I was recently approached by an organization launching a new website for newcomers to Canada with a question: “We all know that it is vital to get a job in Canada. What do you recommend to do to get it?”
To respond to this great question, I will share some of my observations over the past eight years as a frontline Job Developer, Job Coach and Facilitator who has worked with employers, internationally trained job seekers, and job seekers from diverse backgrounds, industries and professions.
Based on my conversations with my employers, “Canadian experience” is not necessarily vital to getting a job in your field in Canada. This experience (and the necessary certifications) are only required for opportunities in the regulated professions, especially in the high level financial, accounting, engineering, medical and legal positions. Technical and soft skills required are absolutely transferable. Further, I have heard from countless employers that they recognize international experience and that it is critical that the client have the skills and qualifications required for the position. For example, I work with plenty of internationally trained architects who secure employment in their field because AutoCAD is the same no matter where you live. Most important, the key to getting a job offer for employers is that the candidate has outstanding verbal and written communication skills.
According to many of my employers in non regulated fields such as IT, when applicants are told that they will not be hired due to a lack of Canadian experience, it is often an excuse because they the employer does not think the candidate will “fit in” . This phrase can also be code for “you do not have the technical or soft skills we are looking for”. Often this means that the candidate is not communicating (verbally and non-verbally) and responding to the interview questions in the relevant and appropriate way for the job and workplace culture. How to make sure that you “fit in” to the team is challenging and applies to everyone in the job market, not just newcomers. “Fitting in” is a subjective; but 90% of the hiring decision is made if the interviewer(s) like you and want you to be part of the team.
Here are some suggestions to deal with this obstacle to getting that job offer.
1. Prepare extensively, by working on a resume and cover letter, as well as preparing for interviews. Research companies, examine job descriptions and identify the employees who might be interviewing you. Learn the values, the workplace culture, and the nature of the business. Use social media resources to do this, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Work with an employment counsellor and job developer who understand your profession, using services such as the ones we offer at JVS Toronto for Immigrants.
2. Learn how to articulate your skills, experiences, projects, and talents in a clear, concise and effective way for both networking and interview purposes. Pretend you are explaining your resume to someone who is the first grade. Regardless of where you have experience, you will need to communicate this to the hiring manager on the interview. You will need to learn the language used to express your work and why the firm should hire you. Sometimes, words are lost in translation with some languages. Be specific. Again, participate in a sector-specific employment program for newcomers like at those offered at JVS Toronto.
3. Look for an Internship or unpaid placement. Sometimes, when a job seeker has a chance to prove themselves to an employer in a less anxiety-provoking situation as an unpaid coop placement, they can be hired and avoid the whole lack of Canadian experience complaint (and sometimes even the official interview). This placement is also an excellent learning and educational opportunity to gain concrete experience for the resume and social media profile as well as a reference in addition to keeping your skills, experience and abilities fresh and updated.
4. Secure a mentor. Internationally trained professionals who are newcomers to Canada are eligible to access mentors through the Mentoring Partnership. Get your credentials and degrees evaluated to boost your credibility and being competitive.
5. Network as much as possible through social media, associations, trade shows, conferences, career fairs and employer events to learn and meet professionals in your field. For tips on networking, check out this article on this topic.
6. Volunteering in the community is a fantastic tool to show that you give back, as well as to build your network. Sometimes, you can even volunteer in your field to gain experience and a reference. Find out about volunteering opportunities Canada-wide at this site.