Develop a strategy for the “Canadian experience catch 22”
Many newcomers to Canada are facing the same issue: it’s hard to get a job without Canadian experience, but you need a job to get Canadian experience.
Many Canadian employers don’t like to take chances on newcomers. They may wonder if you’re legally allowed to work in Canada, if your language skills are good enough, if you know basic Canadian work etiquette, if you’re going to commit to the job, if your references can be contacted, etc.
Once you get that first successful work experience in Canada, subsequent job searches will be much easier. You won’t be so new anymore and you will have local references.
There are several strategies to overcome the “no Canadian experience” catch 22. You can volunteer or you can apply for an entry-level job in retail, customer service or in the food service industry, i.e. in fields where the employee turnover is high and newcomers are more likely to be given a chance. Learn a few new skills, perform well and when it’s time to move on for a better opportunity, you will have a Canadian work experience and references to put on your resume!
Getting a job in the food service industry
Note that minimum wage for tipped employees (i.e. waiters, bartenders, etc.) is below the provincial minimum wage in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec. In Ontario and British Columbia, there’s also a lower “liquor server minimum wage.” Like in the US, there’s a tipping culture in Canada and the expectation is that wages plus tips will equal at least the federal minimum wage.
In Quebec, French-speaking skills may be required to communicate with customers. Proficiency in other languages (Mandarin, Spanish, Arabic, etc.) may be an asset in ethnic neighbourhoods and in big cities.
Getting a job in a call centre
Call centres are an industry with a high turnover and customer service representatives (CSR) positions aren’t difficult to find. Expect to make from minimum wage to CAD$25 per hour.
Note that there are two kinds of call centres: inbound and outbound. An inbound call centre handles calls initiated by the customer. You need strong customer service skills to solve issues, make reservations, handle complaints, etc. In an outbound call centre, agents make outgoing calls to prospective or existing customers, typically to sell a product, service, poll opinion or ask for charity donations. You will need strong sales skills and technics to perform well.
Getting a job in retail
The best way to get a retail job is to walk around the city with a stack of resumes. Drop off your resume in stores you enjoy as a customer—if you’re very active, stop by the sports equipment store, if you’re into technology see if you can meet the hiring manager of the computer store down the street.
Expect to work on weekends, including on Sundays—even though many stores close a bit earlier, it’s business as usual in Canada.