Your First Job in Canada – No Canadian Experience? No Problem!

by Murali Murthy
Best-Selling Author, Motivational Speaker, Transformational Coach

Visit: Murali’s Success Den

5 Smart Steps to Tackle Employment Barriers and Embark on a Strong Career.

Welcome to Canada – a wonderful country abounding with opportunity yet not without its set of unique challenges. As you begin the process of settling down, there are different types of barriers you may face and you can overcome each one of them with the right focus, resources and support. For a new immigrant, finding a job easily ranks right on top of the list. Achieving employment success can be challenging for anyone, regardless of where they come from.

Let’s tackle the good old Catch-22: “You can’t get a job without Canadian experience, but you need a job to get Canadian experience”. You may be surprised to learn that this barrier is faced by not just new immigrants but also fresh graduates, career changers or simply those entering the workforce after a long absence.

You can curse the darkness or light a candle. At this point, we can a lament the situation or figure out a way to work around it. After all, countless new immigrants including yours truly, have successfully overcome these very barriers and have landed themselves dream jobs in their chosen field within days of landing.

Your job too is to identify the most potent barriers and then implement a plan for overcoming them. Here are five of the many proven, successful strategies to help you triumph over the experience gap, which you can implement at various stages of the job search process, from the initial resume writing, all the way to the interview.

1. Highlight Transferable Skills

Smart candidates take the challenge head-on and demonstrate that though they may lack the required Canadian experience they can bring to the table a whole set of transferable skills such as adaptability to the Canadian context, communication acumen, interpersonal mastery, self-management and relationship management.

How you can excel:

  • Adapt your communication skills to suit Canadian audiences and use more Canadian terminologies in your resumé and LinkedIn profiles.
  • Translate your work experience into the Canadian context, so employers can understand how your knowledge and global experience will be useful.
  • Master the art of describing your skills in transferable terms, allowing employers to visualize how your strengths can add value to the team.
  • Pre-empt the recruiter. Before they can pop the ‘No Experience’ question, show how you plan to get the experience – and training on your own accord.
  • Demonstrate how you plan to or are already improving your language abilities by taking English and French workplace language courses.
  • Research and join specific immigrant-serving organizations that offer training on industry-specific workplace skills.

2. Demonstrate Initiative

Keep in mind that at its best, your resume is just something that says what you did in the past. The recruiter or CEO wants to know how your skills can contribute to the organization now. Always focus on what you can offer, not what you don’t have. Be ready with some ideas on how you can contribute to the organization.

How you can excel:

  • Research the companies beforehand – look up its website and use that information to share what you would do to effect a certain positive change.
  • Take a mock project with you if you can.  This will help the recruiter see how eager you are, how you can add value and how you could fit in.
  • Prepare a tentative 30-60-90 day action plan that you would pursue if you join the organization.
  • Notice industry achievements mentioned on the website and bring them into the conversation to demonstrate eagerness and a ‘good cultural fit’. 

3. Network, Network, Network

By now, you have heard this a hundred times that networking is one of the most important components of job searching. According to statistics, at least 60% or higher number of jobs are found only by networking. When done right gradually, it can open many doors and get you into the “hidden job market” – the  inner circle of various influencers – recruiters, HR teams, company heads and business groups.

How you can excel:

  • Shake new hands more often – develop new contacts with neighbours, peers, and people in associations – anyone who might help generate information.
  • Prepare well before you attend network meetings.  This includes doing your homework on what companies and what kinds of people will be attending.
  • Dress to impress. Your appearance matters so dress professionally and be well-groomed.
  • Volunteer to work at the registration table where you can greet people as they come in to meet more people.
  • Conduct informational interviews with your contacts and ask for referrals. Follow through, and always thank people with a personal note or email.
  • Practice your ‘elevator pitch’. Be quick, concise and accurate when describing the strengths you bring. 

4. Volunteer Smartly

More than 65% of hiring managers value volunteering experience to be “important” when selecting candidates. Recruiters always prefer those with experience and you can now demonstrate that by acquiring the valuable ‘Canadian job experience’.

How you can excel:

  • Embrace the chance to hone your existing skills and develop new ones – like learning a new language or software – in a real-life setting.
  • Work with people from diverse backgrounds and different views. This flexibility and ability to adapt is a strong must-have skill on your resume.
  • Accelerate your networking prospects. Each day you could bump into someone new and important and they may potentially lead you to others.
  • Explore different occupations – if a career change is on your mind, this is your chance to volunteer in a specific field to sharpen your skills further.
  • Develop your technical skills and interpersonal abilities. This is perhaps the most obvious way in which volunteering can help with career development.
  • Boost your confidence. If you’ve been unemployed for quite a while, you will now feel active and productive, and this very confidence could open doors. 

5. Embrace Social Media

It’s no secret that by now social media should be an integral part of your job search. Sites like Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter can be a terrific way to strengthen your online footprint and connect with recruiters and organizations.

How you can excel:

  • Clean-up your content and make sure it is consistent across all channels: your description and experience should be all up-to-date.
  • Streamline your LinkedIn, YouTube and Google+ profiles, as they appear first in Google Search results.
  • Expand your network. Add as many contacts you meet in real life as possible to various social media profiles, send them a hello message and stay in touch.
  • Give first to get later. Share helpful, inspiring content with your audience. The more value you offer, the better the odds of you getting noticed.
  • Convey a consistent professional image at all times. Many recruiters hire candidates based at least in part on the image they convey on social media.
  • Embrace multimedia. Add pictures, images or video based content. Be conscious of the tone of your posts and ensure that they exude positivity.
  • Be genuinely interested in others. Share their articles and, like and comment on their news feeds. The law of reciprocity always works.
  • Build your brand intelligently in a way that supports your qualifications. Post regular updates on current projects, the places you volunteer, etc.
  • Demonstrate good communications skills. Avoid grammar and spelling mistakes, use spell check and always get someone to check your content.

In Summary:

For any recruiter, it’s always assuring to see that you are working a plan for your future and for this reason, the faster you can demonstrate your willingness to learn and adapt, the less your lack of experience matters.

To quote Kristen Goeser, “Don’t ask for an easier life; ask to be a stronger person.

I hope that you can now see that no obstacle is insurmountable and if you can demonstrate enthusiasm and optimism and, maintain a positive, “can-do” attitude that employers expect, you will definitely tip the hiring scales in your favour.

Now go win them over!