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3 Potential Career Challenges (8/10)

Canadian Flag on Parliament Hill
Canadian Flag on Parliament Hill

Welcome to the “How To… Find A Job In Canada” series!

Saying that last year wasn’t great economically speaking is an understatement. Pretty much all countries worldwide suffered from the global economic downturn and Canada was no exception. Yet, a lot of people are still considering moving to Canada, while others are already in the process and are probably worried about whether they will get a job at all.

There is no easy answer when it comes to employment. You know the story… a bit of patience, a bit of skills, a bit of luck.

I’m not a job counselor, and I’m not an expert. But I do know how it works in Canada and I’m hoping to pass along some information that may not be obvious to everyone. A post will be published every Saturday… enjoy!

Most newcomers to Canada, no matter whether they were chosen for their skills or joined some member of their family, experience some work-related issues at one point or another.

The Practical Barriers

If you are a permanent resident in Canada, or hold some kind of work visa, you are entitled to work. Now, getting your SIN card and making a resume is easy, but keep in mind your immigrant status may sometimes limits you to some extend.

  • Temporary workers: some visas are tied to a specific position. If you lose the position, no matter why, you may lose your visa and have to leave the country. A lot of temporary visa holder do not realize that: they feel secure and start settling in Canada… some even buy houses. But sometimes, things don’t go as planned. I heard a lot of sad stories last year: with the economic downturn, some temporary visa holders lost their position and were asked to leave the country. It led to difficult situations for those who had kids at school, a mortgage to pay etc.
  • Permanent residents: they also face some issues, although they are entitled to work anywhere in Canada without any time limit. For example, permanent positions at the federal government are notoriously impossible to get when you are not a Canadian citizens. This can be a problem is you live in a city where the federal government is the main employer, like in the National Capital Region.
  • The security clearance issue: some jobs require prospective employee to hold a security clearance, which it is a loyalty and reliability assessment done by CSIS. This is to prevent anyone of security concern from gaining access to sensitive government assets, locations or information. I had to get one, because I was teaching civil servant and going in various ministries! While the check in itself is usually not a problem, when you are a newcomer, CSIS must access foreign data to assess your reliability through your past criminal history etc. It can take from a couple of weeks to months. This sometimes discourage potential employers from hiring a newcomer because they know the security clearance may be long and difficult.

The Canadian Experience Catch 22

This is probably the most common and most annoying issue for newcomers: employers want you to have some experience working in Canada, but to gain some experience… you must first find an employer willing to give you a chance!

There are different tactics here. You may want to:

  • Start with a lower-paid job: at least, you will pay the bills and gain some experience while learning more about Canadian workplaces
  • Volunteer: employers value volunteer experience and it’s definitely something to put on your resume. You can learn a lot about your new country and even start building a network. Unfortunately, you most likely won’t be paid, which is a problem if you have to support a family or are already on a tight budget.
  • Use a placement agency: I personally used this method. Placement agency have their own testing system (for example, for admin positions they will test your computer skills etc.) and are a bit less picky about references and Canadian experience. They may send you on trial for a temporary position and if you do good, you will get precious Canadian references and work experience.

One thing is sure: when moving to Canada, don’t expect to find the exact same position and standard of living as you had back home. Generally speaking, you will need to step back a bit in order to move forward in the future. Immigrating is also a learning experience after all!

The Foreign Credential Recognition Issue

This issue is a serious one, and it’s a total economic non-sense.

Skilled worker are selected based on their education and their work experience to fill staff shortages in some fields. However, once in Canada, these newcomers realized that their experience or credentials are not recognized. It’s the “taxi driver” phenomenon — the substantial underutilization of immigrant skills.

This is mostly due to the fact that some employers underestimate foreign credentials, or may prefer Canadian education. Newcomers may then have to obtain Canadian certifications or degrees to advance in their career.

Some professions are also regulated, which means that you need to apply for a license (usually a provincial one) to work in these fields. Requirements vary by province. There are over 140 regulated professions, most of them in high demand for immigrants because they suffer from skill shortage!

In order to meet their profession’s licensing requirements, most immigrant will have to:

  • Take a language test if you studied in a language other than French or English
  • Take an examination to demonstrate your competences
  • You may have to take compulsory classes at a Canadian college or university to bridge the gap between the requirements and your foreign education

This can be extremely stressful, not to mention expensive, for newcomers to Canada. Some may then give up on their training and work in low-paid job, just to make a living.

Unfortunately, the Canadian government doesn’t really inform prospective immigrants that they may not be able to practice the profession they have been chosen for. So it’s up to you to research your field before you move to Canada!

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