3 Things you need to know about your first job in Canada

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Migrating and settling in a new country usually causes uncertainty, perhaps even anxiety. This is true for many newcomers who arrive in Canada. Among a list of priorities, finding a stable job to support their family is at the top of the list, and because of this some have high expectations of getting a professional job in Canada in the first month. Unfortunately, many find fulfilling this desire more challenging than expected. Luckily, there is hope for those who do not give up!

We often serve newcomers at OFE and are familiar with the challenges they face while looking for work. That is why we strive to help them more easily make the transition to the Canadian workforce in the best possible way. This involves informing them about the different factors they must consider before applying for their first job. In this post we will focus on three things you need to know for your first job in Canada: managing your expectations, getting to know Canadian workplace culture, and improving communication.

1. Manage your expectations

Job searching can sometimes take longer than expected. A lack of connections and networking skills can prolong the process, especially when looking for professional jobs. A useful tip for newcomers is to manage your expectations and not assume you will get your dream job in the first six months. A more realistic approach is to establish short-term and long-term career goals. For example, it can be strategic to apply for entry-level jobs or positions not directly related to your dream job in the short-term, while you plan, build up your network, and prepare for the next career move.

Once employed, continue to use this strategy to remain flexible, because your experience in the new workplace may be different from what you were used to in your previous job.

2. Know the workplace culture

It is important that newcomers are aware of the cultural values and expectations common to Canadian employers. In addition to having a combination of relevant skills and technical expertise, you must also understand the cultural norms that impact how a candidate and an employer make a match.

It is said that a positive attitude, good punctuality and a smile on your face go a long way for making a good first impression. However, there is more a job applicant must do to secure employment that some newcomers may not be familiar with.

Contrary to “collectivist” cultures where people tend to be more modest about their achievements, in Canada you are expected to promote yourself and present your skills and achievements as selling points. Exactly like in business marketing! The only difference is that you are not selling a product, but marketing yourself.

Canadian culture, like many Western cultures including the United States, is considered “individualistic”. Individualistic cultures value independence, self-reliance and initiative. In the business world, employers expect their current and potential employees to demonstrate those traits. Hiring decisions and promotions depend on what employees have achieved or can achieve. To stand out from the crowd, it is necessary for job seekers to emphasize their unique ability to solve the problems an employer needs solved.

3. Improve your communication

A requirement for nearly every job is to have good communication skills. This is more than just being able to speak English. It means using the English you know effectively. In addition to learning vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation, you also need to become familiar with patterns of communication that can be unique to Canada.

In addition to understanding others and being understood, communication also requires good listening skills and proper use of body language. Active listening is essential when approaching employers, superiors and colleagues. Being articulate is helpful, but if you are a poor listener, your eloquence will not make up for it. So remember to work on your listening skills!

When speaking, be specific and concise and avoid giving unnecessary information. Make sure your message is clear and free of uncommon words. Be mindful of how much emotion you put into your voice when you speak, especially when you disagree with something.

For jobs that require you to communicate online, whether through online applications or direct email, not only is it important to make sure your message is written well, but also that you understand proper email etiquette. Carefully read through the job posting as instructions are often given for which information to include in an email and how to include it. Learn best practices like when the appropriate time to follow up is and how to send “thank you” emails. As more and more of our communications happen online, it is best to grow your knowledge in this area.

Follow these tips and you will get your first job in Canada no time! Remember that getting a job is only the first step. Keeping it is just as important. Become an observer and learn from the people around you. Be adaptable and never stop trying to improve.

Author: Lisandra Lopez, Facilitator

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Stay up-to-date on topics that can boost your career, give you a fresh perspective on job searching, and help you meet your goals faster.


Stay up-to-date on topics that can boost your career, give you a fresh perspective on job searching, and help you meet your goals faster.