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10 Tips to Understanding the Canadian Job Market

Key challenges

Looking for a job, even in a favourable employment market, always requires hard work. This is particularly true for international students as they need to understand the uniqueness of the Canadian Job Market with regard to: language skills, cultural differences, recruitment practices and job search strategies. The following practical guidelines will help you acquire necessary knowledge and skills to be successful in your job search. Please review them carefully and remember there is no «magic formula». Your success in achieving your career goals comes from hard work, commitment and advanced preparation.    

  

10 Tips for International Students seeking employment in Canada 

  1. Choose your study program wisely
  2. Be flexible when considering career opportunities
  3. Gain «Canadian experience»
  4. Be the «expert» on immigration issues
  5. Improve your language skills
  6. Understand cultural differences
  7. Prepare to deal with misconceptions
  8. Be aware of discrimination and employment equity regulations
  9. Use networking as an effective job search strategy
  10. Focus on your “added value” and market yourself with confidence

1. Choose your study program wisely

No diploma by itself will guarantee that you will get a job in your field of interest. Unless you can clearly demonstrate to a recruiter that you possess the knowledge, skills and abilities required by the position at hand, you won’t get hired. Therefore, deciding which study program is right for you requires close consideration of what your career goal is, what skills, experience and knowledge are expected and what the job market needs.

Resources:

  • CareerLeader®: a self-assessment tool available at CMS. To help you identify your career interests, values and abilities and understand how they relate to your targeted job.
  • Appointment with a career counselor to discuss your CareerLeader®results and get help in choosing your study program

2. Be flexible when considering career opportunities

International students often want to make a career transition while integrating the Canadian job market. Not having substantial Canadian experience is already a challenge in itself, adding the difficulty of making a career change at the same time is an even greater challenge for job searching. Therefore, it is preferable to show flexibility by considering different job opportunities and to think of your career plan as a series of smaller bridges. It’s possible that your first job won’t reflect perfectly the career you had in mind but try to keep a long-term perspective on your career path. Here are a few tips on how you can prepare and facilitate a career-change: First, you must find a way to bridge the gap (experience, skills, and education) between your old career and your new one. While transferable skills (skills that are applicable in multiple career fields, such as communications skills) are an important part of career change, it is often necessary to gain additional experience before you can find the job you want.

Resources

  • CareerLeader®: a self-assessment tool available at CMS. To help you identify your career interests, values and abilities and understand how they relate to your targeted job.  
  • Appointment with a career counselor to discuss your CareerLeader®results and get help in choosing a career in line with your profile.

3. Gain «Canadian experience»

Whether you aim for a career-change or not, gaining Canadian experience will be helpful to integrate the job market. There are many ways to acquire experience while completing your study program: internships, part-time jobs, summer jobs, volunteer programs and extra-curricular activities. It is a great way to get first-hand knowledge of specific business sectors, develop your network of contacts in your field of interest, and discover the type of experience employers expect from applicants. Any opportunity you may have to demonstrate your willingness to adapt to the local employment market will make you a more competitive candidate.

Resources:

4. Be the « expert » on immigration issues

Do not expect recruiters to know everything with regard to laws and regulations affecting your employment status in Canada. It is your responsibility to be fully aware of immigration and work permit requirements. The more familiar you are, the better you will succeed in explaining your status to a prospective employer.

Resources:

  • International Students Affairs Office (ISAO)  web site – Living in Montreal/ Working in Canada section   
  • Workshop: «Canada Work Permit» - International Students Affairs Office (ISAO)
  • Work Permits and Visas for Canada: Goinglobal®

5. Improve your language skills

Canada is a bilingual country. Its two official languages are English and French, with French predominating in the province of Quebec. As a result, in many areas of Quebec, it will be difficult to find employment unless you are able to converse in French. In major cities such as Montreal and Quebec City, you will find a large percentage of the population to be bilingual. As for other Canadian provinces, mastery of English is a key requirement. If you are fluent in English and do not speak French, you may want to take intensive French courses or consider seeking employment in major Canadian cities such as Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.

Resources :

6. Understand cultural differences

Developing cultural self-awareness is an essential component of your job hunting process. In order to be successful in your job search, you must be aware of possible conflicting values between your home country culture and the Canadian culture. For example, in some cultures, citing your achievements and skills may be seen as pretentious and too individualistic, unless presented as part of a group effort. However in Canada, to speak openly about your accomplishments in a job interview is normal. It’s usually what employers expect because it’s an excellent way for them to learn about the competencies of a candidate.

