An Immigrant’s Experience

By Ennio Vita-Finzi

A recent 30 year-old UK immigrant to Toronto was looking for a job. He had been assured that his accounting certificate, his formal manners combined with an easy personality would help him to quickly succeed. In spite of currently optimistic job statistics however, none of his door-knocking efforts had resulted in a call-back – he wondered if looking and sounding too British was holding him back.


He decided to ask some of his new Canadian acquaintances what they thought were his best assets, and what fields they could see him in. Nobody mentioned accounting or finance but they all thought he would probably succeed in sales, customer service or personal relationships. He had originally studied accounting because of parental pressure but remembered that he had always enjoyed public speaking and had even been popularly elected class president twice.

He reasoned that he had nothing to lose by changing his goals and searched various job sites for opportunities in customer service and sales. He was encouraged to read other surveys stating that many employment trends favoured “out-of-the-box thinking” and “relationship sales” and decided to be more aggressive.

Daring Approach

He had 500 business cards printed with words “Sales & Customer Service” under his name and looked for listings of networking events in his area. He registered for the next Board of Trade conference, found out when and where the nearest Rotary and BNI clubs met and decided to attend any meetings coming up. He knew that business clubs always seek potential new members and felt that at least he would make a number of new contacts over breakfast or lunch.

While murmuring his new mantra “nothing ventured, nothing gained” to himself, he concluded that his noticeable British accent might even turn into a positive asset, since local media were currently featuring stories about the Royal family.

Perception Equals Reality

Based on his new self-evaluation and thinking that others might see abilities in him he could not see, he decided to register with a couple of Executive Search firms. Looking for fields in which he imagined his English looks, style and accent might help to create the appropriate perception, he also picked two fields at random (high-end real estate and British automobiles) and started searching for opportunities.

Search Mode

(a) He found a list of executive search agencies and went to one closest to him. After a psychological test, he was interviewed by one of the counsellors who was not very hopeful, explaining that search firms work for their company clients and not for job applicants. He nevertheless learned a lot about the current job market and his attitude and careful note-taking seemed to impress the consultant.

(b) He walked into two of the city’s top Rolls Royce-Jaguar dealerships dressed in his best suit, and insisted on speaking to the manager, relying on the image created by his rich British accent. He started the conversation by chatting about the latest news of Prince Harry, his impressions of Canada and then his own father’s dream of owning a Rolls. He then confided that he was interested in a sales career and more than willing to take any training course, adding that he had once owned an old Jaguar back in England. He left his CV for consideration.

(c) He looked through local newspapers and identified the Real Estate company that sold the most expensive properties in the city. At the firm’s downtown office he brazenly offered to learn their sales techniques, confessing that his goal was to become a top salesman within six months. He explained that his own family had sold a property in the UK and knew that Real Estate sales are heavily dependent on trust and on establishing personal relationships with clients.

Surprising Results

His goal had been to simply leave a positive impression and allow each interviewer to imagine how he might fit into their organisation. At no time did he ask for an immediate response and all the people he met seemed impressed with his presentation.

Within 10 days he received three invitations for an interview. One was with the head hunter who had discovered a new client seeking someone with UK experience; another invitation was as a sales trainee for one of the Rolls dealerships and the third was an invitation to attend a real estate training presentation two weeks hence.

As he prepared for his first appointment, he thought back to a seminar he had attended in London before emigrating. While the title had seemed a little self-promotional at the time, it now correctly summarised his new life in Canada: “ABC – Adventurous, Bold and Canadian”.

Ennio Vita-Finzi has worked on three Continents as a Trade Commissioner, a multinational executive, a successful entrepreneur and a college and university lecturer.