No Canadian Experience Barrier

The “no Canadian experience” barrier is a modern chicken and egg situation.  You need Canadian experience to land a job, but you need a job to gain experience. The good news is that there are various ways to work around this barrier.

What does Canadian experience really mean?

A panel online consultation conducted by the government of Canada reveals that the lack of or difficulty obtaining Canadian work experience was the top employment challenge faced by newcomers.

Canadian work experience does not only refer to technical skills.  Often, it refers to the ability to fit into the Canadian workplace culture.

How do you overcome the no Canadian experience barrier?

Connect with an immigrant-serving organization

These organizations have the knowledge and network to refer you to various publicly funded programs.

I almost got into a free Oil & Gas Essential Skills Pre-Employment Program.  This was a 3-week full-time training program that would have given me the required trade certificates and skills for new petroleum industry workers.  But I already found a job before the intake period so I had to discontinue my application.

Immigrant-serving organizations can also conduct English language assessments, resume reviews, pre-employment workshops and a myriad of other services.

Expand your job options

For your first job, consider taking a job that is lower than you are used to or even a job that is outside your field.  These will help you gain much needed Canadian experience while earning.

The Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants has a nice write up on survival, temporary and alternative jobs.

Volunteer to gain Canadian experience
City of Surrey National Tree Day 2019

Volunteering can be a fun way of learning about Canadian workplace culture, expanding your network, and gaining additional skills.

During my first few months in Canada and while applying for jobs, I did some volunteer work.  I assisted a college administrative assistant by filing documents and doing miscellaneous tasks.  This made me feel productive but at the same time, I had a feeling that I did way more than what I signed up for.  So, it was not the best experience. I also had a 2-hour gift wrapping stint for a charitable organization.  This was fun but not aligned with my goal at that time.

Here are my thoughts on volunteering:

  • Choose a reputable organization.  It would be best to volunteer for an organization where you will have lots of interactions and exposure.  Learning can come from snippets of conversions and observations.  Besides, you may impress people who can recommend you to a paid job.
  • Find meaningful volunteer work.  It would be ideal if you can gain or enhance skills aligned with your target job.
  • Have fun.  This is a non-paid job after all. So you should at least gain a sense of fulfillment and joy from it. 

I have been an active volunteer for Dress for Success Vancouver since 2014.  I also volunteered for various organizations such as the City of Surrey, Surrey Urban Mission Society, and Amenida Seniors Community

My volunteer work has opened so many doors in my professional and personal lives which I have also shared in this blog. 

Upgrade Your Education

While looking for my first job, I relentlessly searched for affordable but relevant training opportunities.  With these, I was able to show my diligence, knowledge of Canadian industries, and expand my network.

For example, I took an online WHMIS course for only $20.00+.  This course is beneficial for those who plan to apply to manufacturing companies.

I also completed a HACCP course courtesy of the Small Scale Food Processor Association.  This is a requirement for some food manufacturing companies.

Expand Your Network

They say that “It’s not what you know but who you know.”  I have proven this because I landed my first job through networking.

If you are like most immigrants, you came to Canada knowing only a few people or none at all. Here are some things you can do to expand your network:

  • Join events organized by immigrant-serving organizations.
  • Check out events arranged by local libraries.
  • Expand your LinkedIn network.
  • Look up your alma mater’s alumni associations.
  • Apply for industry associations membership.
  • Volunteer.

The no Canadian experience barrier can cause frustration. Try some of these tips and be patient. Great things are yet to come.

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