How to find a job in Canada
A short guide for an effective job search in Canada for new immigrants in 2020
Disclaimer: this essay is a personal take on a job search is. What’s written here is not a professional, but exclusively subjective opinion on the job. The organization with which the author is currently affiliated cannot and will not be held responsible for any misinterpretation of the following information and any consecutive actions undertaken by the reader.
I arrived in Canada on October 6, 2019.
Later I will probably write a separate essay about the emotional roller coaster of the first 40 days but today, I just want to focus on practical knowledge for all the job seekers who arrive in Canada. I hope my experience will help someone.
Let’s keep it short and sweet. Here are some tips for newcomers to Canada in 2020.
Prior to landing
Decide on the city.
Canada is big and it’s cities do differ in terms of what they offer their residents. Take all factors into account: climate, prices, job market. It would depend on your skills, but in some cities, there might be a higher demand for specialists like you. Thus, it is well-known that Alberta might be a better place for professionals in the petro industry but to have confidence and solid knowledge on the subject do your research and meditate on what is the best place for you to land.
Research vocational services and employment centers.
Some non-profit organizations have special programs for newcomers. You can sign up for such a program and start preparing for your new life as soon as 3 months prior to your arrival. Discover non-profits that exist in the city where you plan to live and find out what kind of educational and preparational programs do they offer online. Some of the programs might even give you an opportunity to connect with an employer and pass a video-call interview prior to landing.
Check if your profession is regulated.
Keep in mind that some professions such as an engineer or a medical doctor are regulated i.e. require a license to practice. Seek guidance from the center on what would be the most intelligent way to arrange your transition. Some centers offer bridging programs that might help you to retrain for a similar profession in your field and practice it at least for the initial adaptation period.
Study the language.
English is vital. If you want to be effective in building your new life, language must be your first priority. Start training your brain so that it gets used to operating in English.
Stay away from your community when you arrive. It is a natural impulse to seek help from people who share your culture and it also might seem easier to land a job but in the long game, it is shooting yourself in the leg. I see immigrants who are 6 years in immigration and they speak almost zero English. Why? They all got stuck in their communities and never allowed themselves to truly transform and become Canadians.
Take this tip with a grain of salt. Choosing a community is a personal choice for everyone. Indeed there is a chance that you will get your first job in Canada through your community. However, there are some other implications that come into play.
This particular advice not to seek help in your community applies to my fellow immigrants from post-soviet countries. Sadly there were many reports of how people were abused by an employer within a Russian speaking community and as a newcomer you should be aware of that. Do your best to become self-sufficient as soon as possible.
As a general rule, I would recommend to immerse yourself in an environment in which you have no choice but to speak English. It’s true, it is a discomfort zone. But most certainly you will adapt much faster both to the new language and new culture.
Attend a workshop.
If you have never heard of employment centers but already landed in the country this is the first thing to do. Find a non-profit that offers free employment services.
Normally there are several different workshops that will be available to you. On these workshops you will be able to learn the following:
- Effective job search strategies
- The specificity of the job search in Canada
- How to write a resume and how to modify it to the Canadian standards
- Interview Skills Preparation
- How to use LinkedIn to expand your network in a new country [link to be updated]
- How to tap into a hidden job market
- What is job development and how to take advantage of this service [link to be updated]
Choose your employment center wisely as although they all claim to have the same services, the quality of the services provided is different.
Attend a Job fair. Approach people.
All employment centers will be advertising some job fairs and hiring events. Attend those. This is how I found my first job in Canada.
I found an advertisement about a job fair in the Community Center where I was taking workshops. I’ve printed a bunch of resumes, dressed up nicely, and showed up on time.
Long story short the job fair itself was completely useless. All the employers that were invited to the event just shared generic information and didn’t even accept the resumes for consideration. Lastly, the jobs themselves were pretty far from what I wanted to get involved with.
However, spending there more than 3 hours I have noticed that many of the organizers who were managing the event were Russian-speakers.
It bothered me deeply that I and other job seekers have invested so much time into this event ended up spending their day in such an unproductive way.
I have approached one of the ladies who organized the event to share some ideas on how the organization of the job fair could be improved.
We started talking. I presented myself and told her that I am looking for a job. She asked me to show her my resume.
I don’t know what caught her eye but she made a comment that my resume looks interesting and that as a matter of fact, they were hiring for the position for which I might be a good fit. She promptly introduced me to another manager who asked after a short conversation to email her my resume.
I have tailored the resume to the position and applied for a job. One telephone screening, one telephone interview, one interview with two senior managers, and on November 15, 2019, I received a call. They made me an offer.
Here is the thing. I wouldn’t have found that job fair if I hadn’t started attending all the workshops and lectures offered by the local community center right after my arrival. I wouldn’t have met the people I met if I hadn’t shown up. And certainly, I would have never got an opportunity and even never learned about the existence of the job that I currently have if I hadn’t approached the organizer of that job fair.
I am writing this not to brag about how good I am. I am trying to make a point:
If you want to be effective in your job search you have to be proactive.
