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happy pharmacists at pharmacyCanadian employers often may not know how to assess education and work experience from other countries. They may require or prefer you to 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 that you may lack communication skills, etiquette, or interpersonal savvy to be an asset to their firm.

Employers want friendly, assertive professionals with strong communication skills who will fit in and over time become leaders. You can overcome this barrier and gain an understanding of how a Canadian workplace operates by:

  • volunteering
  • meeting people
  • finding a mentor
  • getting an internship, or
  • job shadowing.

Volunteering

Volunteerism is an important part of Canadian society and lifestyle. It helps you settle in faster, make friends, practice skills and even it might lead you – in some cases – to a job at the organization where you are volunteering or somewhere else. For example, you may find volunteering opportunities in hospitals, long-term care facilities, rehabilitation centres and community health programs.

You can learn about volunteer opportunities by contacting your local volunteer centre or organizations such as Pharmacists Without Borders – Canada or the Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists. As well, you can ask your relatives, friends or colleagues if they know about volunteer opportunities that match your skills and interests. Regardless, volunteering in your community is an important activity that helps you practice your communication skills and learn new skills.

Click here to learn about the benefits of volunteering.

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Internship

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 internship opportunities 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.

Mentoring

It is important to find someone such as a practicing or retired pharmacist, who can coach or mentor you and share information about the pharmacy sector in Canada. Many professional associations or firms offer this type of “buddy” program, where a seasoned member guides a junior one. Contact the relevant associations in your area to learn about mentorship opportunities.

As well, many bridging programs and immigrant-serving agencies 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 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.

For general information on mentoring, click here.

Job shadowing

Not exactly a mentorship or a volunteer opportunity, job shadowing is an interesting way to:

  • get inside information on your industry in Canada
  • learn how the Canadian workplace operates
  • make some networking contacts.

Job shadowing 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. As in volunteering, identify 5-10 pharmacists or health clinics you wish to work for and try to use your network to approach pharmacists who work there. Contact them, explain that you are a newcomer and ask them if it’s possible to job shadow them for some time to get familiar with the local work culture.