It takes incredible courage to leave one’s home country and come to Canada. It most often takes several years of planning and preparation. Applications to immigrate to Canada can take literally years to be reviewed before being approved. Once the application is approved and it’s time to actually travel, the journey has really only just begun. You see, once you arrive in a new country, a whole new set of challenges begins.
We’ve all heard the anecdotes. Doctors driving taxis; engineers working in call centres. Newcomers to Canada often find it incredibly difficult to find employment that is commensurate with the skills and credentials obtained in another country.
Naturally many newcomers decide to focus on self-employment, instead of trying to get back into their professions. In some ways, self-employment can be less risky than finding a traditional job (read this two-part article to understand what I mean).
Then again, self-employment and entrepreneurship can be extremely difficult, especially in the first few years. Early-stage entrepreneurs need support to develop sustainable business plans and business models. Then there’s the challenge of growing a professional network. All of these issues can be compounded for newcomers who are still adjusting to life in a new country with few social or professional connections.
It’s difficult to determine why some newcomers become very successful in Canada while others don’t fare very well. A visit to any Tim Horton’s or Wal-Mart will show you where many immigrants start their Canadian careers, despite having earned diplomas or degrees from post-secondary institutions. Stories of foreign-trained physicians, lawyers, and other professionals who successfully navigated the steps necessary to obtain a license to practice in their chosen fields in Canada are much rarer.
Working with Employment Counsellors
Sadly, what I’ve seen over and over again is newcomers spending three to six months, or even more, enrolled in career planning programs, only to end up underemployed and stuck in menial jobs. Part of the problem is that the newcomers receive bad advice. Often this advice is well-intentioned, and through government-sponsored employment programs, the counselling is free. But as an employment coach and HR specialist, it can be painful to hear stories about the consequences of this well-intentioned free advice when applied to people who really are high performers.
Newcomers who want better outcomes need to find ways to gain access to good, solid advice. Ideally, this means that they need better access to some of the information that other Canadians have so that they can make better use of their skills and abilities.
Here are a few ways newcomers to Canada can accelerate his or her understanding of this new employment and business climate:
- Find ways to become better integrated into the broader community. These days, many of the best career opportunities and referral opportunities happen through informal, social and professional networks. When you’re absent from those conversations, you will miss the best opportunities. Join networking groups; join online groups as well. Facebook and LinkedIn have thousands of active, busy communities; odds are really good that you’ll find one for your field.
- If you’re a student, try the career services offices on campus.
- Read as much as you can from reputable online publications to start to understand how the Canadian workplace functions. Forbes.com and articles on Glassdoor.ca and Workopolis.com are good places to start.
- When possible, make sure that the people you are receiving career-related or business-advice from have adequate and appropriate training and relevant experience. For employment counsellors and career coaches, the credentials can range from a week-long online training course to a certificate from a community college to a Master’s in Social Work and beyond.
- Look for recommendations, reviews, and testimonials from previous clients.
- Find an advisor who understands the unique challenges faced by newcomers and/or members of visible minorities.
- If you’re a foreign-trained professional or aspiring professional, take a look at this article about some of the nuances of this type of work.
Have you ever wished you could get inside the head of a hiring manager? You can. Dr. Helen Ofosu is a career coach and career counsellor with a difference. She has worked for organizations to create hiring and screening tools. She’s created countless pre-screening tests, interviews, simulations, and role plays for organizations of all kinds.
Dr. Helen’s training in Industrial and Organizational (I/O) Psychology means she is a genuine expert in evaluating work-related behaviours. She uses those skills to help hiring managers tell the difference between people who say the right things during interviews and people who actually deliver on the job. In other words, Dr. Helen understands first-hand how job candidates are assessed.
More than career coaching, it’s career psychology®.
I/O Advisory Services – Building Resilient Careers and Organizations.