Job hunting had always been my least favourite activity—dating comes second. I disliked the anxiety, despised the “this interview sucks but I kinda need the job” moments, and hated the waiting-for-the-call part. With dating, at least I get to kiss the “interviewer” if I’m lucky (or more, depending on the amount of alcohol involved).
As a newly-arrived visible minority in Canada, my level of displeasure to job hunting increased. Last spring when knowing that I had to compete for a job with countless blonde girls who were born, raised and educated in North America, I had a huge doubt on the future of my career. My English isn’t 100% perfect; and the only thing I knew about Canada is that all hot Ryans and Justins are from this country (not you, Timberlake).
So after being ignored by 42 companies I’d sent my resume to, I started planning my emergency scenario: waiting tables at a restaurant. However, I didn’t know what possessed me that Saturday morning when an eccentric idea came into my head: I should send a cover letter that really stands out. I might not be the
whitest brightest candidate, but I’m more than just a pretty brown guy with an ass that won’t quit. I came hell or high water, so I wrote this letter below and mailed it back to all those 42 companies.
Ms. O’Brien, I’m writing this letter after getting a rejection from a public relations agency on the basis of my “newness” in Canada. They liked my resume, but doubted my knowledge of Canadian public & culture and questioned my ability to be a good PR practitioner.
At first I was bummed. I mourned by binging on FRIENDS & chicken wings (which was great). I even thought of getting a waitering job like when I backpacked in Australia years ago. Then after remembering why I came to Canada in the first place, I decided what the eff. Skepticism towards newcomers shouldn’t apply to me, and here’s why:
- I was a Senior Consultant for 5 years at Indonesia’s most reputable communications consultancy. I served numbers of respected brands, blue-chip corporations & international clients from various countries. That means I can get up to speed in adjusting with the cultural differences.
- In 2017, I took a risky project no other consultant would consider: a 7-month posting in the middle of a jungle, handling a Fortune 500 company’s crisis. To service the client, I had to commute in bulletproof choppers & cars. I won an Asia-Pacific & Middle East PR award for this job. Dad was very proud!
- Indonesian government is persecuting my social group. The fact that I left everything & everyone there (and started my life in Canada all by myself) shows how determined I am as a person. This life story landed me a book deal with a US-based publisher. And when it comes to career, trust me Ms. O’Brien, I carry the same mother-effing perseverance.
Have you ever had your mom call three times a day asking for a status update on how your job search is going, and then sounding incredulous that not more progress has been made since the last call? That’s my life right now, but I’m hoping soon my life will revolve around being your new PR Executive. The good news is, aside from an overbearing mom and my big speech about tenacity, I’ll bring so much more to the table. I’m one witty son of a [bleep] and, oh well, I’ll reveal my superpowers only if hired.
I’ve been working hard to gain a better understanding of Canada. I’ve been learning about its history and social & political issues. I took a French course. I even considered sending you my latest credit card statement as proof of how much I love poutine, hockey and Shawn Mendes.
In closing, I’ll just say that my letter probably looks a bit too lively, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to stuff it with bulls#!7 language just to get matches on some HR filtering software.
My name’s Zulfikar Fahd, I’m keen on doing some kick-ass work at your company. A chat over a cup of coffee would be nice, eh?
Ms. O’Brien (and two other people) wrote me back the following day, saying my letter got their attentions. I secured three interviews in one week, and long story short she’s my boss now. Nevertheless, I was aware this kind of letter wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I received a not-so-positive feedback from one of the potential employers:
“Lol interesting way to get your foot in the door. Hiring someone based on their immigration status rather than their portfolio is the same as not hiring someone because they are a certain colour. I think you’ll find that most Canadians care more about your work, and less about your ethnicity. I’d normally not reply to an email like this, but this is just friendly advice, pick something more relevant in to your skillset when you solicit yourself to an agency.”
It’s okay, though. To be heard, as an immigrant I had to speak way louder than anyone else. My voice might be too loud for some people, but some others heard it perfectly. In the last three months I’ve been having an invaluable career journey in Canada, including working for one of the world’s most prestigious movie festivals, Toronto International Film Festival.
This is just a beginning, and I have a feeling the journey will be dripping with more finesse.