Good things happen to those who step up, speak up, and never give up.
There are people who wait for things to happen to them, and there are people who make things happen. It is all a matter of choice and you are making that choice every single moment. Shakesperean “to be or not to be” at the end of the day becomes a very factual “to do or not to do”. If you see an opportunity, seize it.
Polish your resume.
I always tell my clients that they must learn how to think as all parties involved. Not only you must think as a job seeker, but also as an employment service provider, as an employer, and of course, as an HR who receives your resume.
The way an HR person thinks is very straightforward:
If the resume is not ready you are not job-ready.
Your resume must be perfect.
Think of it as a dartboard. An HR must be able to close his eyes, lay a finger at any random spot on your resume, and “hit the bullseye”.
The most common mistake in a job search is to create on generic resume and spam with it on all jobs. Such an approach has very low efficiency. Your resume and the job description must match beautifully like a jigsaw puzzle.
Many companies use ATS which stands for Applicant Tracking Systems. These software applications scan your resume fishing for the keywords that reflect the required qualifications. This is why it is important to submit your resume in a DOC format, not PDF. PDFs are not as readable as DOCs, as the text on them is often not recognized properly.
The companies that do not use ATS, still rely on the human eyes of the HR professional, but even he is still skimming the text looking for the relevant keywords. 30–40 seconds — this is how much on average an HR specialist will spend looking at a resume. You must take into consideration that there is a stack of hundreds of resumes waiting on his desk. If he doesn’t find what he is looking for your resume will fly in the trash bin.
There are different types of resumes:
- Chronological — overview of your experience in chronological order. Works for most professionals with a consistent work record.
- Functional — works better for people who have gaps in their employment history or for someone who applies to a job in a new industry.
- Combination — highlighting skills and qualifications first, followed by an experience section in chronological order.
- Targeted — your work history, skills, and education are tailored to the specific job requirements.
I am not sure why people distinguish “targeted” as a separate type. All your applications must be targeted.
Read some articles on resume writing and think about what type of resume works best for you. Never hesitate to seek help from experts (employment counselors) — they have seen thousands of resumes in their career so they really know what works and what doesn’t.
Apply for jobs.
This is the obvious one. Send at least 5 targeted resumes/cover letters a day. Make a simple table to track all your applications. It could include a date, company, position, comment, and outcome columns. Keeping yourself organized will not only help you but also will come in handy if you decide to use the services of a job developer. Which brings me to my next point.
Capitalize on the services that are offered by Employment Centers.
Take advantage of all the free services that are available to you thanks to the generous government funding. Reach out to your local employment center and learn what kind of help can you get from Employment Counselors, Job Developers, and Community Outreach Specialists. Don’t come in with a sense of entitlement but rather work with the employment services pulling your weight and your effectiveness as a job seeker will skyrocket.
Capitalize on LinkedIn.
I have shared some ideas on how to capitalize on LinkedIn in this 👉essay. But briefly speaking, my advice is simple:
Network like crazy.
Now you are new to the country and that makes you a no-name. Some people come to Canada and still reminisce about the status and valuable connections they have enjoyed having back home. Being a new immigrant all these things are irrelevant.
The only thing that matters is how you can apply your skills and life experiences to build a new network and acquire a new reputation. In this country (as well as in any other), networking is not about who you know, it is about who knows you.
Even when you will be employed (and you will be employed) keep expanding your network. It will be your safety net, should something unpredictable happen.
Last but not the least, work on your mindset
There is one subtle thing that makes the difference between someone who is very effective in a job search and someone who is not.
It is the way they think.
When I work with my clients they are surprised by how much I emphasize the importance of having a robust life philosophy in a job search. It is true, that the questions I ask may seem too philosophical, but that is precisely the purpose. I am sure you understand why I see life philosophy as the most crucial element of the job search.
Your life philosophy defines your actions.
There are beliefs that propel you to get out of bed each morning and push you to take steps to secure the desired job. And there are beliefs because of which you remain a bystander stuck in inaction. Choosing what kind of beliefs you fill your mind with is the key to your success. The amount of energy you spend to implement either set of beliefs is the same.
Some ideas on the psychology of an effective job seeker in this 👉essay.
We all heard that saying attributed to Thomas Jefferson:
If you want to have something you never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done.
It doesn’t matter who you were and what you were back home. From the moment you enter any room, you will have to prove yourself. No one will give you respect for something you have achieved back home. In this country, respect has to be earned.
Stay resilient and keep job searching. Do what you have to do and it won’t take long to achieve results. As another president (now, of India) A. P. J. Kalam put it:
To succeed in life and achieve results, you must understand and master three mighty forces — desire, belief, and expectation.
Understanding these forces really comes to the following: translate your desire into action, believe in the imminence of your success and manage your expectations.
If you are an honest, conscientious, immigrant who possesses hard work ethic and integrity there is no reason why you shouldn’t succeed in Canada.
Networking is my bread and butter. Connect with me on LinkedIn if you are in Toronto or if you are only planning to come here.
Thank you for reading this essay.