Career Guide

Looking for First job in Canada? Here is what to expect !


Congratulations on making the move and Welcome to Canada. You have settled down with the basics in place. You are all charged up and ready to join the workforce but lo and behold, you can’t seem to get anywhere without the elusive ‘Canadian Experience’. That can be a bit of a downer (it was for me) when you step out to find your first Canadian job.

So, while I am not a grand success story yet, I do want to pen down my experience of looking for my first Canadian experience.

So, if you are moving to Canada (or planning to) and plan to look for a job here, here is what to expect.

Disclaimer : I do not run a recruitment or immigration agency. So if you need help with your particular case, please approach someone more qualified. I am only sharing my own meandering experience to possibly benefit someone going through a similar process.

FAQ: How do I find a job in Canada ?

The job scenario here is tricky because it is heavily reference based. What that means is that you need to have a strong network of people willing to refer you to the hiring team. This is where new-comers to Canada struggle since they don’t know many people professionally.

In the words of the first recruiter I met, “Whatever openings you see online is probably 30% of the actual job market. the other 60-70% is filled up through references. Through people asking other employees, if they know someone good for a certain profile.”

Even then, I think there is no dearth of opportunities available to you. Here are few things that will help.

  1. You should tap into your alumni network and reach out to people in your favorite industry. For most part, I have found people willing to help you, guide you and even refer you to a job if you approach nicely. The alumni network became my first group of friends in a new land and almost like a family away from home.
  2. As you would appreciate, the coveted referrals would work best if they are coming from a person with whom you have built a relation. [Ask this: If you had an opening in your team, and your boss asked for a referral; would you recommend a stranger OR would you recommend someone you know?] So, build connections, meet new people and try to make as many friends. Invest some time here since it takes time to build a relation. Not only with the expectation that they will help you find a job, but also to make lasting connections in a new country. It will make your life, well, lively.
  3. Keep your resume and LinkedIn profile updated. This is self explanatory.
  4. Settlement agencies can help you polish your interview skills and Canadian-ize your resume and even help you come face to face with a recruiter. Rest is up to you.Try Access Employment for starters.

FAQ: How long will it take for me to find a job?

Once you are through the first gate, the hiring process in Canada is slow, with interviews and tests stretched across 2-3 months. I, personally interviewed with a company for nearly 75 days with 4 rounds of interviews, 3 written tests and a video call where I was monitored while solving 50 questions in 12 minutes. Only for them to change their mind in the end and open the position a level junior than earlier. (I know!)

So, it is typical for the first job search to take up to 6-8 months. Some have got it faster, while some people I know have gone much longer without a job. These are people with Master’s from IIMs with 10-15 years of experience in their domain.

Hence, it is very critical that you are able to self-support yourself through this period financially and also keep yourself up-to-date professionally by networking with the right people.

This is where the concept of ‘survival jobs’ comes in. That is a Plan-B job that you would do to keep your house running, while you work towards your Plan-A. This can be a bit uncomfortable for new-comers as they are worried about the ‘horrible, no good’ implications this might have on their resume. However, this is where you will have immunity provided to you by the world famous ‘Dignity to/of Labor’ in Canada. Which basically means that your ‘survival job/jobs’ will never be frowned upon whenever you decide to apply for your Plan-A jobs. Go Canada!

FAQ : Canadians Recruiters are nice, Eh ? Of-course they are. A few negative stories aside, people have been courteous, polite and downright helpful. Recruiters have reached out to me, helped me customize my resume and even given me pointers on the interviewing manager etc. The general perceptions of Canadians is that safe even in this world of recruitment as well.

FAQ : Can I apply for a job even when I haven’t ‘landed’ yet OR haven’t graduated yet ? Sure. By all means do. But be aware that most applications would ask you for a work permit or a permanent residence proof. So, that should be your first step. Don’t waste your (or anyone else’s time before that. New graduates should start earlier since most big companies open their intern and management trainee positions pretty early. You can find more about that on the world wide web.

FAQ: Which is the best city / province to live in ? The usual suspects are Toronto (GTA), Vancouver and to some extent Montreal and Ottawa. Most immigrants are moving to these mega cities at a time when local Canadians are migrating to these urban centers from smaller cities and rural towns themselves. So what is right for you ?

Here is an advice from a senior alum who has been here 6 years. “Smaller towns would help you get settled much faster. Try Edmonton, Calgary, Fredericton and the likes. These are charming cities which are also growing in economic stature”. They are more affordable and offer a simpler living compared to the hustle-bustle of GTA or Vancouver, and you will probably find your first job much faster.

FAQ: Should I take up any job to get my foot in the door ? OR should I wait for the right opportunity commensurate to my experience ? This question has the jury divided into two neat halves. I have asked this question to tens of people, discussed this in larger forums with panel experts. Also, debated with the recruiters and we really don’t have an answer.

This is so subjective in its nature and depends on your financial situation, the gap you have had since your last job, how big is the compromise (read as : how many years would this new job set you back). And how confident are you of the next opportunity opening its door soon. And these are just a few of the factors to consider. So, I think it boils down finally to this question : “How keen are you to start?” We have had success stories and failures on both ends of the spectrum.

So there it is. Whatever I know about finding your first job in Canada. I hope this helps you and wish you the very best in finding your first Canadian experience! Do write back when you do.

[If you have more experience in this domain, please comment below so others can benefit].


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