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.
ICT employers specifically will expect you to have strong technical skills, language skills; initiative, flexibility and adaptability, leadership skills, understanding of business processes, risk management skills, time management skills, analytical skills, learning skills.
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.
In addition to this, you should also work on understanding the workplace culture. For example, most Canadian ICT workplaces adopt a “business casual” or a “smart casual” dress code which means clothing that are 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 even it might lead you – in some cases – to a job at the organization where you are volunteering or somewhere else. Even if you can’t find a volunteer opportunity in an I.T. company, you should consider volunteering in the I.T. department or position at one of the social centres 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.
You should consider volunteering in your community as it is an important tool that can help you integrate faster into society and workforce and hopefully keep your ICT skills current. Even one afternoon of volunteering a week would be helpful.
An excellent way to acquire Canadian experience and get paid at the same time is by registering for the Career Bridge internship program. Career Bridge 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
- with at least a Bachelor’s level education
- with a minimum of three years international work experience
The program is run by Career Edge Organization, 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 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.
For similar programs in other Canadian cities, check the immigrant employment council in your area.
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 some inside information on your industry in Canada, know about how the Canadian workplace operates and possibly gain some good networking contacts. This can last anywhere from an hour to an entire day. Towards the end of an information interview, ask if it’s possible to job shadow the person, of course only if you feel that the interview has gone well. Job shadowing is a great way to find out what an hour or a day on your job is like in Canada.