Decoding Coffee Chats for Newcomers




As a newcomer in Canada looking for a job, you’ve probably already participated in several
formal and informal conversations. Coffee chats are somewhere between the two, and of late
have emerged as a staple in Canadian work culture.

These short one-on-one conversations can give you deep insight into a professional’s career
path, industry trends, mentorship opportunities, and so much more. For instance, my last coffee
chat connection shared her list of favorite cafes in Toronto, made introductions, and even
celebrated my professional achievements!

For immigrants in particular, coffee chats are opportunities to perfect their conversational skills,
and develop a better understanding of Canadian employers. Maybe even get that pre-interview
nervousness out of the way!
However, not all coffee chats are created equal. In fact, some may feel like a burdensome
twenty minutes, others could have you feeling like you’ve known your connection since forever.
Regardless of its fate, it’s always best to go in well-prepared so that you can have an effortless
and lively conversation.
Do them right, and a successful coffee chat can turn out to be your trump card. So let’s find out
how you can make the most of them:

🎯 Approaching the right person the right way
Depending on your objective, make a list of people you find interesting and would like to speak
with. Next, draft a short yet precise message as to why you’d like to have the coffee chat, and
what you’d like to learn from your connection. Include a specific duration between 15 to 30
minutes so that your connection can chalk out the required time. Close with a suggestion of
doing this over video or audio call.
Pro tip: Boost your chances of acceptance by beginning your message with a thoughtful
compliment. This could be about a recent achievement, a well-written article or a relatable
comment that your connection posted. In short – do your research and put it to good use!

🎯 Have an open mind and show genuine interest
A coffee chat isn’t always a gateway to a job, but it can be your chance to broaden your network
and cash in on some precious introductions. At the very least, you will end the call having learnt
more about the industry and work culture in Canada. Keep your mind open to the possibilities at
the other end of the call and maintain steady interest in your connection throughout.

🎯 Research your connection well
When you initiate a coffee chat, do some basic ground work about your connection. This
includes knowing where they work, their university, and some basic work history so you can ask
them relevant questions. Preparing your questions prior to the call can help steer the
conversation according to your objectives. Framing your questions with the right information can put things in perspective for your connection. This simply means – offer reasoning behind your
questions. Some examples are:
“I noticed from your LinkedIn that you made a career change from Finance to Cybersecurity, –
what steps did you take to make that move, and what advice would you give to someone
who is looking to transition to Cybersecurity?”
“As a newcomer, I sometimes struggle with the confidence required to take on leadership roles.
Have you faced this dilemma any time and how did you deal with it?”

🎯 Go off script with personal questions
Wait, did you forget that this was a casual conversation? Go ahead and ask your connection
about what they like to do in their free time, share travel stories, and probably even swap some
Netflix recommendations. Showing your personality in coffee chats is an equally important factor
as sharing your career details, as Canadian companies place a great deal of importance on the
‘cultural fit’ of a potential candidate.
A word of caution – refrain from getting too personal. Family, religion, politics, off-color humor,
and sexuality are generally considered off limits.

🎯 Leave a lasting impression with a follow-up
All’s well that ends well, so remember to send a sweet thank-you note after your coffee chat.
Consider mentioning a topic from your recent conversation, like sharing the name of a book or
asking for details about a café they liked. This thoughtful gesture not only leaves a positive
impression but also provides a conversation starter for future interactions.
Now that you know the secret sauce behind a successful coffee chat, here are some pointers of
what not to do:

  • Don’t make spelling mistakes with your connection’s name when you reach out to them
    over email or text. When you meet them for the first time, always ask if you are
    pronouncing their name correctly.
  • Don’t exceed your stipulated time unless your connection is okay with it. If the
    conversation is going over time, always pause and ask if you could wrap up in an
    additional 5 minutes. Else, ask for another appointment in the following days.
  • Don’t forget to ask for suggestions for your next coffee chat!. Depending on the
    conversation, your connection should be able to suggest some contacts from their
    network that could potentially be helpful in your journey. If they don’t offer any contacts,
    ask if there’s someone they know that you could talk to.
  • Don’t take rejections personally. If you have sent out several invitations and haven’t
    heard back from any, consider tweaking your message for better results. People are
    busy and a follow-up message can remind them of your request.

While these are some pointers to get you started in the right direction, successful coffee chats
can happen under any circumstances. They may occur at a conference you recently attended,
at the park, or even in grocery stores. Have you heard about the broccoli challenge? With fewer
inhibitions and an open mind, every newcomer in Canada can get hired in fulfilling jobs

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    You don’t need to network to get a job.

    Said nobody ever!

    It is no secret that who you know can often be just as important as what you know when it comes to achieving your career goals!

    And this statement particularly holds true for newcomers.

    As someone who is new to the Canadian job market, it can be challenging to establish oneself and find the right opportunities to advance in one’s career. Being unfamiliar with the local job market, culture, and professional norms and conventions, it is widely accepted that it can get a bit difficult to navigate the system on our own.

    But don’t worry!

    If you are a newcomer and you are facing this situation, then this is the best time to start Networking!

    Understanding that starting a new life in a new country can be exciting yet overwhelming, we’ve created a rundown of all the essential information you need!

    What is Networking?

