I read this really great article on CNN about how Steve Jobs got started off in his career. It also outlines advice from other top leaders. The advice they give is simple –

You need to take initiative and go the extra mile.

Reach out to people in top positions and ask them for help. Write to people and use your network. When you meet someone for an interview, tell them your ideas on how you can contribute to their company or department. Talk to people about job opportunities even before they post a job ad. You need to stand out to get noticed!

And just because you are a Newcomer to Canada, does not mean that you can get away from taking initiative by giving the excuse that you don’t know enough or don’t know anyone. There are lots of opportunities to you can create to meet people. With LinkedIn now, you can connect with almost anyone. Reach out and connect.

Remember, not everyone you meet or connect with will help you get a job. Don’t get disheartened with a few rejections. You have to keep at it. If after 500 attempts you don’t have a solid job lead, then you need to think about what you doing wrong. Have you made over 500 attempts to reach out to people and / or take initiative to prove how good your are? Start counting…

This is some useful information you should look at. Here is a list of the Best Employers for New Canadians. Try and target the companies in your job search since they actively participate in newcomer development. And they may overlook the lack of Canadian experience if you can demonstrate your skills.

Remember that your first job can also be a contract position. So don’t just look for permanent positions. The short term contract will give you the necessary experience and leverage to get another job.

When an immigrant arrive in Canada, they come with a sense of entitlement. They come with a feeling that when they arrive, they will be given a job in their area of expertise and employers will be running after them to hire them. And they have this feeling because before they arrive, the lawyers, consultants and the government have built up this dream world for them. The messages that they hear are that Canada is a country of many opportunities and has a lot of skilled labour shortage.

Well, this is all correct! Canada has many great opportunities. It does have skilled labour shortages and there are jobs that need to be filled. But what newcomers are not told is that employers are not just going to hire someone who on paper looks like they have the right experience and skills. They will look for the best person to fill their requirements. And newcomers most times cannot position themselves as the best, because of the lack of Canadian Experience.

To illustrate my point of view, let’s reverse the tables. Let’s imagine you are back in your home country. Being a successful person in your career, you have the opportunity to hire someone. Now, will you hire a person that has experience in your country and from a company you know about? Or will you hire a person that is a newcomer to your country, on paper has the same experience but has come from a place and worked for companies you know very little about? Most likely, you are not going to risk hiring the newcomer because recruitment is a painful and expensive process. You want to hire someone who you know will hit the ground running. You have responsibilities and targets you have to meet, and the person you are hiring needs to help you achieve these goals or take on responsibilities you are handing. You don’t want to take risks with someone who is new to the country and may not understand the culture and norms of your workplace.

This is the same attitude that employers have in Canada. They are looking out for themselves and their interest. They want to hire the best person for job, and the only reason they will hire a newcomer is if they feel s/he is the best candidate. This is the reason newcomers get frustrated so easily and start having a negative outlook to their life here. They feel they are being treated unfairly and the dream they came with is broken.

Don’t let this sense of entitlement take over you. It will make you miserable and negative. And this negativism will come across to people when looking for a job. No one wants to hire a negative person. Stay positive and let go of the feeling that you have a right to get a good job. You need to work hard on the way you portray yourself as the best person for the job. This is not just by showing your technical skills, education, and experience but also show that you will fit into the workplace. You need to demonstrate how you will be able to work with people, your conversation skills and your initiative to go beyond what is asked for. And how your international experience will bring in a different perspective and ideas to energize the company. Then you will be able to show that you are the best choice and will not have a problem getting hired by employers.

The recent job numbers and employment rates are an encouraging trend for newcomers. The employment numbers has gone up in April’12 across the country, but the province with the most growth has been Alberta. The unemployment rate there is at 4.9%, which literally means that there is a labour shortage there and they need a lot of people to fill up vacant positions. The unemployment rate in the other provinces is higher – with Quebec at 8%, British Columbia at 6.2% and Ontario at 7.8%. So finding jobs there will be a bigger challenge, especially in the big cities where there is intense competition for jobs.

As a newcomer to Canada or someone who will be immigrating to Canada, think about where you want to be. Unemployment among newcomers to Canada is high (2-3 times the national average) because they cannot effectively demonstrate their skills and experience. Not because they are not qualified to do the job, but because they don’t have the necessary soft skills. These soft skills need to be learned, which takes time and effort. The lack of soft skills translates to lack of Canadian experience for an employer. And they are therefore hesitant to hire newcomers. But in places where there is labour shortage, employers will be more accepting of newcomers. So take advantage of this and get a good job in your field. Take the time to research all the cities in Canada that have openings in the area you want to work. And don’t stop yourself from moving to any part of Canada if you are getting the right kind of job. Your quality of life will be much better if you have a job you are happy in and is in your area of expertise, rather than being in at a place where you are in a survival job.

I recently read a very good article on Workopolis.com called ‘The real reason no one is going to give you a chance’. This is great advice for newcomers that are looking for jobs. The article talks about why employers are not willing to give potential hires a chance, but how you can convince them to take a chance on you

  • Demonstrate your skills and accomplishments
  • Show passion
  • Take any job, and do it well

Unfortunately many newcomers (me included) come to Canada with a sense of entitlement. This leads to unrealistic expectations of being ‘given a chance by an employer’ as mentioned by the author in the article, i.e. based on my previous experience and qualifications an employer in Canada should hire me. But do you really think this is a fair expectation? I don’t believe so because if you were put in shoes of the hiring manager in your home country, would you take a chance on someone from another country you know very little about? Maybe not.

I understand that these expectations are not just your own conjectures, these have been built inside you by promotional materials that talk about the merits of moving to Canada. You have been told that Canada needs qualified and experienced people to meet its labour shortage needs. While this is true and Canada does need talented newcomers like you, getting the job is not as easy and you need to demonstrate your abilities to get the job you want. So don’t continue to harbour the feeling of entitlement for a long time, they only lead to frustration and disappointment.  Convince employers to take a chance on you, rather than give us you chance.

As a newcomer to Canada, being able to understand titles was a key skill that I had to acquire, albeit after stumbling a few times. Being able to understand titles is very important so that you can position yourself correctly to an employer – and this can be in your resume or at an interview. If you don’t, a potential employer can misinterpret the title from your home country and reject you for being very senior or  junior for the position you are applying to.

My title in my home country was Assistant Vice President, but my level was equivalent to a ‘Senior Manager’ in Canada. But when I presented my title as it was, I was considered too senior for the manager or senior manager positions that I was applying for. That is because a Vice President in Canada is just one level below the CEO of the company.

In your resume, you may want to change your titles to what is understood by Canadian employers so that they don’t misinterpret your level. And the best way to figure out titles that are equivalent to the titles in your home country is to look at current job postings and their responsibilities.

But don’t change titles to exaggerate your credentials. This can seriously jeopardize your chances of getting the job and/or damage your reputation in that company. You should only change your titles to correctly present yourself to a potential employer.

Note: Ensure that you indicate your actual job title if for example you are asked to fill in an employment application. The potential employer may need this information to check your referrals or verify your employment.

Practices of finding a job in Canada may not be the same as in your home country. And an important practice in Canada is to submit a cover letter along with your resume for all job applications.

It takes time and effort to put together a customised cover letter for each job application. When I was applying for jobs, I sometimes got lazy and skipped this step. But do this at the risk for not being called for an interview. This is not to say that you will never be called for an interview if you don’t submit a cover letter. But my point is, why take the risk. So take the time to put together a customised cover letter. You never know, it may turn out to be the best-selling point for your resume to get shortlisted.

Read this interesting article below on how your cover letters still matter…