Ranjith Kottuppallil Mathew

Making Community Connections

In 2021, Canada welcomed 450,000 new international students, representing an all-time high record. Many of these international students go on to become permanent residents and fill an important gap in the Canadian job market. Sometimes what they may lack is the network needed to make community connections.

Joseph Pulimoottil came to Ottawa from India in 2017. He was an international student at Algonquin College studying interactive media management. While in search of a part-time job during his studies, he met Ranjith Kottuppallil Mathew at a career fair in Kanata.

A few months later, Ranjith introduced Joseph to Junior Chamber International (JCI). Ranjith told Joseph about a JCI Ottawa event happening shortly afterwards. “He gave me an opportunity to volunteer with JCI in 2018, doing some design work for the organization,” explains Joseph. “This was the first work I did in Canada”.

Ranjith opened the door to volunteer work for Joseph. “This volunteer work led me to further work opportunities and introduced me to other contacts,” adds Joseph. “In 2021 we met again after a long gap of pandemic and Ranjith helped facilitate an interview with a company and put in a recommendation for me.”

“The biggest challenge is making the connections to the community and if there is someone in the community to help out, it can make things progress faster, explains Joseph. “As a connector Ranjith was like a bridge, he helped me to formulate and align my goals with a better understanding of the Ottawa community. Over the years he has continued to guide me, provided support for finding jobs and introduced me to several other individuals that have helped me in my personal and professional growth.”

Ranjith is thankful to Joseph for his kind words. “My journey started in 2015 when I immigrated to Canada from India,” remembers Ranjith. “Moving and immigration are challenging, whether it occurs locally or internationally, and there will be many obstacles for a newcomer. I was a practicing lawyer, with over 15 years of professional experience in business development, marketing and recruitment. When you arrive in a new city, you don’t know where to start and how to build local connections.”

Ranjith was also able to build connections through various volunteering opportunities which helped him to adapt quickly to Canadian culture. He started his Canadian volunteering journey with JCI Ottawa as social media coordinator, which lead him to become the president in 2017. This volunteering opportunity led to a full-time employment with Willis College as manager for student coops and employment. Since then, he has made connections to help over 1,000 people find jobs and more than half of them were newcomers.

“As a life mission, I aim to meet one new person every day,” remarks Ranjith. “Helping others is giving back to the community. Especially when it comes to employment, it’s a blessing for newcomers. As a connector I do my best to meet newcomers and listen to their stories, so that when an opportunity comes, I can recommend to them.”

Ranjith also benefited from the expertise of volunteer mentors with many not-for-profit organizations.
All my mentors taught me about the culture and work ethic in Canada. It’s not easy for immigrants, the struggle is always the same, unless you have a mentor uplifting you. Today Ranjith is a volunteer at World Skills, OCISO and Pinecrest Queensway Community Centre and frequently meet newcomer jobseekers to guide them as a mentor.

“It gives me joy to see that I was instrumental to many individuals finding jobs in Canada. My past employer, Mrs. Rima Aristocrat, the owner of Willis College, taught me how to help other people and assist them to build their futures.”

At the beginning of this year, he started #Coffee with Ranjith, a virtual networking event for jobseekers to connect with recruiters after work hours. The first event had 120 participants and over 300 people benefited from his last three events. As a result of the pandemic, many newcomers were unable to network, and the #CoffeeWithRanjith event enabled them to meet recruiters and build connections.

“Most of the international students are always busy with their college assignments and part-time jobs, so they may delay doing research about their future employers and building connections, until after graduation,” explains Ranjith. “Getting involved in volunteer work is the best way to build the network of employers that can be beneficial after graduation. It is a blessing to meet someone like Joseph, a freelance graphic designer, who helps me at events.”

“I strongly believe that individuals like Ranjith, who in their own life have stories of triumph, are a great inspiration to any newcomer in Canada and are role models,” concludes Joseph.

He lifted one of the barriers in Joseph’s journey as an international student, by helping him to make important community connections.