I moved to Canada in 2010. A heavy resume in hand, I was going to get any jobs I wanted. At least, that’s what I expected.
Being all set to work (work permit, Social Insurance Number, Canadian standardized resume, and a confident attitude), I started to apply to targeted positions (see previous post Getting an answer to your application). I also registered with placement agencies, and dropped resumes off in person.
Within two weeks, I receive very promising calls back. But they all concluded with the same thing: “Ms Mihami, you are a great fit, your resume is impressive, but you don’t have any Canadian experience. Come back in a year”. Huh?! But how do you expect me to have Canadian experience if you don’t give me a chance? I just moved here, how could I possibly have any?! This is stupid!! I was angry and hopeless after hearing this too many times.
Five years later, being a recruiter myself, I understand what they meant and even more so, I agree.
Back then, I landed a short term administration officer position, which I was over qualified for. I was bitter and almost regretted coming here, but I knew this country had so much to offer. Giving up was not an option.
There, I realized that even if I wwere fluent in English, I did not know the Canadian lingo. “Please shred this document”, “Can you get a double double?” . What does it even mean?! They never taught me this in English class!
When my supervisor would say “Sorry to bug you, if you have time this afternoon, could you please try to help me with this?” I would not understand it was a straight order. Being French, I was very (too!) direct, and disliked “beating around the bush”. If I needed my staff to execute a task I would be very direct and straightforward, often forgetting about decorum. Here, this was perceived as being rude. It took me months to understand that in Canada supervisors and subordinates do not interact the same way they do in Europe. I had to observe.
All these encounters and life lessons made me realize what “Canadian experience” actually meant. It was not that my previous experiences were irrelevant. What I needed was not more skills, it was a proof of my adaptability.
But how do you get this Canadian experience when nobody gives you a chance???
Without losing focus on your career goals, try to reshape the way you will get there. Getting a position in your industry – even if it is not exactly where you want to be by now, will get your foot in the door. You will discover the Canadian work place, and make connections with new colleagues. Step by step you will gain that Canadian experience in your field that was missing.
Another fantastic way to get Canadian experience is to volunteer – employers are very keen on volunteering experience. Stop seeing volunteering as working for free. Rather consider it as a time investment in your own training. But this is another topic that we will discuss in a future post!
Until then, remember that:
1- Canadian experience = gain understanding and adapt to Canadian habits & customs
2- Canadian experience = familiarize yourself with your field here and meet people in this network
3- To reach your career goals in Canada = be patient yet strategic. Success takes planning, patience and questioning.