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Halifax offers tons of opportunities, but you have to build your networks to take advantage.

I’ve been following two stories that made the international news recently from Nova Scotia. One of the stories is about a Cape Breton Island farm where the owners are offering free land to new employees. This other is the story is of the Hadhad family of Antigonish. The Syrian refugee family arrived in Nova Scotia last year, starting the new business Peace by Chocolate. When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently spoke to the UN Leader’s Summit on Refugees, he shared their story.

The themes both stories share are that we need people here and Nova Scotia is still a land of dreams and opportunities. We’re open to receive the rich and prosperous and the oppressed and persecuted. Newcomers make our country a better place.

Newcomers take nothing for granted. They bring fresh eyes to everything around us. Depending on where you come form, things can have a different context, scale, and significance.

Halifax boasts an international airport and its large marine port, standing out as the largest Atlantic Canadian city. Halifax is ideally sized. It’s not too big so, you don’t get lost in an ocean of people. And it’s not so small that you have limitations on the variety of opportunities.

Understanding the local networks and their dynamics is an important aspect of living here. The power of networks is strong in the Maritimes, with communities historically interconnected. If you’re on the outside looking in, those networks can seem like barriers. But if you can use those networks, they can be powerful tools.

It’s hard to build or access a network without an insider’s help. But you have to put yourself out there to get to know people. And let people get to know you so they can connect you with opportunities. I found firsthand that cold calling and online job applications don’t get you far. Sometimes being in the right place at the right time can make the difference. My second job in Canada came from a conversation on what I can offer that business.

My own method is to reach out and get out. In my early years in Canada as an international student, I was frustrated that I couldn’t find a job. A Nova Scotian friend gave me some advice. “Here we say ‘the squeaky wheel get the grease.’ Keep it up and don’t stop moving.” I haven’t stopped since.

Networks are your most powerful tools: school networks, social groups, professional networks, expat networks, and the list goes on. They can all can share information and open doors if you approach them with a positive attitude. Realize your dream: get out and reach out.

Rany Ibrahim

Rany Ibrahim is a business strategy professional, communicator, writer, analyst, business workforce consultant, tech startup founder, and part-time university faculty. He also serves on various academic and professional boards. Rany is a member of the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference, is among Atlantic Canada’s 50 most inspiring entrepreneurial leaders under 40, is a Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards winner, and was recognized by the Nova Scotia House of Assembly for his contributions and community involvement. He is passionate about immigration, human rights, freedoms, and democracy.