How I Landed My First job in 3 months As A First-Gen Immigrant

Job Search


By Raymond Hertanto

A passport, luggage box, and dreams - these were all I had as a first-gen Indonesian when I arrived in Canada nine years ago. I was thrilled about the possibilities Canada could bring my way. This excitement, sadly, didn’t last.

Few weeks after my arrival, I found myself in dire straits as I couldn’t get a job because I lacked Canadian qualifications and work experience.

Before leaving South East Asia, I had planned to land a well-paying job with my engineering degree within my first six months of arriving in Canada. I didn’t want to return to school as many immigrants did. In the process of trying to actualize that goal, some people tried to pour cold water on my plans.

“Canadian companies only hire candidates with local qualifications.”

“Are you in your right senses? Who will hire a first-gen immigrant without requiring a home-based degree and experience?”

“Raymond, be realistic for once. The odds aren’t stacked up in your favor. This is a catch-22!”  

Those discouragements didn’t dissuade me from chasing my goals. I kept applying for jobs and optimizing my job search strategy until I finally secured a job - all within three months! More than I expected, I was able to work in the oil and gas industry which fitted my career aspirations at the time, earn more six-figures annually, and work within a rotational schedule that allowed me to travel overseas regularly.

My journey wasn’t without its share of hurdles, though. In the process of trying to land my dream job and do the seemingly impossible, I received countless rejections. Further, I had to get out of my comfort zone by reaching out to people in career fairs or on LinkedIn. I also had to revise my resume multiple times to increase my success rate. Doing all these wasn’t easy, but they eventually turned out to be worth their weight in gold.

Like me, there are several first-gen immigrants who are trying to navigate job search in a new country. For such people, here are the 5 tips I recommend:

Research the job market

As an immigrant, you’re likely to be unacquainted with your new country’s job market. For this reason, it is essential you decipher how the national labor market and your target industry works before starting your job search.

To do so, ask questions such as:

  • Which industry is booming/attractive?
  • Within a particular industry, who are the key players?
  • Which companies are hiring?
  • What roles are these companies hiring?
  • What skills do these roles require?

Identifying the answers to these questions helps you focus on your desired and suitable roles.

“ It is essential you decipher how the national labor market and your target industry works before starting your job search. ”

— Raymond Hertanto

Leverage your strengths

While it’s easy to let your weaknesses and past failures affect you as an underdog, you should focus more on leveraging your strengths instead.

Examine your past work or education experience:

What do you think you are good at?

What do others think you are good at?

What is the common theme across your past work/education?

Here is how leveraging your strengths can help:

  1. It helps you become more confident, which will then reflect in your verbal and non-verbal communication.
  2. It helps you find roles that align with your strengths.
  3. It helps you craft and tells your unique story. Telling your story is critical in all phases of job search, including job application, interview, and networking.

Invest in building an authentic and valuable network

How can you stand out among countless online applications when you do not have a local degree nor experience?

How can you become more efficient in finding good companies in a new country?

How can you better understand nuances and differences in culture and expectations of foreigners?

The answer is by networking.


Find opportunities to meet as many new people as you can. You will never know where your next opportunity will emerge.

Join networking groups. Add potential colleagues and employers on LinkedIn. Cold call. Ask for informational interviews over coffee or lunch. Attend career fairs.

I was lucky to have attended a large oil and gas career fair where I met someone who later referred me to my first ever Canadian job.

Networking can drive several amazing opportunities as long as you make full use of it, which brings me to the next tip.

Set a SMART goal

“Get a job in 6 months” is a good vision, but that is all there is to it. It is not actionable.

To make it actionable, it is essential you break it down into smaller, actionable steps, ensuring it adheres to the SMART principle (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Time-bound).

In my case, here are the two goals I committed myself to do:

  1. Talk with at least one person from every single booth at a career fair, tell them my story, and get their contact number within that one day.
  2. After the career fair, follow-up with every lead, either through email or phone call, to ask for informational interviews

I eventually got my full-time job offer through those methods.

Stay motivated

Although a long job search period can zonk you out, ensure you keep your spirit and motivation in check. Everyone might have different ways to do this, but here are a few general tips:

  • Meet people for casual, non-work-related conversations
  • Be grateful. Even if you do not get a job yet, those informational interviews, additional connections, and interviews are steps toward the right direction.
  • Eat well, exercise, and have enough sleep.
  • Continue doing what you love, whether it is reading books, watching movies, and others.

Landing a job as an immigrant in a new country can be challenging, but there are ways to succeed.

By having the right mindset, techniques, and motivation, you will meet your goals sooner or later. Good luck!

Wonsulting is dedicated to turning underdogs into winners. Take advantage of our services to make your job search as an immigrant easier. Add our services to your cart and discover why thousands of professionals trust Wonsulting to pivot and advance their careers.

Raymond Hertanto is an 'underdog' who recently discovered an interest in writing contents, mainly sharing from his experiences on LinkedIn. He loves helping others, empowering people going through a similar journey as I did. He went from being a struggling immigrant to working from prestigious companies such as McKinsey & Company, as well as Enbridge in Canada.

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