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Work Experience

When you arrive in Canada, you will need to gain Canadian experience to help with your job search effort. You may be tempted to apply for jobs the minute you land. But, if you’re not prepared for the Canadian job market, your job search will take longer than you expected. If you apply for jobs without properly preparing, you may hear a potential employer ask “do you have Canadian work experience?”

So, how can you overcome this employment barrier? When you search for your first job in Canada, consider alternative ways to get “Canadian experience” that can lead to full-time employment. Employers that state that you have no Canadian experience may be concerned that they are taking a risk on you.  Hiring managers may worry that without Canadian experience, you may lack:the skills you need to succeed such as:

  • knowledge of the Canadian workplace culture
  • required language proficiency
  • important skills and training.


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So, how can you gain Canadian work experience?

Three ways to gain Canadian experience

1. Volunteer work

Volunteer work is one way to overcome the “no Canadian experience” employment barrier. When you volunteer, you can improve your chance of finding a job that matches your skills, knowledge, and experience. This is something many immigrants do to get that so-called Canadian experience. By volunteering, newcomers get the chance to show their interpersonal skills, language skills, and overall professional ability. Once you’re in the door, an employer can observe the skills you can offer, and this may lead to full-time employment with the organization. If it doesn’t directly lead to full-time employment, your volunteer work still counts as valuable experience.

Assuming you can show that you meet all, or most of the job requirements, if a paid position becomes available, you’ll be top of mind. You’ll still have to interview for the job, along with other potential candidates, but you’ll be in a better position.

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In addition to gaining Canadian work experience, volunteer work can be a great career development opportunity as well. Your volunteer work can help you to:

  • enhance your existing skills
  • learn and develop new skills
  • make important connections with professionals in your field
  • stay involved as you conduct your job search.

2. Part-time work

Ideally, your goal is to find full-time work. But, there are benefits to working part-time. When you’re new to the country, part-time work will help you to cover essential expenses while you focus on other activities to help you settle in Canada. Or, part-time work may allow you time to pursue additional training that you may require for the type of job you’re pursuing. Part-time work can also be a great way to get into an organization.

If an employer has concerns about hiring your full-time because you lack Canadian work experience, they may feel more comfortable hiring you on a part-time basis. It reduces the hiring risk for them, and gives you an opportunity to show them that you’d be a great asset to their organization.

3. Contract work

Increasingly, Canadian employers hire employees on a contract basis. This means that you will be hired for a set amount of time, usually between three to twelve months. However, contract employees do not receive healthcare benefits, paid holidays, sick days, or pension contributions. The upside is that contract work can give you required Canadian experience, and very often can lead to a full-time position.

Any of these options can help you to gain essential Canadian experience. As well, you’ll meet new professional contacts and learn about other job opportunities within the organization, or at other organizations. These job referrals can help you to access the hidden job market and boost your job search efforts.