Planning a job search in 2018 eh?
As a newcomer to Canada, you will be making one of the biggest milestone decisions of your life.
But you have doubts, questions and moreover, fears of the unknown.
Leaving your comfort zone is never easy. I have been there, when I decided to move from Dubai to Canada.
Besides battling the “Should-I-stay-or-should-I-go” voices in your head, there is the pressure of finding that first job to keep the income flowing and the savings safe.
A recent event hosted in Markham, Ontario, called the Gateway Conference 2017 was a revelation for me personally.
It welcomed newcomers from all over the province to express their concerns and frustrations about finding their first job in Canada.
I saw the same mistakes, constantly being made by every person I heard and spoke to.
Five obvious one stood out.
1. Misunderstanding the definition of “Canadian Experience”
It is the most infamous issue haunting newcomer job seekers in Canada today.
It takes shape in the form of the hiring manager turning down a candidate for a job with a frustrating statement, “You don’t have enough Canadian experience.”
Most newcomers assessing the risks of moving to Canada know this dilemma.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) recognizes this as a significant “barrier” to newcomers.
An understandable assumption that newcomers make is that Canadian experience means working in Canada.
Nevertheless, the definition goes much deeper than that.
According to this survey conducted by OHRC, we get to hear the voices of both job seekers and employers of their take on this issue.
My personal definition of Canadian experience:
A hiring manager’s perception of your soft skills and knowledge of Canadian work culture.
Think about it for a second.
If your resume already shows that you have not worked in Canada before, why would the hiring manager call you for the interview in the first place?
Newcomers to Canada, especially those that come from cultures where technical skills are ranked higher than soft skills, need to grasp an understanding of local workplace cultures and the importance of soft skills.
I recently met a newcomer at a LinkedIn Local event who has been working in Canada for 1 year.
Back in India, she was a scrum master, and led a team of six people.
When she arrived here, she scouted for the same job.
Although opportunities were there for the taking, the Canadian experience card was dealt to her every single time.
She finally decided to pursue a role as a software developer. She was not leading a team but she was part of one, reporting to a team leader.
After 1 year of work experience, she told me the vast difference between being part of a team in Canada versus India.
Among many, the biggest difference was the fact that in Canada, you are expected to have an open dialogue with your bosses, maybe even challenge them at times. Because if not, you are perceived as lacking initiative.
Back in India, the boss’ word is the law – it is followed unquestioned, unchallenged.
I asked her “If you could turn the clock back one year, do you think you could have led a team here in Canada?”
She smiled and admitted “No way! I am glad I took on this job so that I could learn what local workplace culture is like first. Now, I think I’m ready to lead a team.”
Even if you have 5-10-15-20 years of experience in your home country, although your job may be technically practiced in the same way (regulated jobs are an exception), understanding workplace culture in Canada and the soft skills required to perform at your job is key to overcoming the Canadian experience barrier.
You can demonstrate your ambition by taking advantage of volunteering opportunities all over Canada, and seeking out mentors who are willing to pay-it-forward and educate you about your industry.
Not to mention, all the free public services from government organizations and NGOs around Canada who specialize in helping newcomers.
The good news about Canadian experience? It is a perception.
Moreover, like all perceptions, you can manage them, if you are able to demonstrate to the hiring manager that you are learning about workplace culture and actively seeking to get hands on experience through volunteering.
Most people are understandably bitter about this problem. Do not be most people.
Acknowledging that you do not have Canadian experience, but that you’re actively doing something about it will go a long way in your cover letter and the job interview.
2. Not taking an active approach to your job search
At the conference, the audience were given an opportunity to come up to the mic and voice their concerns.
One women walked up and you could hear the frustration and resentment in her voice.
She had been unemployed for 8 years.
Then, she said something that made me cringe.
“It almost feels like looking for a job is a full-time job!”
Being unemployed is no excuse for uploading a generic resume 20 times a day for an hour and kicking back to your favorite episodes on Netflix for the rest of the afternoon.
If you are serious about your job search, you can fill 8 hours per day doing one or more of the following:
- Applying for jobs online with customized cover letters and resumes
- Informational Interviews
- Networking events
- Reading industry news and sharing them with your LinkedIn network
- Researching about companies you want to target
- Creating and updating a personal website
- Touching base with your mentor or career coach
- Attending newcomer or job search assistance programs
- Vlogging, blogging, learning from books, podcasts……
I could go on and on.