Resources:

  • Workshop: «Règles du jeu du marché de l'emploi canadien » (in French only)
  • Cultural Advice for Canada: Goinglobal®
  • Workshop: «Business Etiquette: How to look sharp» 
  • Workshop: «Use Effective Interview Techniques»
  • Workshop : «Networking and Strategic Job Search» 

7. Prepare to deal with misconceptions 

Some recruiters may have the false impression that hiring an international student is complex and time consuming. In addition, some recruiters fear international students will eventually want to return to their home countries. Therefore, they may be reluctant to invest time and money in training new hires only to see them leave the company. Employers may also consider that international students lack «Canadian» experience, as if their foreign experience had no value. It is therefore very important to prepare yourself to face potential misconceptions a recruiter may have towards you.

Ressources :

  • Guide: «10 Tips to successful interviews»
  • Workshop : «Use Effective Interview Techniques»
  • Workshop: «Pratique d'entrevue pour étudiants internationaux » (in French only)
  • InterviewStream®  an online mock interview service to help prepare yourself
  • If needed, appointment with an employment counselor to prepare yourself to face the potential barriers in your job search 

8. Be aware of discrimination and employment equity regulation

The Canadian Human Right Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of 11 grounds, namely: race, national or ethnic origin, age, marital status, family status, etc. Contrary to common practice in several countries, employers do not expect to find in your resume any information pertaining to these prohibited grounds of discrimination. In other words, in Canada employers must judge your résumé on your professional skills and qualifications. Therefore, it is preferable not to include a picture or any information about family status, nationality and age in your Canadian resume.

The Employment Equity Act requires employers to engage in proactive measures to improve the employment opportunities of the four designated groups: women, people with disabilities, aboriginal people and visible minorities. Approximately 590 organizations in the federally regulated private sector and in the federal public service are covered by this act, therefore these organizations tend to have a more diversified workforce.

Resources:

  • List of organizations covered under the Employment Equity Act: public sector and private sector  
  • Workshop: «Prepare a Winning Resume» 

9. Use networking as an effective job search strategy

In Canada, a large number of job opportunities are never advertised in newspapers or on the Internet. In order to reduce expenses or to proceed quickly, these jobs find suitable incumbents through word-of-mouth referrals. The 2010 Graduate Management Admission Council Corporate Recruiters Survey indicates that 76% of employers rely on employee referrals as a recruitment strategy. Therefore, candidates who want to maximize their job search, in addition to responding to job ads and approaching recruiting firms, must increase their visibility in the job market by developing their personal contact network.

In order to be successful in your job search, you need to use multiple job search strategies and networking is by far one of the best ways to discover the «hidden job market». There are many opportunities to expand your network:

  • Join a professional association;
  • Do volunteer work;
  • Participate in activities such as: career days, job fairs, corporate information sessions, conferences, company visits, networking cocktails, etc.;
  • Connect with student associations and committees;
  • Initiate informational interviews with professors, former co-workers, vendors, customers/clients, alumni, etc.;
  • Join social networking sites such as HEC clubs and LinkedIn.

Resources:

  • Guide: «A Guide to Informational Interviewing» 
  • Guide: «10 Tips to Successful Networking»
  • Vault® guide to «Schmoozing»
  • Workshop: «Networking and Strategic Job Search»
  • If needed, appointment with an employment counselor to prepare your networking strategy (Note: It is recommended to attend the Networking and Strategic Job Search workshop prior to scheduling an appointment).

 10. Focus on your "added value" and market yourself with confidence 

As an international student you offer a unique set of knowledge, skills and abilities. Market yourself in a way that your «added value» is clear in the eyes of the recruiter. Consider your «Unique Selling Points» such as:

  • Multilingual skills
  • Bi-cultural advantage
  • Latest insights on industry developments from overseas
  • Business Intelligence to assist employers tap into new markets
  • Determination, ability to adapt and work in a multicultural environment

Furthermore, make sure to highlight transferable skills acquired in your country which can easily be applied to the job you are targeting.

Resources:

  • Guide: «10 Tips to Successful Networking »
  • InterviewStream® an online mock interview service to help you prepare
  • Workshop: «Use Effective Interview Techniques»
  • Workshop: «Pratique d'entrevue pour étudiants internationaux » (in French only) 
 
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