When Gerard Keledjian immigrated to Canada in 2010, he brought with him over ten years of journalistic experience. However, as the majority of immigrants, he left his professional network behind.
He quickly realized that one of the major barriers internationally trained media professionals immigrating to Canada encounter – more than professionals in other industries – is the lack of a local professional network due to the small size of the media industry and its closed nature.
He soon learned as well about another barrier: the lack of meaningful opportunities for mentoring, internships, or volunteering opportunities that would give him the “Canadian experience” needed.
Gerard was delighted when he came across an online invitation for internationally trained journalists to contribute to New Voices magazine published by the Mennonite New Life Centre of Toronto.
Seeing a magazine published exclusively for immigrant journalists and offering them a chance to get published here, to have a voice was so encouraging!” he says.
Though the deadline for submissions had passed, nevertheless, Gerard contacted the Centre and met with the project coordinator. “I was happy that I found an immigrant-serving agency that cared for newcomers who had media background and had some experience as well dealing with them.”
After attending a few informal meetings hosted by internationally trained journalists and being encouraged by the Centre’s support to take this further, Gerard got excited and worked for a few months with MNLCT staff members to turn this into a professional immigrant network.
The network, called New Canadian Media Professionals’ Network (NCMP) was born on April 20, 2012, and registered with the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council’s Professional Immigrant Networks initiative.
The network’s mission is to create opportunities that help immigrants with media backgrounds to quickly become aware of the local media landscape, make valuable connections within the industry, and hopefully be able to practice their skills and expertise.
The network launched a monthly networking event with guest speakers from the industry. “It’s so positive to come together and share our experiences. It helps a lot when you see that you’re not alone in trying to overcome the challenges.”
With the Centre’s continued support, Gerard is currently working on an internship proposal and a grant project for the network. He’s busy with another project as well. He finally had his chance of contributing to New Voices’ latest issue with an article about the “Canadian experience” from the perspective of immigrant serving agencies and is working on representing the magazine in a public event to launch the issue.
As a social entrepreneur, Gerard wishes that more settlement and immigrant-serving agencies across Canada support immigrant professionals in launching their careers and lives here.
“The Centre’s organizational support was crucial in getting organized and founding NCMP,” he says. That’s why he’s always supportive of the Centre’s other initiatives, of which, the theater youth group, was featured in a TV program about Canadian immigrants that he launched and co-produced with Rogers TV Toronto.
“When you join the Mennonite New Life Centre you become part of a big, warm family,” he says. “They don’t see you as a client, but a partner, a friend and that’s a big difference.”