Canadian employers, who often do not know how to assess education and work experience from other countries, may require or prefer you to have experience working in Canada. Lack of local market experience can pose a challenge for newcomers, but there are ways to overcome some of these challenges.
When an employer tells you that you have no “Canadian experience” often they mean that they’re not sure if you’re going to fit into their workplace. They are not sure that you are familiar with Canadian codes and standards of practice or that you have the communication skills, etiquette or inter-personal savvy to be an asset to their firm. Employers want friendly, assertive professionals with terrific communication skills who will fit right in and become natural leaders.
You can overcome this barrier and acquire a good understanding of how a Canadian workplace operates by volunteering, meeting people, having a mentor, getting an internship or job shadowing.
Volunteerism is an important part of Canadian society and lifestyle. You might be able to find volunteer opportunities in the HR sector, or even paid opportunities when you might get hired on a temporary basis to cover for someone who is sick or on maternity leave. Identify 5-10 companies you wish to work for and research them in detail. Then approach them, explain that you are a newcomer and that you are looking for volunteer opportunities to get local experience.
In addition to corporations, consider volunteering for community agencies and other non-profits in your community, preferably in a Human Resources related role. Volunteering can help you settle in faster and make friends and contacts. It might even lead you to a job at the organization or somewhere else. When looking for volunteer opportunities, look for work that keeps your HR skills and experience current.
Another good way to acquire Canadian experience is by having internships. Career Edge is an innovative internship program that allows you to apply for paid internships at Canada’s leading private, public or non-profit sector employers. The program regularly posts sales and marketing internship opportunities regularly and offers paid internships of four, six, nine or 12 months for recent immigrants with:
- fluency in English
- at least a Bachelor’s level education
- a minimum of three years international work experience
The program is run by Career Edge, a not-for-profit social enterprise that has managed over 9,200 paid internships across Canada since 1996.
Another opportunity is the Federal Internship for Newcomers (FIN) Program which provides recent immigrants with valuable temporary Canadian work experience and training opportunities with federal government departments and other public and private sector organizations. Interns are hired as casual employees for 90 working days, with the possibility of extending the internship an additional 90 working days.
Internships are offered in categories such as:
- policy, administration
- project management
- computer science
- communications and science.
A mentor will be provided for the duration of the internship.
It’s important to find someone who can coach or mentor you and share information about the Human Resources sector in Canada. Many professional associations offer this type of “buddy” program, where a seasoned member guides a junior one or a newcomer like you.
As well, many immigrant-serving organizations have mentorship programs where they team up a newcomer with someone in their professional field. The Mentoring Partnership brings together recent skilled immigrants and established professionals in the GTA in occupation-specific mentoring relationships. The program is managed by the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council.
You can also look for mentoring opportunities online, by registering for sites such as MentorCity.
Not exactly a mentorship or a volunteer opportunity, job shadowing is an interesting way to get some inside information on your industry in Canada, know about how the Canadian workplace operates and possibly make some good networking contacts.
As in volunteering, identify 5-10 companies you wish to work for and try to use your network to find people who work at these companies. Approach them, explain that you are a newcomer and ask them if it’s possible to job shadow them for a week or a few days to get familiar with the local industry and work culture.