The number of international students in Canada is growing every year. Most of these international students choose big cities like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver to study. Having a Canadian degree or certificate bring international recognition to the table for these students and also it will help them to apply and immigrate to Canada. For some of the permanent immigration programs, the study in Canada is a must while in other programs it will add some points to the eligibility charts or will help the officer to take a favourable decision on the case. In many cases, international students will be eligible for an open work permit (OWP) after graduation from the Canadian post-secondary institution.
However, the fact remains that many of these students will face many issues to find a job that matches their certificate or degree, and will be of NOC 0,A or B. The NOC codes are the ones that have been valued most for immigration to Canada and many of these jobs could be classified as high-wage jobs. The competition is fierce, and many of the job applications are killed even after the initial review of the resume and the cover letter.
Here are five of those strategies to help the students (and to some extent, other newcomers) to find a job that could be as close as their previous education or experience.
1- Learn the Canadian way to seek a job.
There are significant differences in the job search process in Canada (or somewhat in North America) than other parts of the world. As the first step of any job application starts with sending the Resume and cover letter to the potential employers, these two documents must be rewritten as per common Canadian formats. You may find enormous guidelines, and samples over the web on this topic, but below is some basic (and not conclusive) guidelines:
– In Canada we use “Resume” and not CV (Curriculum Vitae): While CV still exists for senior academic or professional positions. It is far more extended with details such as a description of the thesis or personal development courses, etc. CVs tend to be five to ten pages while Resume is between one to two pages. The key for the resume to be seen is to keep it short and relevant to the position advertised. The moment resume start to sound long and not matching to the job advertisement, it would be ignored.
– For the same reason, it is crucial that the resume and the cover letter to be customized for every job posting. One of the best strategies is to have a master resume and a master cover letter, containing all the possible information, and try to remove the non-relevant information as per each job posting. Also, it would be a good practice to add a little bit about the potential employer in your cover letter. It shows that the applicant has already researched both the employer and the position in the company and knows what (s)he is doing.
– Do not under (or over) estimate yourself. It is tough, yet imperative to see yourself as realistic as possible. One of the best ways to achieve this goal in the resume is to have it reviewed by some friends or family.
– The Canadian employers want to know the strengths of the applicants backed up by hard evidence, and figures and numbers as much as possible. While “being an outstanding team player” is a very weak phrase in a resume, changing it to “…joined to the project team and increased the output by 34% and reduced the delays by %17.5” is much more sensible.
2- The work experience dilemma
The chicken or the egg dilemma is commonly known as “which came first: the chicken or the egg?”. The same could be said about companies who ask about work-experience from fresh graduates or newcomers. Without a job, there would be no work experience, and without work experience, there would be no job!
Having Canadian work experience is something more than the knowledge of doing the job. In my experience, many of the Canadian employers are willing to help the new employee to improve their skill set. However, many small – yet essential skills widely known as “Soft Skills” are critical to getting and keeping a job. These are mainly related to work ethics, but could be further extended to socializing skills of the new employee to fit into the culture of the company and how to mingle among the old colleague.
Having a Canadian work experience will assure the employer that the recruit has already been challenged by the soft skills in his/her previous workplace and succeeded to survive in those situations. This is the part that very little formal education could be found, but yet, it could be a deal or no deal for many Canadian employers.
Employers prefer to hire candidates who can prove that they have applied their education, skills and knowledge to a real workplace. It is widely accepted that work-integrated learning opportunities have value and produce benefits for students and employers. In some cases, if there was no internship or placement was not part of the job, or it did not yield the desired results, it is still possible for some relevant volunteer or co-operative (co-op) work experience to show the applicant has the right Canadian work experience under his/her belt.
3- IMPROVE YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF CANADIAN ENGLISH LANGUAGE, AND CANADIAN CULTURE
Employer: “Get the ball rolling on this project, eh?”
You: “Umm, excuse me?”
Translation: “Could you please start working on this project?”
Although a good command of the English language is essential for every skilled worker (or every employee), that is not enough to succeed to survive the job interviews, and after that, the job itself.
Even having English competencies near to English speakers does not mean that the applicant is familiar to Canadian English slang and idioms, which are used daily in the working environment.
Loonie (Toonie), Timmies, Double-double, Two-four, Toque, Mickey, Pop, Keener, Kerfuffle, Runners, Beauty, Snowbirds, Chesterfield, Whale’s tail are just a few samples of these words. A runner is not a person who runs, and Beauty does not refer to appearances.
Knowing the Canadian culture, news, sports etc. will improve your soft skills and make you a cornerstone of your workplace. Please remember that politics is considered personal and private and is typically not discussed in the workplace (except the election time).
4- Leverage social media
Social media is a powerful tool to present your experience to various HR professionals and employers. Consider enhancing your LinkedIn profile. Cold-calling the potential employers and keeping track of their company news is very common in the competitive job market of Canada.
The more industry contacts you connect with, the better your chances of landing that ideal position. Participate in as many industry events (information sessions, employer events and career fairs etc.) as possible. Join professional networking groups and clubs on campus.
I encourage you to use these strategies to gain successful entry in the Canadian job market. This five strategies are not the ultimate solution for any job applicant but merely a starting point for the job hunting process. Eventually, you will be able to improve, fine-tune and customize these strategies based on your personal preferences and your professional needs.