Jennifer Almeida is a networker.
If you’re looking for a good lawyer, advice on how to start a small business, or just where to get a good cup of coffee in town, Almeida has the answer.
Formerly employed by the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society, she quickly noticed the programs offered there weren’t providing people with everything they needed. So she’d meet with them on her lunch hour or after work to help advise on how to start a new life in Victoria, and eventually created the Victoria Multicultural Business Connector.
“Some people asked which bank is the best bank for me where there are not so many charges, or what schools are the best for my children,” she says. “It was as simple as that.”
Victoria has a large hidden job market and 90 per cent of positions aren’t advertised but rather filled internally or through networking. This is where VMBC comes in, Almeida says, “finding someone who has the answers and has walked through that journey themselves.”
The Malaysia native has lived and worked in Victoria for 12 years. She’s assisted immigrants, newcomers, First Nations people and other Canadians find housing, employment, schools and business advice across the Island. She’s a helper. Most recently she posted online to share her one-bedroom apartment in Victoria with anyone displaced by the recent hurricanes in the U.S. and the Caribbean.
Almeida says in this town, it’s all about who you know; through a networking event she crossed paths with life coach Sue Maitland, who will speak at the VMBC’s next mixer, this Thursday (Sept. 21).
“I think people get scared by the word ‘networking’,” Maitland says. “It’s not about selling yourself, it’s about connecting with other people and seeing what you can do for them.”
Maitland, who emigrated from England, has called Victoria home for close to 25 years. She stresses that getting out there and making contacts in your community is critical.
“Those who don’t use their connections are left fighting for the 10 per cent of jobs left over, and it’s highly competitive here in a smaller job market,” she says.
The Capital Region District is one of the fastest-growing areas in North America. In Langford alone, the population increased almost 21 per cent between 2011 and 2016. Maitland credits some of that to the growth of the high-tech sector. “Victoria is so much more vibrant now and I think it’s because young people are choosing to be here. They’re starting companies and want to stay here.”
For Almeida, these face-to-face connections symbolize a return to the past, when business was built on trust and an outstretched hand.
“We walked through a path of resistance,” she says. “Now what we want is to make sure people walk down the path of least resistance.”
The Victoria Multicultural Business Connector mixer happens Sept. 21 at Regus in The Atrium building at 5 p.m. RSVP is required at vmbconnector.org.