This summer, I’m celebrating the six-year anniversary of my company, Maple World Translation. I’m still a full-time freelancer and despite the ups and downs, I love my status.
Browsing: Working in Canada (and elsewhere…)
I’m familiar with the resume-writing exercise. I’ve seen it all, from professional list of accomplishments on glossy paper to handwritten resumes (!).
For years, I advised immigrants who couldn’t find a job right away to give staffing agencies a call, at least to gain work experience in Canada. Today, I’m not sure I would give such advice.
I can’t stress it enough—having people willing to act as a reference and vouch for your work skills and personal qualities is often the best job-search weapon you can have.
You’ve just received your work permit or you are about to land in Canada with the permanent residence status? Congratulations! After settling down and going through the practical steps of moving to a new country, you will probably start looking for a job.
The “mute” button was our most handy tool. Especially when we needed to take a break to laugh at a particularly weird customer, or share the details of a funny call with a co-worker. Some couples in the middle of a divorce were calling us to argue about points splitting on a joint account. Some folks yelled at us because their Petro-Canada credit card application had been denied. Some callers had an accent so thick we couldn’t understand a word of what they were saying.
The first lead came early December. MaxSys, an Ottawa-based staffing agency, was hiring call centre agents for a short-term contract. The “language skills” section of my resume had caught the eye of the recruiter, who was desperate for francophones.
Employees will never embrace budget cuts but they can understand them, and most would go quietly and with some dignity.
But they aren’t given the chance, and the degrading treatment they are subjected to is certainly the ugliest side of the North American work environment.
In “Working in Canada: the Good”, I highlighted a few perks of the North American workplace. But the Canadian way of life also has a number of downsides, which you should be aware of as an employee.
Even though I chose to return to freelancing, I did enjoy being an employee in Canada. I got to know the work culture, and workplaces have a number of positive sides I enjoyed.
The transition from employee to freelancer reminded me that, when it comes to getting your first job in Canada, the challenge never ends. I’m now on “contract-hunting mode” and despite my relevant Canadian experience, it feels like starting from scratch again.
My work experience is France is fairly limited since I left when I was 18. I basically embraced the Canadian work culture—I didn’t really have a choice anyway. It’s only when I talk with my family or friends back home that I notice the many little differences that exist between the two cultures.
These days, I noticed a lot of inviting posters popping up on signposts downtown: “summer job, make $300 a day!”, “last year our employees made $10,000 over the summer” etc. So I set to investigate these “great” summer jobs.
I was a French teacher for the federal government for four years. Once day, as I was having lunch in on the Statistic Canada campus, I was approached by two guys. They introduced themselves and explained there were “working here” and took an interest in the papers I was grading.
When I first came to Canada, I had been warned: there are much less holidays on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, and no public strike will change labor laws. Looking back, I can say the system is different but not in a bad way.
I have my own office. An office with a door, a desk, a computer, a phone, a whiteboard and drawers. I also have a very cool magnetic pass to get around, one with my picture on it. I have a favorite lunch place and I hate Monday mornings. I got a new job, in the office. I feel like a lucky girl.
When I showed up at work to pick up my last pay check, after coming back from South America, most of my co-workers stared at me, slightly bewildered: “You look… different”.
I swear that’s the last time I fill in for the receptionist. I’m a bloody French teacher. NOT a receptionist. And if the woman can’t even remember if she’s supposed to be in a group or a private class I really don’t think she will do that great as a student. And.. and I hate the phone.
The volunteer took a step back as he spoke, as if my Europeanism could jump on him. I decide to not mention that I spent quite a lot of time in malaria infected areas in Latin America, and got my yellow fever shot last minute in Panama’s remote countryside in a local health center.
But she surprised me. Instead of mentioning my laziness (because she clearly remember that when she visited Paris, French were less efficient than Japanese, therefore they were lazy – some kind of genetic problem that I must have had inherited because I was very French indeed – are you following me ?) , she blamed my English.
I wish John would shut up. But you see, John is so enthusiastic about his French training that he has to mumble vocabulary on his way to class. For now, I’m trying to open the bloody classroom door. Stuck, as usual. Or… do I have the right set of keys ?
We took a sit on the bikes and watched. The second plane had crashed into the 2nd tower by then and it looked like anything but an accident. Our English was somewhat limited but we grasped most of the news. Not that it was hard to understand : voices and faces said it all. People just didn’t understand what was going on – neither did we.
Summer usually brings the worse students, along with those to busy to take classes the rest of the year and whose only chance is to come to school when the Parliament isn’t in session. I don’t mind those ones. They’re usually focused on their studies because they’re desperate to pass their French test, which will entitle them to a promotion or a pay rise. But the weirdos…
Standing in front of a busy LCBO meant attracting all kind of weirdos. I was known as the “flower girl” and people would stop by and talk to me about their life, their kids, their problems. Without buying flowers, of course. People would first speak to me in all kind of foreign languages : Russian, Lebanese, Italian, Spanish, Greek… I guess I did look like an immigrant !