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Navigating the Canadian Job Market When You’re New to Canada

By Keph Senett

Published March 4, 2024 • 8 Min Read

Finding work is often a top priority for newcomers to Canada, and it’s typically something that takes time and effort. Even if you have years of international work experience, you may find the Canadian job market operates differently in many ways.

To improve your chances of landing a job in Canada soon after you arrive, you’ll need to learn about the Canadian job market, prepare a Canadian-format resumé for job applications, ensure your credentials are competitive, and find a way to get Canadian experience.

Here are ten important tips to help reduce the time it takes to get a job in Canada in your industry.

1. Research the Canadian job market

Before you begin applying for jobs in Canada, it’s essential to research the Canadian job market and understand the scope of your occupation. Certain occupations are regulated in Canada and require a provincial or federal license or certification to practice. For other occupations, the skills and qualifications required to find work may differ from those in your home country.

The Canadian government’s Job Bank is a great job market research tool as it allows you to search by occupation, wage range, or general outlook of the profession. It also offers deep insight into the demand for each occupation, the minimum qualifications and skills required to work in it and pay ranges by province or territory and nationally. You can use this data to help you decide where to settle, how to build your household budget, and if you think you should retrain or upskill.

2. Format your resumé for Canada

In Canada, you will require a resumé to apply for jobs, so you should ensure yours is ready. The Canadian-style resumé may be different from the resumé you used in your home country, not just in terms of design but also content. Typically, three types of resume formats are commonly used in Canada, and the ideal one for you will depend on the length of your employment history, and whether or not you are changing career tracks. To create a good Canadian-style resume:

  • Search for free templates online, like the ones offered by Arrive.

  • Choose a professional design and list your work experience, skills, and education history.

  • Customize your resumé and align it with the job posting to maximize your chances of being selected. Many Canadian companies use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to shortlist resumés. This means only resumés that include relevant keywords from the job description are viewed by the hiring managers.

  • Make your resumé stronger by using data to showcase the impact you made in your earlier roles. Most Canadian employers prefer seeing your achievements and accomplishments on your resumé rather than the job descriptions of your positions.

  • Use only your most recent and relevant information. Canadian resumés should be short — no longer than two pages.

  • Have a friend proofread it to make sure it’s error-free before you submit it.

Once you’re happy with your resumé, you can look for work. Try online job portals like WorkopolisIndeedMonster, and ZipRecruiter. Setting up a LinkedIn profile to connect with prospective employers is also a great idea.

It’s also a good idea to write a cover letter, even if the job posting doesn’t specifically ask for one. A cover letter allows you to explain why you’re well-suited for the job. Before finalizing your cover letter:

  • Read the job description carefully and show how your experience matches their requirements.

  • Use the same kinds of words and phrases (keywords) they use in the posting.

  • Make sure your letter is free of spelling or punctuation errors before you send it.

3. Obtain Canadian credentials

Some occupations require newcomers to get a provincial, territorial, or federal license or certification before they can work in Canada. These include healthcare, engineering, legal, teaching, trade jobs, and more. In many cases, you may be able to start the licensing process remotely before arriving in Canada, which may help you find work in your field sooner.

Even for certain non-regulated occupations, newcomers may need to upgrade their credentials before working in Canada. Check with a professional association in your industry for any requirements. Reading through job descriptions of roles you’re interested in can also give you a clearer picture of the skills and credentials employers look for. If your qualifications need upgrading, look into further education or register for self-directed certification programs.

4. Brush up your language skills

Canada has two official languages — English and French. Depending on where in Canada you live in, you’ll need some degree of fluency in one of these languages so you can communicate effectively. A strong grasp of the language, and increased confidence in speaking it, may greatly improve your employment prospects.

If English or French is not your first language, consider taking a class or getting online help to improve your skills:

  • Provincial governments offer free Language Instruction for Newcomer Classes (LINC) to recently arrived newcomers to help them build their English language skills, and similar programs exist for French as well.

  • Most universities and colleges offer paid English as a Second Language (ESL) programs, and you can also find language training workshops or programs through settlement agencies or your local public library.

  • You can also use apps like Duolingo, Mauril, and Babbel to practise your language skills or brush up on your listening skills by opting for movies, audiobooks, or podcasts in English or French.

5. Register with a settlement agency

The Canadian government partners with various settlement agencies that offer free pre-arrival and post-arrival support to newly approved permanent residents. Their objective is to help newcomers integrate into Canadian society and become productive members of the economy sooner.

Settlement agencies for newcomers offer a variety of events and programs, such as language classes, employment programs and networking opportunities. They may also be able to provide advice on finding housing, accessing healthcare and childcare services, and more. If you have received your Confirmation of Permanent Residence (CoPR), you can register with these agencies online to see what they offer. At the very least, you’ll have a place to ask questions and get information.

6. Join a Professional Immigrant Network

Professional immigrant networks (PINs) are groups for newcomers organized around a professional industry, such as education, finance or science. Joining a PIN is a great way to start meeting others in your industry. You can connect with others across Canada through your LinkedIn profile with Immigrant Networks.

PIN members may have access to newsletters to stay updated on current issues impacting the industry and professional development training. Some PINs also organize networking events and encourage members to mentor newcomers.

7. Seek out programs for newcomers

Many Canadian companies have employment programs specifically designed to give newcomers work experience in their industry. For example, the Career Edge program places workers (including skilled newcomers) in paid internships across sectors. Several large employers, including RBC, hire interns through the Career Edge program. These programs offer valuable work experience and can give you a chance to get your foot in the door.

8. Consider temporary or contract work

Sometimes the best way to introduce yourself to a Canadian employer is to start out as a temporary or contract worker. These jobs often last several months, giving you some experience in a Canadian workplace, and may lead to full-time, permanent placement if the employer is happy with your performance. As contract or temporary role can help you make inroads into the Canadian job market, learn about the work culture, and put your skills into practice.

9. Volunteer

Many Canadians volunteer their time and energy to causes that are important to them. Volunteering is one way to get Canadian work experience for your resumé while meeting new people and connecting to your community. If English or French isn’t your first language, volunteer work provides you with a forum to practice your language skills.

Volunteering also allows you to work closely with other professionals and showcase your skills and work ethic. In some cases, volunteer opportunities may lead to paid employment. Newcomers may also find that volunteering gives them a sense of purpose and achievement and helps boost their morale.

10. Network

Your professional network is essentially a group of individuals you can rely on for support during your job search and career in Canada. Most newcomers do not have a network in Canada when they first arrive, and you may need to spend time building connections with people in your industry.

Networking is simply interacting with others and building relationships that you can leverage when you need help finding a job or learning about a particular industry or company. Your professional network can be an asset as you enter the Canadian job market. Many open jobs in Canada are not publicly advertised. These “hidden jobs” are filled through the recruiters’ networks. So, the wider your network, the more job opportunities you can potentially learn about.

LinkedIn is a great place to start networking. In addition to joining the groups and associations already mentioned, you can also find networking opportunities at industry events, community centres, online groups, and professional meet-ups.

For more tips and best practices to help you land a job in Canada, read How to Build Your Network from Scratch in Canada and Leveraging Transferrable Skills: A Newcomer’s Guide to Boosting Employment in Canada

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This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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Career Planning & Development New to Canada