If it does not feel like a full time job, you are not doing it right.
The more hours you dedicate to your job search every day, the more months you will save yourself from being unemployed.
3. Not using assistance services
My cousin tried to do what most newcomers do – wing it!
(OK, I was guilty of this too)
Working in finance, she was not only a newcomer but was a return to work mother facing a 2-year career gap.
After several failed resume blasts to online job boards, she ditched the DIY approach and registered herself to a newcomer’s program hosted by Costi.
After an intensive 2-week training that covered everything from Canadian workplace culture to job placement assistance, she got set up as an intern in a logistics company.
She worked harder than ever.
Finally, she secured a full time job at that company.
10 months later, sadly, the company had to file for bankruptcy.
While she was finishing her two-week notice, she updated her LinkedIn profile and let Canada know she was available for a new opportunity.
Her phone would not stop ringing. In fact, she was rejecting recruiters.
A dash of Canadian experience was all she needed to go from inadequate to in-demand.
Many people believe if it is free, it is not worth it. Not in Canada!
I personally trust and hire students from NGO called NPower who provide an intensive 16-week training program, going above and beyond preparing job seekers for the workforce.
Utilizing the generosity of these free services will get you started in the right direction.
This conference I attended was organized at the Hilton, attended by the mayor of Markham, hosted by a Canadian TV personality and paneled by CEOs of local organizations.
Not to mention, the catered buffet.
Canada’s community takes its public services seriously, and it would be a sin for struggling job seekers not to use them.
4. Not getting professional help for your resume
Career coach and New York Times bestseller Martin Yate, states that your resume is the most important financial document you will ever own.
An interesting perspective, considering that document will lead to an interview that will lead to a job that will be the source of your financial security.
Many people, however, fail to give enough importance this critical document deserves.
Someone at the conference stated their resume was six pages long.
I personally receive resumes today that are either ineligible due to terrible formatting or contain irrelevant (and even discriminatory) information such as marital status and passport numbers.
With the volumes of free content online, it is disheartening to see that these basic mistakes being made today.
Perhaps not everyone has “documentation skills” as a strength.
Seeking professional help for your resume is a worthy investment for any job seeker to make.
Today, when many organizations are relying on software called application tracking systems (ATS) to screen resumes before they reach human eyes, you need to have (or hire) the skills necessary to create a resume that appeals to both the ATS and human eyes.
5. Not finding the courage to step a rung or two down the corporate ladder
I get it.
It is not easy to feel like you have to go back to paying your dues.
After all, you moved to Canada for a better life and your career is a core part of that belief.
When I moved to Canada, I tried applying for jobs at the managerial level I was at in my old organization.
However, I soon realized it was naïve of me to believe that hiring managers would trust the team management skills I developed in the Middle East would work in Canada.
I humbly started applying for jobs that were two levels below what I left behind.
In fact, my active approach to job searching revealed a hidden job that was one level higher.
2 years of applying the same grit and determination I used when moving to Canada led to a promotion back to my old job within the same company.
And just like that, I was starting to feel the better life I had dreamed off.
Learning about Canadian workplace culture will take time, but once you get that first job, it is an inevitability.
If you have the patience, courage and vision to take a few initial steps back to see the bigger picture, you will be back in the workforce in no time.
As they say, the first step is always the hardest.
Even though you may have to endure a temporary setback in your career at the beginning, the experience you developed from your past will propel back to where you belong.
An expert I follow states that it may take a newcomer anywhere from 6-12 years to achieve the same career status they would have had back in their home country.
I am on year three. Do not let pride delay the process.
Hone your knowledge and skills
Job searching is never an easy time for anyone.
As a newcomer to a country, not only do you have to deal with the stress of adapting to a new environment, you also have a mental financial clock ticking of your savings that is diminishing with time.
But you had your reasons to move to Canada. And those reason compelled you to drive forward with your goals and ambition.
You picture your beautiful home.
You envision your children breathing the cool clean Canadian air and proud to see them growing up with the privileges you never had.
These five little-known factors may be holding you back.
Tell yourself you will take your job search a lot more seriously.
Tell yourself you will seek the help from professionals who are ready to assist you today.
Most importantly, tell yourself that you are ready to learn about the soft skills and workplace culture needed in Canada.
Victimizing yourself against the barriers you face will not get you anywhere.
Somebody out there is ready to give you a job, but it is your responsibility to go and find them.
Your skills got you to Canada. Your knowledge and determination will keep you here.