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How to Get Canadian Work Experience

Sentence-Starters to Sell Your International Experience

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Answering the Canadian Work Experience Question in Your Job Interview

“Do you have Canadian work experience?” is a question many newcomers have faced during their job search in Canada – and it’s a question that’s often met with confusion and frustration. The debate surrounding Canadian work experience has been intensifying in recent years, as more newcomers enter the Canadian workforce and since Ontario's introduction of Bill 149 on November 4, 2023, making it illegal for employers to require Canadian work experience in job listings.

While it’s important that the discussion on the relevance of Canadian work experience is taking place, it’s also important to be prepared to address the question when it arises.

💡 Why Employers Care About Canadian Work Experience

Canadian work experience goes beyond technical skills. It relates to a newcomer’s ability to integrate into Canadian workplace culture. Things that are taken into consideration are:

Mastery of the language (English or French): Workers need to be able to express themselves confidently and understand implicit and explicit communication mechanisms.

Awareness of cultural nuances: When someone has already worked at an office based in Canada, they have likely picked up on those nuances and are less likely to falter in terms of communication protocols and teamwork dynamics specific to Canada.

Hard and soft skills needed to perform the role: Employers want to ensure that individuals have refined their hard and soft skills within the Canadian context.

Soft skills are equally critical and are often culturally contextual. Canadian work environments typically emphasize skills such as effective communication, teamwork, adaptability, and problem-solving. 

What You Can Do

Get a certification in Canada: Canadian certification shows that you have taken the time to equip yourself with Canadian hard and/or soft skills.

Volunteer: Volunteering is a great way to engage locally. It helps you assimilate into the Canadian community, learn cultural nuances, and showcase to your prospective employer that you are willing to put yourself out there and communicate with Canadians. 

Take language classes: You will find that if you get certification in English or French, you are far more likely to be taken seriously by an employer than if you have no proof of your ability to communicate at the workplace.

Take A Lower-Level Job: To get your start in Canada and gain experience, you may want to consider taking a lower-level job here than you are used to. 

Navigating New Horizons with Expert Guidance from a Seasoned Career Coach

Q: Are there specific industries or sectors in Canada where it's easier for newcomers to gain initial work experience?

A: While the job market can vary depending on factors such as location and economic conditions, there are certain industries in Canada that are known to be more welcoming to newcomers seeking entry-level positions and initial work experience. 

  • Some of these sectors include hospitality, retail, customer service, and food service, where there is often high demand for workers and less stringent requirements for prior Canadian experience. 

  • Industries such as information technology, healthcare, and skilled trades may also offer opportunities for newcomers, particularly those with relevant qualifications or certifications. 

It's essential for newcomers to research and target industries that align with their skills, interests, and career goals. Leveraging networking, volunteering, and internship opportunities can help newcomers break into these industries.

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 Sentence-Starters to Sell Your International Experience

An important part of addressing the “Canadian work experience” question is knowing how to sell your strengths. A potential employer wants to ensure you have the skills and expertise to do the job and the ability to adapt to new environments.

Here are some tips and sentence-starters to use in an interview – or inspire reflection on your experiences so far!

When asked about a skill you don’t have, focus on transferable skills
"My experience in [previous field or role] has equipped me with valuable expertise in [highlight relevant skill or knowledge]..."

"My experience in marketing has equipped me with valuable expertise in data analysis and strategic planning, which I believe can be applied effectively in this role."

Highlight your adaptability
"When faced with unfamiliar situations, I approach them with [mention your approach or strategy]..."

"When faced with unfamiliar situations, I approach them with a proactive mindset, seeking out resources and collaborating with team members to find innovative solutions."

Be prepared to provide examples
"I can recall a situation where I [describe a challenge or problem you successfully tackled]..."

"I can recall a situation where I had to quickly adjust my communication style to accommodate a diverse team with varying cultural backgrounds. By actively listening, fostering open dialogue, and embracing different perspectives, we were able to overcome communication barriers and collaborate effectively to achieve our project objectives."

If you don’t have a specific example, answer the larger question
“While I don’t have a specific example, if you’re wondering about [how I would solve X problem]  I would [execute Y solution].”

“While I don’t have a specific example if you’re wondering about my approach to client communication, I would prioritize active listening and clear, concise messaging to address their needs effectively.”

Take a piece of paper and use these sentence-starters to begin reflecting on your strengths. Remember, your international experience has value, and it’s important to know how to frame these experiences in a way that makes you shine.

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