    Networking is all about building relationships with other professionals in the field of interest. Meeting people, exchanging knowledge, and creating opportunities for collaboration and support, are all a part of it. By building a professional network, you can learn about job opportunities, gain insight into your industry, and receive support and advice as you navigate your career. In fact, studies have shown that up to 85% of jobs are filled through networking. Building a strong network can give you access to job opportunities that you may not have otherwise known about.

    So, where can you find networking opportunities?

    The answer is quite simple. There are three ways in which you can network. You can either connect with Service provider associations, Professional associations or Networking platforms. Let’s cover our base on all of these associations.

    Service Provider Associations

    Service provider organizations provide a variety of services and programmes to assist newcomers in settling in Canada. These organizations provide a safe space for people to interact with others who have had similar experiences and learn about resources that might help them flourish in their new home. Participating in events and activities organized by service provider groups is an excellent opportunity to meet new people, broaden your social circle and gain job opportunities. For example, you can go through the link for service provider organizations by IRCC.

    Professional Associations

    Professional organizations are crucial for networking across different sectors. These groups unite professionals with similar backgrounds or areas of specialization, giving them a chance to network with others in their industry. The members can exchange expertise and ideas, learn from one another, and develop relationships through gatherings, conferences, and online forums. Therefore, one can expect to improve their professional growth, broaden their network, and get exposed to new ideas by joining a professional association. Some examples of HR based professional associations are:

    • Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA)
    • Chartered Professionals in Human Resources Canada (CPHR)
    • Canadian Society for Training and Development (CSTD)
    • Canadian Council of Human Resources Associations (CCHRA)
    • Association québécoise des professionnels en ressources humaines (AQPRH)

    PS..for other professions, you need to do your homework!

    Networking Platforms

    Immigrant Networks is the brainchild of one of Canada’s best-known immigrants, Nick Noorani, who is known for his social and entrepreneurial work with newcomers. As a community created by immigrants for immigrants, we provide a supportive environment where newcomers can connect with others in their field, get guidance, build their network and ultimately succeed in their careers in Canada. Our AI technology has matches newcomers with professionals working in their desired fields. As per our survey, 70% of our members who have had more than 5 matched calls were working in their profession. Throughout our experience, we have observed that the below formulae works the best newcomers:

    • Learn the language
    • Stay positive
    • Embrace Canada
    • Have a Plan B
    • Network, network and network!
    • Take risks!

    In conclusion, networking is an essential component for building a successful career and life in Canada. As a land of opportunities, there is a lot of valuable opportunities available for you. Seize this opportunity to connect with other professionals and establish yourself. By taking advantage of these networking opportunities, you can not only gain the right exposure but also position yourself the way you want to.

    And if you need any assistance, register with us at!

    We are always delighted to hear about you and your journey!

    Networking to get working! 💪

    I know, I know! We were taught since childhood not to speak to strangers. Kids nowadays are taught ‘stranger- danger’.

    But let’s face it, as a newcomer chances are almost all the people you meet will be strangers! Your settlement worker, an interview conducted on Zoom and hopefully in short order, your colleagues at work. All strangers.

    For the past two decades, when I have been speaking to groups of immigrants, I often encourage them to go to a grocery store and speak to a stranger. And of course, I get the look ‘are you crazy?’ which grows more when I ask them to ensure the person is not from their ethnicity and they must speak in English and hold the conversation for ten minutes at the minimum.

    And with a sinking feeling I know that they will disregard what I advised. In the COVID-19 world, this is becoming even more pronounced.

    Here then are the top 7 reasons for newcomers to speak with strangers.

    1. Build confidence. The very act of speaking to a stranger requires a lot of guts, but it will over time build your confidence and you will find yourself actually enjoying it!

    2. Improve language usage. You will be speaking most likely to a Canadian or another immigrant like yourself (hopefully not from your home country!) and your common language will be English or French. And these conversations will improve your spoken English or French which will help you in interviews and in your job.

    3. Improve listening and communication skills. Getting to understand accents and managing your own accent involves active listening. Watch and listen and that will benefit you as you get into the Canadian workforce.

    4. Help you understand Canadian phrases and idioms. “Can I have your John Henry?” and I looked at the courier guy trying to figure out what he was talking about! Yes, Canada like any other country has its share of phrases and colloquialisms and what better to do this than with a perfect stranger.

    5. Prepare you for casual chat with colleagues when you get your first job. As a newcomer, someone told me all you need to do is talk about the weather and hockey! True as that may be, you will soon learn the art of small talk or water-cooler chat as it is referred to.

    6. Prepare you to speak to clients (also strangers) if your job requires it. From the second meeting with a client when working, you will find pleasantries being exchanged whether it is an in-person meeting or online. Your practice speaking with strangers will come in handy here.

    7. Primes you as a candidate who is deserving of a promotion in time because of your soft skills. Having an easy conversational style shows a strong control over soft skills. In Canada, there is an old saying, you will get hired for your technical skills, but get promoted for your soft skills!

    According to a Harvard–Cornell study nearly everyone rates “having a conversation with a stranger” as one of their least desired activities. Probably right up there with giving a speech!

    So how does a newcomer do this?

    In the safety of their home. Online. With others like them!

    Immigrant Networks has been created by an immigrant for immigrants! It is a free service that matches you with strangers based on your profession and country of origin. You will learn firsthand the power of peer-to-peer networking! Also learn and get insights more about the hidden job market in Canada here.

    You will also meet Canadians who will help mentor you to success!

    Lesson for the day: speak to many strangers online, you may just get a job offer or tips on how to get one!


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