Canadian employers may often not know how to assess education and work experience from other countries, and may require or prefer that you have Canadian work experience. 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. They may be concerned about your communication skills, etiquette, or interpersonal savvy that are required for their company.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) employers will expect you to have:
- strong technical skills
- language skills
- flexibility and adaptability
- leadership skills
- business process understanding
- risk management skills
- time management skills
- analytical skills
You can overcome this barrier and acquire an understanding of how a Canadian workplace operates by volunteering, meeting people, having a mentor, getting an internship or job shadowing.
In addition, you should also understand the workplace culture. For example, most Canadian ICT workplaces adopt a “business casual” or a “smart casual” dress code. This means you can wear clothing that is more relaxed or informal. However, since some companies might define “business casual” differently, avoid wearing casual clothing such as jeans, tank tops or low-cut trousers unless it is explicitly allowed in the company’s dress code.
Volunteerism is an important part of Canadian society and lifestyle. It helps you settle in faster, make friends, practice skills and, may even lead to a job at the organization where you are volunteering or somewhere else. If you can’t find a volunteer opportunity in an I.T. company, you can consider volunteering in the I.T. department or a position at a social centre or other non-profits in your community. You can find these opportunities by contacting your local volunteer centre. As well, you can ask your relatives, friends or colleagues for volunteer opportunities that suit your skills and interests.
Volunteering in your community is an important way for you to integrate faster into society and the workforce and, hopefully keep your ICT skills current. Even volunteering one afternoon a week would be helpful.
A great way to gain Canadian experience and get paid at the same time is by registering for the Career Edge internship program. Career Edge is an innovative program that allows you to apply for paid internships at Canada’s leading private, public or non-profit sector employers. The program 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. This program 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. A mentor is provided for the duration of the internship. Internships are offered in categories such as:
- project management
- computer science
- communications and science.
It’s important to find someone who can coach or mentor you and share information about the ICT industry in Canada. Many professional associations offer this type of “buddy” program, where a seasoned member guides a junior one. As well, many immigrant-serving agencies also have such 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 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.
Success Story: With a master’s degree in computer sciences, Tim Tabassum Iqbal didn’t expect that his first job after moving to Canada would be shovelling snow. Before emigrating from Pakistan in 2007, he had worked as a programmer and had run his own software company. Read more.
Not exactly a mentorship or a volunteer opportunity, job shadowing is an interesting way to:
- get inside information about your industry in Canada
- Learn how the Canadian workplace operates, and
- Gain good networking contacts.
This can last anywhere from an hour to an entire day. Job shadowing is a great way to find out what an hour or a day on your job is like in Canada.