Growing a network and creating a Canadian-style resume
That might change when you start looking for a job. Indeed, the North American job market is unique and you will have to master the fine art of job hunting, interviewing and working in an unfamiliar cultural environment to make the most of your experience.
If you feel your language skills are not strong enough to be in a customer-facing position, remember that there are plenty of positions where you won’t have to be the face of the company. These positions will still give you the opportunity to improve your language skills with coworkers and after the workday, you will likely hang out with native speakers as well.
In the meantime, your introduction to Canadian work culture starts with discovering the concept of networking and creating a Canadian-style resume.
Leveraging the power of networking and volunteering
Networking is common practice in Canada and building a professional network is crucial to your job search. It all comes down to a mix of luck, social skills and communication skills. A typical scenario would be going to a house party and chatting with someone who, at one point, mentions that his company is about to hire for a new position. If it sounds like a good fit and if you show interest, your phone may ring the following Monday—you’re now invited for an informal interview at the company!
“But I’m new here, I don’t have a network!”
Don’t sigh. Sure you do! PVTistes.net and members who are already in your destination city are your first network. A personal network doesn’t get built overnight. You have to take the first step and be social. Participate in PVTistes.net events, sign up for activities, join a team and play sports, go to the gym, take language classes…
Tell friends, acquaintances, roommates, business owners, etc. that you’re looking for a job. Explain why you came to Canada, mention a few skills you have, past work experience you enjoyed and your professional goals. If anyone hears about an opportunity that could be a good fit, you’ll be informed! Just remember that networking is a two-way street. It’s not just about you but about developing mutually valuable relationships.
Volunteering can also be a rewarding and efficient solution to enter the job market as a newcomer to Canada. You may have heard of the typical first-experience catch-22 situation—it’s hard to get a job without Canadian experience, but you need a job to get Canadian experience. Once you get that first successful work experience in Canada, subsequent job searches will be much easier.
Volunteering can be a win-win opportunity:
- You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment working for others and the community.
- You’ll get that precious first work experience in Canada (paid or unpaid, it doesn’t matter for hiring managers).
- You’ll get to meet people and grow your Canadian network.
Volunteering is very popular in Canada and many organizations will welcome your help. The following websites are a good start to search for opportunities:
- Centre d’action bénévole de Montréal (Montreal)
- Volunteer Toronto (Toronto)
- GoVolunteer (Vancouver)
- Charity Village (Canada-wide opportunities with non-profit organizations)
Writing your Canadian resume
“I love writing resumes!” said nobody, ever. Since it’s usually a time-consuming task, it’s best to get a head start before your trip to have an initial version ready for any opportunity that may arise.
Figure out local standards and formats as soon as possible and draft an initial version. Once in Canada, many organizations can help you tweak your resume to make sure it meets all the requirements and take a second look at your resume for free.
For resumes in French:
- Clé pour l’intégration au travail des immigrants (CITIM)
- Emploi Jeunesse
- Danielle Staraci (consultant)
- Fondation Ressources-Jeunesse
For resumes in English, the University of Toronto’s “Jobs” section features resume samples for different sectors (computer science, finance, management, etc.). The PDF documents, available for download, are commented and several versions are ranked from “poorly prepared” to “most effective.” The entire resume and cover letter resources section is a goldmine of information to create an effective resume.
For more information, read our comprehensive guide on Finding a job and working in Canada.
Resume dos and don’ts
Don’t be shy! State your professional goals, highlight your skills, mention volunteer experience, languages spoken (Canada is a multicultural country, your native language can be an asset!) and make your achievements stand out.
Omit all personal details from your resume that could expose you to potential discrimination—marital status, number of children, birthdate, religious beliefs, etc.
Including a passport-sized picture is also a cultural faux pas but offering a link to your LinkedIn profile is fine.
Employers aren’t looking for information about your personal life. If it’s not relevant to your career or the position, don’t include it.
The different sections of your resume
From minimalistic documents created with Word to fancy eye-catching designs, no two resumes are alike. No matter what layout you choose, make sure your document is easy to read and that it fits the industry—graphic designers could impress a potential employer with a creative resume while a financial institution might expect a more traditional version.
Beyond layout, this is what a Canadian employer expects to find in your resume.
Include your first and last names, mailing address, email and phone number.
If you don’t have a mailing address in Canada yet, skip the address field—employers are less likely to consider an applicant who seems to be living abroad and can’t come to a face-to-face interview, unless you mention your arrival date.
Objective or professional statement
An effective objective is tailored to the position and clearly expresses the skills and experience that makes you a good candidate for the role.
You have to capture the hiring manager’s attention, so use relevant key words and keep it short. Skip the “I” pronoun and focus on powerful action verbs.
