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.
We have prepared a Pre-Arrival Checklist of valuable information that will make arriving in Canada as smooth a process as possible.
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. It helps you settle in faster and make friends and even it might lead you to a job at the organization where you are volunteering or somewhere else. As well, volunteering experience is an important factor when considering a candidate for a position. When a potential employer sees your volunteering record, they will immediately know that you are willing to put time into something you consider worthy and that you are socially inclined. These are important attributes of teachers.
What will help you most is volunteering at a local school (If you have family or friends with children in school, their principal’s may be more open to your participation). Some private schools may hire you as a casual teacher or for a substitute position; though most probably they will require certification. If you volunteer, you need to work with teachers who can provide you reference letters, help them in the classroom and with their daily routine.
If they will let you teach a little, this will help when you write a description of your work [some schools have strict policies on this though and you may only be able to volunteer]. Use your volunteer time to familiarize yourself with the Canadian educational system and work with students in the age group which you would like to teach. Even one afternoon of volunteering a week would be helpful.
Internships are an excellent way to gain Canadian experience. You can find different internship programs in Canada that can help you and also you can attempt to arrange your own by networking.
One of the most well-known internship programs is Career Edge. It 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.
It’s important to find someone who can coach or mentor you and share information about the teaching profession in Canada. Many professional associations and some companies offer this type of “buddy” program, where a seasoned member guides a junior one.
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 the profession of teaching in Canada, know about how Canadian schools operate and possibly gain some good networking contacts. In job shadowing you accompany a teacher while they do their job. This can last anywhere from an hour to an entire day.
A job shadow is a great way to find out what an hour or a day on that job is like. Job shadowing is especially good for jobs that are highly active, such as teaching, nursing or research.