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Gaining Canadian Work Experience

By Maria Montemayor

Posted on January 19, 2021

Congratulations! You have arrived in Canada as a newcomer, and you are ready to start your job search. Perhaps you have heard from relatives or friends about how Canada is a country full of opportunities. While you may have received an education and even gained extensive work experience before immigrating, getting a job in Canada comes with its own set of challenges.

You likely have questions. What do you need to do to get that first Canadian job? How can you start working in your field? Here are some concrete steps you can take to get your first job in Canada.

Create a résumé

The first thing you can do is create or update your résumé. If you already have one, it would still be a good idea to update it when you come to Canada. A résumé is a one-to-two-page document highlighting your education, work experience, skills, and professional accomplishments, and it is meant to help you secure an interview.

If you don’t know how to create a résumé you can work with experienced settlement professionals that offer free newcomer services at local employment agencies. In addition to helping you with your resume, employment service providers can refer you to workshops, seminars, networking events, and resources that could help you identify and improve your transferable skills. You could also qualify for paid training, which includes a work placement.

Upgrade your skills and education

While employment agencies may be able to help you find a job in your field, it is not guaranteed. Your skills and experience may be considered outdated, or your education may not be recognized by certain Canadian professions. You may need to be recertified or study in Canada depending on your field to acquire the necessary certifications to work in your field. Completing a bridging program or having your international education assessed could help you transition to working in your field in Canada.

On the other hand, you may also consider working in a different field when you come to Canada. If you attend college in Canada as an immigrant applicant, you may have to provide supporting documents related to your academic history.

To be a college or university student in Canada, you will also need to provide proof of proficiency in English, if you studied at an educational institution where the language of instruction was not English. You can have your English language skills evaluated through the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the International Testing Learning System (IELTS), or the Canadian Academic English Language (CAEL) test.

Apply for jobs online

It’s OK to be selective about the jobs that you apply for. You can choose to apply solely for jobs in Canada that you are qualified for and have the relevant education, experience, and background in. If you find that you are getting interviews, then you’ll know that your résumé is appealing and employers’ view your skills, background, and education as relevant.

If you are not getting any interviews and the only email responses you get are rejections, you may need to work on your résumé. Even if the companies that you worked at are unfamiliar to prospective employers, you must effectively highlight your work achievements. What measurable goals did you achieve at your former companies? Promote yourself and highlight your strengths.

If you don’t have the time, money, and resources to wait for a job offer in your field of interest, it’s also perfectly reasonable for you to apply for a temporary job. If you are highly educated, you may have reservations, but taking on a temporary job that doesn’t fit with your career trajectory is sometimes necessary. Keep in mind that any job can help you develop useful skills.

Many people take on temporary jobs to support themselves and their families while still applying for work in their field. They may take on those jobs to help pay for their education. Any legitimate job in Canada is valuable if it helps you live more comfortably. If you list a temporary job on your résumé, it could show employers that you were productive throughout your time in Canada. Alternatively, listing a temporary job on your résumé as your most recent job could diminish your previous accomplishments and negatively stand out from your professional work, so deliberate whether you would like to include it in your résumé or not.

Send cold emails

Cold emails are emails sent without prior contact from the recipient. With a cold email, you can pitch your credentials, experience, skills, and ideas to an employer in a personalized manner. You have to make sure you are contacting someone within the company you are interested in and who has the power to ask you for an interview or commission you for a job. Good cold emails show that you have initiative, creativity, and the ability to work for what you want. From cold emails, you may be able to get interviews, freelance contracts, or someone to look at your résumé (and possibly hold onto it for future job openings).


Volunteering is a way to give back to the community, meet new people, network, and gain valuable job skills. Volunteering may not be your first priority when you come to Canada, but it can lead to paid work opportunities and can include other perks like free food, free apparel, and free entrance to an event. You don’t even have to commit a lot of time to volunteering. You can start with volunteering at your place of worship, political group, a school, or at festivals.

Update your references

It’s good to have references from the country you immigrated from, but it would be wise to start asking teachers, professors, mentors, colleagues, and fellow volunteers that you encounter in Canada to be your references. If employers ask for references, you ideally want to provide them with Canadian references. In any case, include both the phone numbers and email addresses of all of your references.

Getting a job in Canada is not an easy task, but if you put in the effort, you will be able to get meaningful work experience in Canada.

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