Job Wanted: Trang’s Story (1 of 2)

Drastic times call for drastic measures

Trang and her husband Rakesh decided to approach their job search differently.  After months of disappointment and dead ends they stood at a busy intersection (in Downtown Toronto) and handed out pens–that enclosed strips of paper detailing their education and work experience–wearing sandwich boards!  These drastic measures got them noticed.

I felt compelled to support in any way I could, if you’re familiar with their story you’ll understand why.  I connected with Trang specifically because her focus was to find a job in the food industry. Here’s the Full Story.

Arriving in Canada

A year after arriving in Canada, Trang and Rakesh could not secure employment.  They visited a large number of employment agencies and applied to hundreds of jobs online.  The feedback was always the same (if they got feedback at all);

You have no Canadian work experience.

Their lack of Canadian experience meant their applications didn’t get another look.  Trang’s response to this is noteworthy. She could have been bitter or resentful–based on her education, passion for the food industry and need to make a living–but she understood the point of view and her limitations compared to someone with Canadian work experience (this is a reflection of her charming character).  She knew Canadian work experience was key, but how was she going to get it?

An Internship with Kosha Foods

Timing is everything, and although my part in this is very insignificant, it did open up a door.  Around the same time I met Trang I was also speaking with the founder of a start-up called Kosha Foods.  Sujala had heard of FoodGrads and our mission to support new grads start their career in food.  Kosha Foods does not officially launch until October 2016, Sujala was looking for someone eager to gain work experience and hone their skills in the food industry, someone able to work on various projects and tasks to support a start-up as an intern.

Sujala has a pretty incredible start up story herself.  I knew this could be a great meeting of two determined and inspirational women, at a time when both needed the other.  Trang and Sujala shared their own stories, passions and career aspirations during their first meeting. Sujala provided expectations and in-depth details about the tasks and projects Trang would be involved in.  Kosha Foods welcomed it’s first intern.

Trang is still interning at Kosha Foods and has very much enjoyed the experience over the past 3 months.  Full of compliments for Sujala, she said she feels very supported both professionally and personally.  She gets tons of direction and guidance, which is key for someone starting out in their career and is learning so much.  A start-up is a great learning ground**

I receive emails at 2am, I wonder when Sujala sleeps knowing she has a full time job and a baby too!

In terms of why internships are important, Trang spoke about the diversity of experience she is gaining in different areas of the business–supply chain, website content, purchasing/suppliers, labelling, packaging, nutrition facts–and the most current being a research project on gluten free pancakes.

On the horizon

Trang currently works full time at a car dealership in a customer service role.  She and her husband are extremely grateful for the opportunities they have earned.  The training she has received has been so valuable for improving her communication skills and gaining Canadian work experience.  She feels blessed.

Her heart definitely remains in the food industry though, its always been her focus.  While at high school, Trang become very concerned about the quality of food in her country and the subsequent health problems.  She mentioned the high levels of chemicals in processed foods and pesticides in the fruits and vegetables.  She felt compelled to do something about it, not only for her own health but for the health of other people.  She wanted to understand more about food.  Trang hails from a small village in Vietnam, her parents are farmers, so she already had a solid foundation and understanding of agriculture.  Upon moving to Canada her desire to work in the food industry has not changed, a short stint at a bakery organization followed by her ongoing internship at Kosha Foods has reinforced that.  In her words ‘It’s still my dream’.

Advice for New Comers to Canada

Complete a course or program to get some food credentials.  Although Trang has a bachelor’s degree in Food Technology she was encouraged to pursue a Canadian course so she could be certified here (she said she was given this advice from many different employers).  This is something she plans to do and she is optimistic about it.  Trang and Rakesh support their parents in Vietnam and India, while making a living to support themselves.  Funds are tight, but she plans to go back to school when the opportunity arises.

Trang is an optimistic, passionate young lady.  She’s inspirational and I hope she inspires students, new grads and new comers to Canada starting their career in food.  She isn’t giving up and is determined to secure a role in the GTA within the food industry.  I know we will be sharing her well-deserved success story soon!

**If you are thinking about an internship opportunity, consider a start-up to get a broad range of experience, especially if you are still undecided as to what area of food interests you the most.

Resources for New Comers to Canada:

In part 2, we share Sujala’s perspective on why Trang was the best person for the job and her thoughts on why employers might want to consider people from a different country in spite of their lack of Canadian experience.

If you have any comments or feedback we would love to hear from you.