WES Advisor Blog

Trusted Advice for Academic and Professional Success

Strategies for Career Success in Canada

Wednesday | September 7, 2016 | by WES Global Talent Bridge

Business professionals working

There is no secret formula for success, but there are strategies that can have a big impact on your career in Canada. We live in a diverse and welcoming country, but for newcomers, the job market can be difficult to understand, and looking for work can quickly become a frustrating experience.

As a new Canadian, you can take comfort in the fact that it’s not only immigrants who struggle to find the job they want, but also new graduates from Canadian colleges and universities who enter the job market every year.

On average, a new graduate can take up to a year to find the right job to start their career. For mid-career professionals, the experience can be similar, with mid-level managers taking 2-6 months to find a job, and senior managers needing 6-18 months to land in their next role.

Working in Canada also means being “flexible” and “adaptable”—these are two words that you will see again and again during your job search. For job seekers, this could mean entering a career or industry that is new or unexpected. Research shows that it’s a common Canadian experience. More than 40 percent of new university and college graduates go into careers outside of their area of training, and mid-career professionals may change industries or roles entirely as they change jobs.

For newcomers, the danger is in getting “stuck” looking for a job that they want, not realizing that they have qualifications and skills that can lead to a long and happy career in another field. For example, a newcomer who worked as a doctor in their country of origin may have a fulfilling and well-paid career in the public health sector in Canada.

Strategies for Success

In this article, we review three key strategies that will help you to find a great job in your newly adopted country:

  • Accessing services and creating a personal career plan
  • Personal branding and marketing
  • Understanding employer expectations

Accessing Services: Self-Assessments and Career Planning

The first and perhaps most important strategy for newcomers to follow is to get help from experts in job searching and career planning. More than half of all Canadians have accessed career and skill development services as a step toward their career success, and there are many services that are designed specifically to help newcomers.

Services that new Canadians should consider include language training in English or French, professional skill assessments, resume services, interview coaching, bridge training programs, volunteer opportunities, internship placements, and more. Working on these things in combination will help you to find your approach in having career success in Canada.

There are many organizations that provide these services for free to newcomers, or for an affordable fee. As a newcomer, knowing what services to access can make the difference between creating new employment opportunities or remaining unemployed.

For example, organizations such as JVS or Acces Employment can help immigrants to assess their skills, understand their strengths, plan their next steps, and help job seekers to become flexible and adaptable in their search.

The key to making this strategy work is to search for and find services that meet the individual needs that a newcomer might have as a job seeker. To find out more about how to access resources to help you in your career in Canada, please view our webinar on Finding Career Success as a New Canadian.

Personal Branding and Marketing

The Canadian job market is highly competitive. Having technical skills and work experience is no longer enough to impress employers and get a good job offer. Today, employers expect prospective employees to be skilled at how to communicate their potential value to the company, and job seekers have turned to personal branding and marketing to help them stand out from the crowd.

Personal branding and marketing begins by having an effective and well-presented “Canadian-style” resume and cover letter. Most employers have a large number of job applicants to screen, and might only have 30 seconds to review each resume. Only those resumes that are concise and highly relevant will make it to the “yes” pile. Most employers also expect to see a profile on LinkedIn before they call you in for an interview. When it comes to interviewing, the expectations are equally high. Interviewers expect candidates to respond to questions by talking about their talents, telling stories about how they succeeded in their past roles, and promoting themselves as a great fit for the organization.

Networking is another part of marketing yourself as a job seeker. It is a great way to build professional relationships and is often a key source of job leads. Many jobs go unadvertised, and networking is the only way to find out about them. Even when jobs are advertised, those candidates who have a connection or a referral from someone will be considered favorably compared to those who do not.

According to a report funded by the Ontario government and the Maytree Foundation on Perceptions of Employment Barriers and Solutions (2015), employers use their professional networks as their top recruitment method. LinkedIn is a great tool to build professional networks and connect to people in the same sector or industry.

Employer Expectations: Hard Skills, Soft Skills, and Canadian Experience

There is no replacement for having the right skills and qualifications to do a job. Employers call this “hard skills,” and it’s the top requirement in a hiring decision. However, “soft skills” and “Canadian experience” are as important as hard skills, and if a candidate can’t demonstrate them effectively, it will have a big impact on a potential job offer.

Soft Skills

Soft skills—sometimes called “fit”—refer to a person’s ability to work with others and how they get things done. It’s generally focused on a person’s communications, collaboration, and management skills (even if they are not a manager).

Communication skills such as reading, business writing, active listening, and presenting are highly valued in the Canadian workplace. Employers also expect their staff to have a good understanding of cultural norms and practices. This includes everything from maintaining email etiquette in the workplace, making professional greetings and introductions, resolving conflicts with team members, sharing ideas and opinions in meetings, and knowing how and when to handle a professional disagreement with your boss and colleagues.

Canadian Experience

Employers in Canada generally avoid taking big risks, and when it comes to hiring practices, they look for sector-specific qualifications, experience, and good references. Unfortunately, many Canadian employers consider foreign work experience a risk.

Job seekers can help employers to feel comfortable with their past experience by demonstrating their skills in a Canadian workplace or educational setting. There are several ways to gain local experience to help in your job search, these include volunteering and internships.

Volunteering for a nonprofit organization can be the quick path to putting some Canadian experience on a resume. It does not have to be a full-time or a long-term commitment, and volunteers can usually ask for flexible hours to suit their schedule. Although any volunteer experience is good, employers will be much more impressed with volunteer experience that is directly related to a person’s skills and previous career path.

Internships are opportunities that can be short-term or long-term, and usually an entry point into an organization or field for a new employee or graduate. Some internships end in a job offer, and at a minimum, it is a great way to have positive references for the future. Internships are not just restricted to new university or college graduates, organizations like Career Edge help new Canadians find internships in their field in Canada.

In closing, ensure you access services and create a personal career plan, brand and market yourself effectively, and understand and begin to meet employer expectations. Using these strategies will help you to have career success in Canada. Please check out our webinar on Exploring Your Career in Canada.

WES Global Talent Bridge is a program dedicated to helping skilled immigrants fully utilize their talents and education in the United States and Canada. Global Talent Bridge joins with institutional partners and community organizations to help skilled immigrants leverage their training, achieve their professional goals, and contribute their talents to their full potential.