Of all the challenges of starting a new life in a new country, finding a job in Canada is one of the most critical steps for new immigrants. As many new Canadians will tell you, getting that first job and that first "Canadian" work experience is not always easy. It is particularly hard on those who immigrate to Canada as "skilled workers", but find out the hard way that this does not automatically mean that a job will be waiting for them when they arrive. In this post, I have put together some tips and resources that can help in finding a job in Canada.
First, let's start with some tips. Many new Canadians find the job search and recruitment activities in Canada a bit different than what they are used to. Often times it is small things, but they make a difference in the eyes of a recruiter or a hiring manager. The candidate themselves and their skills and experience don't change. It is simply a matter of how they present themselves in a resume/CV and in-person during an interview. New immigrants to Canada may find this frustrating, as they are confident that they can do a great job and work hard. But unfortunately, to get your foot in the door you must first be able to present yourself professionally and prove to the recruiter and hiring manager that you have the skills and experience necessary to do the job.
So here are some tips:
1) Be Flexible: Your first job may not be exactly what you want. It may not match the job you were doing before coming to Canada. You may even have to accept a more junior role to start. Of course, you should always target your desired job and level. But the point is to be flexible if needed. Write down all the skills you have and think of all the types of roles you could apply them to so you can come up with a wider set of jobs that you can apply to. With time and experience, it will become much easier to move your career towards your goals.
2) Work While You Apply: It is often easier to get a job when you are currently employed, than when you are not. This is not fair, especially to new Canadians who have uprooted their lives and quit good jobs in order to immigrate to Canada. Unfortunately, this is the reality you have to accept. From a hiring manger's point of view, when they see a person applying who has been unemployed for several months (or years), the decision to hire them becomes much more difficult. But you might ask, how can I work while I'm still applying? It makes no sense! The idea is that you should try to do something with your time. Can you work part-time? Or even volunteer somewhere? Try to show employers that you are active and eager to work. A long the gap on your resume might reflect that you are not doing anything with your time and that you lack motivation.
3) Re-Write Your Resume/CV: The typical resume in Canada probably looks a bit different that it does in an immigrants home country. Therefore, just bringing the same resume and sending it in job applications probably won't work. Here are a few pointers:
a) Remove your photo, data of birth, gender, and other personal information such as marital status or how many kids you have. While this type of information is standard in some countries, it is not typically included in a Canadian job application. Your resume should focus on your education, skills, and professional accomplishments. Including personal information immediately gives the impression that an applicant is new in Canada and not yet aware of how to conduct themselves in a professional setting.
b) Focus your resume on specific accomplishments you have made. Descriptions that describe generic functions such as team management, sales, marketing, etc. at a very high level do not give any insight into why an employer should hire you. If you managed a team, talk specifically about some accomplishments such as how you built or grew a team, new methodologies or processes you built and the results achieved, improvements in efficiency or profitability you made, and so on. Similarly for any other type of role. This is your opportunity to show the employer what you can do for them.
c) Highlight your key skills/accomplishments at the top of your resume. This section usually goes at the very top and is a summary of the strongest points that you have to offer. You can include degrees, certifications, major well known employers, specific accomplishments and achievements, and specific skills you have. Doing this can trigger the interest of an employer to look further and read the rest of your resume.
d) Include keywords. Of course, make sure the resume is easily human-readable, and don't stuff too many keywords because that can make your resume look fake. Rather, try to thoughtfully work in all the keywords that you think an employer would be looking for. If you are in IT, include the names of operating systems, programming languages, development environments and frameworks, tools, and anything else you think are relevant. It may be obvious to you, but often resumes are searched by keyword, and the initial recruiters screening resumes may not know details of your role. So if you don't match the keywords, your resume will not even be looked at.
e) Do all of the above while being brief! I typically recommend a two page resume because it's brief but still gives you enough room to include a detailed description of your skills and experience. Whether you decide on one, two, or three pages, the key point here is to convey the message efficiently, because most employers will not spend more than a few minutes looking at your resume when screening applications. Once you are selected for an interview, you will have an opportunity to get into depth as required.
4) Present Yourself Professionally: When meeting with an employer in an interview or even a less formal setting such as a job fair, make sure you present yourself professionally. Dress well and take care of your personal hygiene. Prepare yourself with some specific phrases or summaries about yourself, your skills, and your previous experiences. This will go a long way to make sure you present a focused and coherent message about yourself. Speak confidently and be calm. Make sure you listen intently when being spoken to so you can respond appropriately. Avoid talking about personal matters, politics, religion, or any other controversial issues. Making statements or repeating stereotypes targeting people of a certain gender, race, or background are completely unacceptable in Canada. If you have to make "small talk" to break the ice, talk about the weather - a favorite topic for Canadians!
With a flexible approach, a solid resume, and some preparation for meeting potential employers, you will be ready to start applying for jobs. But where should you start? These days, most job applications are made online, however, don't forget to check for in-person opportunities to apply for work. In particular, retail and restaurant jobs are often posted in the establishments themselves, and resume submission can be made in person. Here are some resources you should consider looking into:
1) The Canada Job Bank: It is recommended for you to create a profile and start applying for jobs on the job bank even before arriving in Canada. You will often find jobs here that are not posted anywhere else. As with all job searches, it is highly competitive and you won't hear anything back from most job posting you apply to. But don't give up and keep trying. You never know where your next job will come from! Visit the Job Bank.
2) Search Jobs on Google: Google's search engine has a new feature for searching for jobs using their super easy search engine. All you have to do is go to Google and search for a term like "jobs in Canada" or "jobs in Toronto". You can even specify a type of job like "jobs for engineers in Canada". You will see a special jobs box show up listing jobs that match your query.
3) Use LinkedIn: You can use LinkedIn's jobs section to search for, find, and apply for jobs. Before you do so, you should make sure your LinkedIn profile is updated and professionally written. Make sure it matches your resume since most employers will check your LinkedIn profile if they are interesting to learn more about you. You can put more details on LinkedIn and include a longer employment history since you are not limited in space. Being active on LinkedIn including commenting, liking, and posting original content can also raise your profile. Combine this with a strategy to build your network thoughtfully. Find the right opportunities and approach, don't just send random invites to people. If you don't have a profile yet, get started today on LinkedIn.
4) Connect with your local settlement agency: There are many settlement agencies in Canada that are dedicated to helping new Canadians settle into their new life in Canada. They can provide support with housing, health, employment, and education. Many also run programs to match newcomers with mentors who can help them navigate the employment landscape, network, and prepare for job interviews. Here are a few to get you started:
Arriving in a new country for the first time and knowing that this will be your new home can be exciting, but also a little bit scary. However, rest assured that millions have immigrated to Canada successfully, and almost all eventually are able to build their own successful and happy life in Canada. Keep the tips in this article in mind, and use the resources provided, and you will be way ahead of most other newcomers to Canada.
If you are thinking about immigration to Canada, and would like to speak to a professional about available immigration programs and whether you would qualify, book an immigration consultation session with us and we'll be happy to help!