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Build Your Canadian Work Experience

Many employers want people who have Canadian job experience, which means they’ve done the same type of work in the past. But how do you get that if you’ve never worked in Canada?

It’s not always easy to get Canadian work experience. You may need to improve your English, or not know where to start to find a job. But there are many ways you can get work experience in Alberta.

You don’t have to find full-time work

Your first job in Alberta might be different from what you expected. Be open to different types of work, such as:

  • Part-time work – You work for one employer for less than 30 hours a week.
  • Job-sharing – 2 or more people share the same job for the same employer, and each person works part time.
  • Self-employment – You are your own employer. You develop, produce, and sell your services.
  • Gig work – You take on multiple short-term tasks, often organized through an app or online platform.

Find a transitional job

There’s a good chance the first work you find in Alberta will be in a transitional job. A transitional job is one that you work in, while you are looking for a job more suited to your occupation. Maybe you want Alberta certification in your occupation, but that’s going to take some time. And you still need to pay your bills. A transitional job – or jobs – can help you get through this time of change.

Transitional jobs help you:

  • Get Canadian work experience
  • Meet employers who may hire you for a different job later on
  • Learn about other jobs you might like
  • Learn more about work culture in Canada
  • Meet new people and make friends
  • Earn the money you need to support yourself and your family
  • Improve your English skills

Transitional jobs can feel like a step down from the work you did before coming to Alberta. But they are an important part of settlement in your new country. And you may find there are different jobs that you enjoy just as much, or more, than your first occupation.

Oscar – A transitional job can lead to a new direction

Oscar went to business school, and he ran a large food processing plant in his home country of Bosnia-Herzegovina. When he came to Canada, his first job was to manage an apartment building. His plan was to stay in that job until he could find better work, and to take classes to improve his English.

But Oscar found out that he likes being a building manager more than his job running the food processing plant. He likes that he can work on his own, solve problems, and work with many different people. Oscar has been a building manager for six years now. He turned a transitional job into positive change in his life.

Become a volunteer

Another way to get work experience is to volunteer. As a volunteer you give your time and your skills to help others. It may feel like you don’t have the time to volunteer. You won’t get paid, and you’re busy with other things as you settle in Alberta. But when you volunteer to help others by giving your time, you can also help yourself.

Volunteer work can help you:

  • Get work experience in Alberta to put on your resumé
  • Practice your English skills and learn new skills
  • Make friends and meet people who might help you find paid work or be a reference for you when you apply for a job
  • Learn what it would be like to work in a new career
  • Show employers that you are a hard worker and do well at your job

Many different places use volunteers to get important work done, such as:

  • Hospitals and schools
  • Cultural and community groups
  • Immigrant-serving agencies
  • Places of worship
  • Volunteer centres

To find a volunteer job, talk with people at these places, or use one of the many resources, such as Volunteer Alberta.

George – Volunteering to build his Canadian work experience

George grew up in Sudan and lived in the United States before he came to live in Alberta. He knew he had to get Canadian work experience, but he didn’t know where to start. George had very good English skills, and education in business. A counsellor at an immigrant-serving agency thought George would like to volunteer to help people with their taxes. He took a short class to learn about tax rules in Canada and found a volunteer job helping people fill out their income tax returns. He didn’t get paid, but he met new people and got work experience for his resumé.

Network – it works.

One of the best ways to find work in Alberta is networking. Networking is a way to link from the people you know, to the people they know. You form a “net” of people who can share information and ideas. You can ask them for advice, and to connect you with others who will support your job search. And you can network anywhere, and anytime, you’re talking to people.

There are many ways to network. Start by talking to the people around you, for example when you’re having coffee with a group at your place of worship or when you talk to a new neighbour. They may work in a job that interests you and know someone you should talk to. You never know until you ask.

Get to know people in your community who have contact with many others, such as teachers, counsellors, religious leaders, and community organizers. Tell them about your skills and your work search. They may know about a job opening, and you could be the right person for it. You can also visit an immigrant-serving agency to connect with people in your community.

"There are so many places you can network: with others in the same occupation as you, with people from the same country, and people in your neighbourhood. If you have school-aged children, get to know the other parents. You never know who they know."—Kathryn, a physician who emigrated from South Africa

Tips for networking

  • Write down the names of all the people you know in Alberta, and don’t worry how well you know them. Include things like:
    • What you know about them, and how you know them (for example “Gina’s friend”).
    • Their phone number, address, email, and their job.
  • Keep adding to the list as you meet more people. You’ll soon have a long list of people in your network.
  • Network online. This way you contact people you might not be able to meet in person.
  • Tell everyone you know that you’re looking for career information, and/or job leads. Ask for their help to watch for any openings that might be good for you.
  • When you talk with someone, tell them exactly what you need to know and describe the type of people you want to meet. Tell them about the job you’re looking for, and your education and training.
  • If a person you talk with can’t help you, ask if they know someone who might be able to help.
  • Have a business card made up that briefly describes your occupation. Include your name, phone number, and email. Business cards show that you are serious about promoting yourself. You can design business cards on a computer at home and have them printed at an office supply store. Search online for “free business card templates” to find a design that works for you.
  • When you meet people, give them your business card. They can then contact you if they hear of something that might help your job search.

Gaining Canadian work experience can be challenging, but it’s worth the effort. Knowing what it takes to work well in Canadian workplaces will help you fit in quickly and excel over the long run.

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