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No Canadian Work Experience, Now What?

Having worked in staffing for almost 20 years, and specifically in Professional Staffing, I've seen how our industry has adapted to myriad challenges thrown our way. One challenge that never seems to go away, however, is the challenge that new Canadians face when trying to enter the local job market. Even in Information Technology, as culturally diverse an industry as there is, candidates often have to overcome employer preconceptions that might not give equal value to experience gained overseas. At Eagle, we practice the mantra of presenting to our clients the very best possible candidate(s) we have regardless of where that skill was acquired and the fact that we make every effort to meet and personally vet candidates means that we are able to make pretty good decisions around their level of ability and skill. But if you believe you are facing challenges because you don't have Canadian work experience, here are some tips that can help:

  1. Don't try to hide it: If you believe that you have to respond to your lack of Canadian experience by lowering your expectations, you are helping to feed into the practice of undervaluing the years of experience and academic struggles you've already been through. In an effort to hide this, I've even seen candidates doctor their resumes to show local experience that didn't happen. My advice is, DON'T DO IT! If we are going to admit that you have challenges to overcome to be taken seriously as a candidate, it will not help if you commit fraud.

  2. Attitude is huge: I work with individuals daily who are struggling to find work or their next contract for any number of different reasons. While I would like to help everyone, I can't. But those individuals who are positive and are taking steps to help themselves by taking courses or increasing their level of networking are way more likely to get my time and consideration. If the qualifications are solid and the attitude is great, I'm more than happy to sell your candidacy to my client.

  3. Work is Work: I've asked many friends who immigrated to Canada if the work experience here was so different from what they did previously in their home countries. The consistent response is "not really". And if they did experience differences, it was often more a difference in process vs expectations. In other words, the same thing that can happen when you change jobs and join a new company. It was nothing that they weren't able to quickly adapt to.

  4. Blend In: Do your research and make sure your resume works in your new job market. While most terminology might not be so different, do check online to ensure that you are using terms which are familiar to the local market. The same applies to resume format. Job or networking sites like Monster or LinkedIn are just a couple of resources you can tap into but a good recruiter can give you tips as well.

  5. Finally, work with agencies that see the value in your experience. If a recruiter attempts to negotiate your rate or salary below market values for your skillset and experience, they are just feeding into a system of discrimination. Instead work with agencies that speak only of your relevant knowledge and experience.

We live and work in an ever increasingly global marketplace. The experience you bring as a new Canadian has intrinsic value in that it helps prepare and lay the groundwork for Canada to compete globally. The struggles you may very well encounter are unfortunately well-documented but some of these challenges can be mitigated.