• Menu

The Art of Asking (The Right Person, The Right Way)

“Raised by wolves”, bumper sticker spotted in the neighbourhood, Ottawa, April 2018

I can’t help you immigrate to Canada.

I can’t help you find a job, let alone one in a field I don’t know in a city I’ve never been to.

I can’t review your resume to help you qualify as a skilled worker.

I can’t be your reference considering we’ve exchanged a grand total of one email.

I don’t have insights into the immigration process and no, I don’t know that “special trick” to speed it up.

I don’t want to hear about your complete background and I certainly don’t want you to pick my brain on Skype (admittedly, that’s mostly because I find this idiom pretty disturbing).

I’m not selfish, uncharitable, racist, anti-immigration or useless. Also, if you call me names, you’re an ass and if you make it to Canada, I hope the hockey team you may end up supporting loses for five seasons in a row—alternatively, I hope you lose a glove on a very cold day.

Not only it’s not my goddamn job to help you, but I can’t—I’m not qualified to. It’s as simple as that. You’re asking the wrong person.

Did I ever claim I had a solution for you, random stranger with an immigration project? I don’t think so but I’m constantly baffled by people who think I am. A few are honest, like this guy: “I contacted a Canadian who offers immigration services and he asked me for 3,500.00 CDN as a fee to process my case. I think it’s too expensive, can you help me for free? It won’t take you too much effort.”

Right. So you’re dodging a potential scam—good!—but your second-best option is to ask the first person you found online to help you for free. Totally makes sense.

And most of the time, I won’t even try to help you personally because in the best-case scenario, I’ll spend time finding the information you were looking for and you will never email back, not even to acknowledge the effort or give me an update—I’d rather dedicate my free minutes to my own personal quests or chat with people who do care about the human behind the screen. In the worst-case scenario, you won’t like my answer and call me names. Also, occasionally, helping people backfires.

This week, I received 18 emails from all over the world asking for guidance through the immigration process. It’s fairly typical, although, for some reason, I can go days without this kind of email and suddenly get twenty in a row from different people.

“Please tell me what’s the best way to migrate to Canada,” “I am writing to ask you to help me go through the procedure to migrate to Canada” … Look, I get it. Sometimes, big decisions, like an immigration project, are scary. Everything feels confusing, there’s a lot at stake. I understand. But Canada is fairly transparent about the process and all the info (yes, the forms as well, stop asking me for copies!) is available online. Honestly, you should have found that before finding me online. Yes, it’s complicated and yes, you have to spend time reading documents and analyzing your situation. Yes, you may not be eligible. Yes, I know, there are fees. Yes, it’s a long process, no, you can’t fly to Canada and figure it out later.

I always answer relevant questions—for instance, those from a person interested in moving to Ottawa or from travellers requiring more info on a place we went to. I’m friendly when the email is a bit personal, when it feels like the person did spend time on the blog trying to find the info. No, I’m not “advertising my business” like someone I referred to an article claimed. I don’t have a fucking business. I’m not selling anything here and frankly, I don’t try to be popular because I understood it was never going to happen back in middle school.

This week, I kept track of the way I was dealing with emails. Out of these 18 emails, I deleted 10, sent the two-sentence standard reply with links to relevant articles to 5, found the info needed for 2 and elaborated on the topic in the last email.

And suddenly, the parallel with my own query letter efforts became obvious. In one life, I have something many people want—an immigration status in Canada. In another life, I’m also trying to follow my dream and be one of the lucky few who gets published. In one life, I receive unsolicited emails, most of them completely irrelevant considering my expertise. In another life, I’m trying to convince professionals I don’t know that I have the story their need.

Oh, the irony.

See, there’s something to learn from every experience. I’ll try to be more patient, I promise. And I’ll aim for the most relevant and personalized query letters ever.

Maybe we can all get the answers we want.

Share this article!

French woman in English Canada.

Exploring the world with my camera since 1999, translating sentences for a living, writing stories that may or may not get attention.

Firm believer that nobody is normal... and it’s better this way.

View stories

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *