Ruairi Spillane, the man behind Moving2Canada (a website that has given free guidance and advice to more than 35,000 Irish people looking to make the move to Canada), tells us why he decided to add recruitment services to his repertoire and offers tips on how Irish job seekers can find success abroad.
When a job in Vancouver was offered to Irishman Spillane back in 2008, he took the chance to go away and explore another part of the world. An economic crisis in the homeland followed, and, eventually, Spillane was fielding so many requests from friends of friends for advice on moving to Canada that in 2011 he decided to create a website dedicated to informing these would-be emigrants.
Two years down the line and Moving2Vancouver has grown into Moving2Canada, and Spillane has left his day job in order to work on the website full time. But, in order to pay the bills, he has decided to add an employment agency to his business, focusing on recruiting Irish engineering, construction and skilled trades workers for Canadian companies.
A glowing reputation
“In general, I find that the Irish engineers are becoming a massive brand in Canada,” says Spillane. “Every company has at least two Irish engineers and the question always is, ‘How can we find more?’”
While the skills found among Irish workers are apparent, Spillane believes it’s a good dash of the Irish charm that works in their favour. “They have a strong technical understanding, but it’s the social skills,” he says. “They love the fact that they can always put the Irish guy in front of clients.”
However, just because Irish workers are in demand in these sectors, doesn’t mean that securing a job in Canada will be a walk in the park. For starters, you need to ensure that your documents are in order. “At the [Working Abroad Expo in Dublin] in October, I found with a lot of the older Irish immigrants from about 40 years up that there is a lack of papers,” recalls Spillane. “A lot of them never got their formal papers and that leaves them in a very tough situation to find employment, because one of the conditions under the visa will be that they have their papers for their trade.”
A different approach to job hunting
This is the kind of practical advice offered by Moving2Canada, and Spillane notes how many Irish immigrants in Canada just don’t realise how different the relocation can be and arrive there thinking that the same tactics they used for job hunting in Ireland will apply.
Spillane believes part of the problem is a certain generation of Irish people that joined the workforce in the boom years that never really had to fight for jobs and therefore never honed the skills necessary for job hunting. There’s also an issue of Irish people’s tendency towards humility. “I think Irish people are just a bit too modest,” says Spillane. “We always downplay things as a habit in Ireland, whereas here you’ve got to really try to sell your skills. Because, at the end of the day, you’re just another immigrant, so you really need to work harder than the person next to you.”
Graduates and job seekers need to learn how to market themselves; they need to sign up to websites like LinkedIn and make sure to ‘Canadianise’ their resumé (CV). While this has a practical side, such as how you format and order things, it’s also a matter of getting Irish people to truly sell their skills. “I think everyone’s inclination is always to list their daily duties in their job, whereas you kind of want to talk more about solving business problems, showing specific results and achievements in each role,” Spillane advises.
He recommends that job seekers think hard about previous roles and find two to three really great things that they did – things that excite them. If they can elicit some of this excitement from the employer and pique their interest, they’re more likely to be asked in for an interview to learn more. And Spillane believes being Irish means “as long as you get into the interview room, you’ll do very, very well.”
This is something Spillane learned through his background in sales, and it has helped him overcome the disadvantages of an Irish disposition. “Irish people are just too modest, and that’s one of our greatest strengths, but it’s also one of our great weaknesses as we try to find jobs in Canada!”
Spillane’s key tip for emigrants is to do the research and preparation before making the move. “These people can benefit a lot from planning and that’s where reading through some of the articles [on the website] and actually doing preparation in terms of getting your credentials recognised in Canada, adjusting your resumé, writing cover letters – all those areas help you prepare to hit the ground running,” he says.
While Spillane is very much settled in Vancouver and happy to call it home, he admits he still has a grá for Ireland. In fact, the desire to be in a position where he could work from anywhere and travel back to Ireland regularly was part of his decision to make Moving2Canada his full-time job. “Over the last few years I realised I’d love to engineer something where I get to spend more time at home, and that’s hopefully what I’m doing,” he says. “I can work from anywhere, all I need is my laptop, and that’s the kind of lifestyle I wanted.”
For Ireland, holding on to its highly regarded engineers in the future will require some changes. “The reality is that a lot of young people that have come out here are here to dig in and realise that a lot needs to change at home for things to pick up,” says Spillane. “Obviously, the software sector and the finance sector are picking up, but for construction they really need to dig in and just wait for the next cycle.”
Moving2Canada will be at the Working Abroad Expo at the RDS in Dublin this weekend (2-3 March) offering information on moving to Canada, as well as recruiting for a large selection of Canadian construction companies and engineering consultancies.