and disciplines, still didn't know what they were doing after graduation, even a few weeks before the end of classes. Several students had opted for graduate studies, while others, especially foreign students, left for greener pastures (i.e. cities/countries with better prospects). In any case, very rare were those that actually had a signed job offer prior to graduation.
Fast forward one year, and contrast this to a college in upstate New York, where I did my masters (yes, I was one of those that opted for graduate school, but only because there were no jobs in Montreal). Here, pretty much EVERYONE knew what they were doing next. They all had job offers all over the country, and were excited about moving somewhere new and starting their professional careers. And I'm talking good jobs, not your typical entry-level Montreal job, such as level one tech support or teller at a bank (not that there's anything wrong with these jobs, but they're not exactly what one puts himself through university for).
It just seems to me that an undergraduate degree doesn't have much weight in Montreal, even from a top school. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that education is pretty cheap and readily available to everyone (apparently Quebec has one of the highest bachelor degrees per capita ratios). In any case, from my experience, all jobs out there required at least two to three years of experience.
So then, the question is, how am I supposed to have that much experience straight out of school? I had done summer jobs directly related to my field of study during two of my summer vacations, but that doesn't even add up to a year. Also, if you look at all the career-oriented activities taking place at university campuses such as McGill, for example career fairs, you get the impression that most of the companies attending aren't REALLY looking to hire or fill particular positions. I really think they're there for their image and to spread out their name. It's more of a PR thing than an actual recruitment tool, unless you happen to be a rare genius or over-achiever!
To sum up, I think the city has a long way to go in order to keep its newly-graduated talent from leaving. My experience, as well as that of most of my friends and classmates, can be described as frustrating at best. In the end, after many months of searching, and a non-glamorous temporary job, I did land a position worthy of my education. That experience, after a few years, opened up more doors. The trouble really lies in signing that first offer straight out of school.
In future entries, I will tackle more career-related topics, such as staffing firms and the fact that foreign work experience doesn't seem to count either.
about the blog
MTLRants© is Seek Odin's brand new blog, bringing you entries from our staff and other contributors. The blog will cover topics and issues related to SeekOdin's central themes. Mostly, it will deal with the difficulties and frustrations of dealing with service-related businesses in Montreal.
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