- Experienced manager with 5 years of experience in hospitality who thrives in a fast-paced environment
- Enthusiastic food service worker with 3+ years of experience and excellent customer service skills
- Motivated bilingual marketing specialist looking to make a difference in the non-profit sector
Always highlight your main assets and list the core skills for the job. Professionals in a technical field can mention programing languages, certifications, etc. If you’re looking for a specific position, name it (e.g. pastry chef, OTR driver, etc.).
This is where you introduce your potential employer to a range of your most impressive skills or achievements.
List around five skills and mix soft, personal skills (e.g. “creative,” “team leader,” “resourceful,” “flexible,” etc.) with job-specific hard skills (e.g. “SEO specialist,” “software development,” “budget management,” “bookkeeping,” etc.).
It’s best to reuse the keywords from the job ad that apply to you. This is part of tailoring your resume to the specific offer. Don’t just copy and paste, use the wording in context and exemplify it. This way, you’re not parroting back the ad, you’re showing that you’d be a great fit for the job.
Most applicants list their work experience in a reverse-chronological order, i.e. starting with the latest or current position. You can also choose a functional resume format and list skills and experience sorted by skill area or job function. This is a good option for non-traditional career paths, job seekers trying to break into a new industry or recent grads without much practical work experience.
Include your job title, start and end dates, the name of the company and its location.
If you have little or no paid work experience, list internships and volunteer work. Otherwise, move volunteer experience to a dedicated section (see below).
For each position, be factual and highlight your achievements. For example, specify how many customers you dealt with, the types of responsibilities you had and give an example to show off your skills. Measurable and quantifiable results with numbers and percentages are extremely helpful, for instance, “led a team of 5 people and increase sales by 18%.” If you have a long work history, keep the description for unskilled positions very short, especially if you have more relevant experience.
Canadians value volunteering. This type of experience shows an employer that you are eager to try new something new, that you’re involved in your community and generally demonstrates a willingness to take initiative and make a difference.
Highlight soft skills you developed. Transferable skills such as leadership, time management, prioritization or delegation are skills that can be useful for the position you’re applying for.
List your language skills with your proficiency (native language, fluent, intermediate, etc.). Not quite sure about your French and English language skills? Try the free self-assessment tests from the Public Service Commission.
This is the perfect section for your general and specialized computer skills, including software you’ve mastered (e.g. MS Office, spreadsheets, PowerPoint, Excel, etc.). If you’re applying for an administrative position or a data entry job, you can mention your average typing speed (e.g. XXwpm). Many staffing agencies will test you, just remember your average “word per minute.” You can also take a free speed typing test online.
Also include any professional certifications, trade certifications, or professional designations.
If you’re a recent grad with impressive and relevant degrees but little work experience, you can put the “education” section before your work history. Otherwise, it’s probably best to let the employer focus on your practical professional experience.
List your education history in a reverse-chronological order, starting with the most recent degrees.
Remember that your foreign degrees may not be self-explanatory to a Canadian employer. Even if you attended a top university or a very selective high school, chances are a Canadian employer won’t be wowed. Focus on getting the message across. If you don’t have a lot of work experience yet, explain what your program of study taught you or trained you for. Clearly state the attained level of post-secondary education, for instance: “name of degree” (four-year university degree). You can use this degree equivalency tool to see what your degree is comparable to in Canada.
In Canada, professional references are very important. In the final stage of the hiring process, your future employers usually contact two or three people who know you personally and can talk about your professional skills, your character, your strengths and weaknesses.
As a newcomer, you probably don’t have several Canadian references (three is the magic number). Before you leave the country, ask your current and former employers for a letter of recommendation—it might do the trick! These letters should be written on company letterhead and highlight your skills. Contact information should also be included.
You can list your references on your resume or wait for your prospective employer to request them—you will then submit them on a new document and list contact information (email and phone number) for each reference.
Skip the overused “references available upon request” mention at the bottom of your resume—hiring managers already know that.
Hobbies and interests
Occasionally, by chance, your prospective employer will also be into whatever you mentioned. But most of the time, hiring managers don’t particularly care about the fact you love Aussie rules football or blog writing—they want to see transferable soft skills such as team spirit, dedication, creativity, etc.
Ready to start drafting your resume? Remember, the key is to highlight what you’re bringing to your prospective employer and exemplify why you would be a good fit.
Main articles about the WHV to Canada
Step-By-Step Guide to International Experience Canada Work Permits
Introduction to the Canada Working Holiday permit
Guide to Working Holiday in Canada (free download)
16 Good Reasons to Apply for a Working Holiday Visa
Globe WHV insurance policy highlights
The duration of your insurance coverage directly impacts your WHV
15 Tips for a Successful WHV Experience
The Working Holiday Visa Adventure as a Solo Traveller