Canadian experience hurdle: How to get a job in Canada for new immigrants

By Remitbee - Feb 5, 2021

One of the biggest struggles of immigrants in Canada is their lack of Canadian experience. This hurdle has been a point of conflict for many years, with some arguing it’s an abused term and an excuse for discrimination while others reason it’s a fair requirement.

Whether it’s right or not, the no Canadian experience factor is still a barrier many immigrants will continue to face as we begin 2021. So we’ve created this post to help you navigate it.

What is Canadian experience exactly?

The meaning of the term Canadian experience has been rather vague for years. This has presented a challenge for many immigrants who come into the country with many hard skills and years of experience and still find it hard to get employed.

Though Canadian experience has partly to do with hard skills in some career fields, it often refers to soft skills (e.g., knowledge on workplace culture dynamics in Canada, communication skills, and fluency in English or French). Employers equate having work experience in Canada with a higher chance of being a cultural fit into the workplace.

In other words, you may have the necessary experience and expertise, but they’re wondering do you have the soft skills required to come in and be an asset? Do you understand certain social norms or would you come across as rude to coworkers? Do you know how to resolve conflicts if they arise?

Why is Canadian experience important?

Some argue that soft skills are as important as hard skills in Canada. Many employers believe it’s costly to hire someone that doesn’t fit in and creates tension in the workplace.

Employers also lean on research made by the Canadian government that shows Canadian experience is a strong indicator that an immigrant will adjust quickly and perform well in the long run. According to the research, there’s apparently a correlation between having Canadian experience and being a profitable hire.

A more obvious reason Canadian Experience is important is that it allows employers to contact someone within Canada who can vouch for your work ethic and skills. It’s sadly become common to lie or bend the truth about work experience from another country, knowing that it’s hard for Canadian employers to reach international employers to verify the validity.

Another factor that makes Canadian experience important is that it’s a requirement for anyone looking to get permanent residency through the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program.

How to overcome the no Canadian experience barrier

There are two ways to approach this barrier and land your dream job:

  1. Gain Canadian Experience
  2. Frame this weakness into a strength

Let’s cover them more in-depth.

Gain Canadian Experience

The Canadian government has created many initiatives to close the gap for skilled immigrants.

They’ve provided free employment assistance by funding bridging programs and employment centers aimed at immigrants. These resources will help you land entry jobs, which will allow you to get the required Canadian experience necessary. These opportunities also increase your chances of finding mentors, which could also help you on your journey.

Keep in mind that right now, a lot of the programs and resources are now available to you online because of COVID-19. Some examples of programs that could help you include MOSAIC in Vancouver, CERIC, and Calgary Immigrant Women's Association.

Alternatively, seasoned immigrants have vouched for the power of paid work, volunteering, mentorship, and internships as a way of satisfying an employer’s desire to hear about your Canadian experience. This means you should be open-minded to volunteer opportunities, temporary or part-time work, and survival jobs. You can find these through job agencies or directly on websites like monster and Kijiji.

Keep in mind that Canada likes to promote within, so getting your foot in the door with a company in a less than ideal position can be a terrific plan. While in these roles, focus on building relationships and observing your Canadian coworkers.

Frame this weakness into a strength

Unless you specifically want to target the Canadian Experience Class program, there are other ways around getting Canadian experience. According to career coach and HR Super Hero Gurpreet Kaur Mann, a mindset shift backed up by lots of research is a great way to overcome this challenge.

When met with the popular employer question “tell me about your Canadian experience” many people freeze and get nervous. However, if you’re adequately prepared, you can turn this apparent weakness into a strength.

It’s not the employer's job to research the benefits of the country you come from and how your specific industry is in your country of origin, so they just assume the worst until proven otherwise. However, there’s a chance that your home country is more advanced in your industry than Canada is or has some type of strength than you can focus on. It’s up to you to bring this up. In other words, turn the no experience barrier upside down and make it your biggest asset.

As you do this, remember there’s a fine art of selling yourself without being too salesy, nor too humble.

Final words

The challenge of not having Canadian experience because you can't get a job without Canadian experience has some merit; however, now that you're more informed, you hold an advantage. With a strategic approach, you'll join thousands of immigrants who've overcome this barrier.

Not many good things in life come easy, and this is just a small hurdle you’ll have to face as you make the brave decision to leave home and start a new life abroad.

If you haven’t yet, make sure to watch the AMA (Ask me anything) with career coach Gurpreet Kaur Mann.

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