It’s no secret — there is a looming skills shortage in Canada, driven in large part by the retirement of the baby boomer generation. One source of talent that could help fill the gap is internationally educated professionals (IEPs).
With this strategy in mind, government, industry leaders, community organizations and groups such as the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) in Toronto are working together to integrate IEPs into the mainstream. All these stakeholders value the knowledge and skills IEPs bring to Canada.
As an internationally educated professional who has made significant progress in establishing myself in the Canadian HR industry, I feel it is my responsibility to share some of the strategies that have worked for me — my six steps to success.
Step 1: Have a thirst for knowledge: The role of human resources has changed a lot in the last 15 to 20 years, and it is still evolving. In Ontario, HRPA is pushing for human resources to be a regulated profession so HR can have the same credibility as other professions.
My quest for knowledge led me to reinvent myself. I met with senior industry leaders, including senior management at HRPA, to learn and understand where the human resources profession is going to be in the next couple of years.
It helped me learn what expectations CEOs have from senior HR professionals.
Step 2: Work hard and have a desire to succeed: When I look back over the last 10 years of my stay in Canada, I won’t lie — there were many times when my eyes got wet, where I questioned my decision to come to this country and where I decided to pack my bags.
However, I never questioned my abilities and persistent desire to succeed.
Step 3: Educate yourself: When I arrived in Canada in 2002 from India, I quickly figured out I needed to have two types of education — formal and cultural.
• Formal education: HR laws are different in every country. In Ontario, a lot of emphasis is placed on the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation as it is considered a certificate of competence. I immediately started the process of attaining my CHRP and, despite many challenges, I succeeded.
• Cultural education: North American work culture is totally different from the Asian work culture. So, to improve my knowledge of the culture, I read articles and had mentors help me learn about it. My curious nature also led me to ask questions about the nuances of the North American work culture.
Step 4: Build relationships: Since HR plays a critical role at any organization, senior HR positions are generally filled through referrals. The hiring manager has to have trust in the candidate he is recruiting for the HR role.
Trust is built by maintaining an excellent professional relationship. My professional relationship with my current boss helped me land my current role.
Step 5: Give back to the profession: My desire to “pay it forward” and give back to the profession has served me well. In my early years in Canada, I started volunteering as a committee member at the local chapter of my provincial HR association
This gave me the opportunity to meet senior industry leaders and learn from them.
At the same time, I kept in touch with newcomers to Canada and offered my advice in their early integration. When I met newcomers, I always asked the question: “Is there anything I can do for you?”
This helped me build a big-picture vision of the challenges they faced.
Later on in my career, I was elected to the board of directors at the local chapter. The opportunity to be on the board of a professional association helped me sharpen my leadership skills.
Step 6: Mentor: Mentoring has also played a very important role in my professional development. I have had some great mentors who were always approachable and very quick to respond to any questions I had.
Whenever I had issues, either personal or professional, I approached these mentors and they gave me great advice. Paying it back, I am currently mentoring a few internationally trained professionals myself.
And, lastly, during the previous decade, I have always kept a very positive attitude. I have always believed life is not what it brings to you — life is how we respond to it.
Today, when I look back at the last 10 years of my stay in Canada, I feel the journey was well worth the effort.
Dinesh Sharma is the HR manager at ABC Group, an automotive systems and components manufacturer based in Toronto. He can be reached at (416) 674-1471 ext. 234 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit