Watch Linda Ryan discuss how BCCA-Integrating Newcomers can help you build your Canadian career before you arrive in Canada!
Canadian work experience is something that employers look for on your resume. But how do you gain Canadian work experience when you have recently arrived in Canada? How can you overcome this barrier?
Linda Ryan is the National Program Manager with BCCA-Integrating Newcomers, a government funded, Canada-wide, pre-arrival career coaching service for high skilled construction professionals immigrating to Canada (*BCCA-IN).
A career and certified performance coach, she and the BCCA-IN team specialize in helping newcomers plan for, and achieve, employment success, no matter what city or province they are moving to.
When it comes to gaining Canadian work experience, Ryan provides specific advice. Prepare for Canada spoke to Ryan and here’s what she had to say to those who have immigrated to Canada and are in the first weeks of living the no ‘Canadian experience’ reality. For example, you are qualified and have credentials, but you aren’t getting job interviews or offers because you have out-of-country experience.
So, how do you overcome this employment barrier? When you search for your first job in Canada, consider other ways to get Canadian experience that can lead to full-time employment. Employers who 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 knowledge of the Canadian workplace culture, language proficiency, or important skills and training.
How can you gain Canadian work experience? Ryan offers this solid advice.
Three Ways to Gain Canadian Work Experience
1. Volunteer work
Volunteering 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.
As Ryan states, “the trick with volunteering is to be strategic about the not-for-profit organizations and roles related to your career. Invest time looking for roles that you are genuinely interested in and that link to your career.”
- Be prepared to interview for your volunteer role and take it seriously
- Expect to commit to a specific number of hours per week or per year
- Visit sites like govolunteer.ca to search for volunteer roles across Canada.
Ryan also stresses the importance of being honest with yourself about whether you can meet those expectations.
In addition to gaining Canadian work experience, volunteer work can be a great career development opportunity as well. Volunteer work can help you to enhance your existing skills, learn and develop new skills, and make connections with professionals in your field. It’s also a great way to stay involved as you conduct your job search.
Another route that Ryan suggests you consider to gain Canadian work experience is to intern. If you don’t want to go the not-for-profit route, you can look for local companies with roles that match your experience. Also, shortlist companies that are advertising paid roles (in your area of expertise) and opt for more junior roles where you can easily prove your worth and add value.
Approach the company and offer to intern, unpaid for four-six weeks to test you out. Ryan offers, “I’ve seen it done successfully by newcomers. But, success depends on your comfort doing this and the employer’s appetite to invest the time and energy to support a role trial.”
Tips to Approach Employers:
- Use your peer network (that you’ve built pre- and post-arrival to Canada)
- Pick up the phone and ask to speak to the HR manager (or better still a peer manager)
- Walk in to the business and drop off your resume.
Ryan offers, “the more personal and genuine you make the interaction (showing up, dressing well, being open, friendly, and professional) the more of an impression you’ll make.
3. Take a Short Course or Bridging Program
If you can, avoid the cost and time of opting for a master’s degree in your technical field unless you really want to do one! Instead look for the most relevant, brief and inexpensive technical course you can take that will add to your skills or expertise. Ryan often advises newcomers to budget to be out of work for six months after arriving in Canada. There are lots of reasons why I suggest this timeframe and gathering your ‘Canadian experience’ is one of them.
- Once you have arrived in Canada connect with a settlement agency to learn about funding for a bridging program to secure or challenge your Canadian credential.
Learn More about BCCA-IN
*The BCCA-Integrating Newcomers program is a free, pre-arrival, Canada-wide service, focused on helping high-skilled newcomers explore and build successful construction careers. Services include one-on-one career guidance, tailored resume, cover letter, LinkedIn advice, and an in-depth skills and education assessment to help newcomers focus on the best career, credentials and connections activities. The Integrating Newcomers team not only has multi-industry experience but are also immigrants who have built successful careers in Canada.