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


No-Canadian -Experience

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

By Murali Murthy

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. 


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