The 5 Biggest Career Challenges for Immigrants and How to Solve Them

Jacquie Banszky | July-18-12




Canadian Immigrants


Entering the Canadian workforce can be a difficult and overwhelming process for newcomers to Canada. Often international qualifications don’t match up with those recognized in Canada, and cultural employment differences can hinder your job search.

Here are 5 tips to help you ease the transition into the Canadian environmental workforce:

The Challenge: Employers aren’t responding to my resume.

How to Solve It: Adapt your resume into a more Canadian format and style.

When writing a Canadian-style resume and cover letter, it is important to keep your skills, experience, and qualifications in the forefront.

Step 1) Move your work experience to the top of the resume.
Employers are looking for candidates that have an appropriate skill set and relevant work experience to back it up, so make this information easy for them to find! Consider downplaying your higher education – particularly a PhD degree – by putting this information toward the end of the resume or remove it entirely.  It’s not that Canadian employers don’t value higher education, but they want to be sure you have relevant work experience and can do the job first and foremost.

Step 2) Edit, Edit, Edit!
Incorrect spelling and grammar can be frustrating to recruiters and may limit your ability to get your point across. Get a peer to overlook your final resume for any mistakes; it can make a world of difference.

Step 3) Focus on your core competencies.
Don’t approach recruiters with a convoluted list of every job/activity/volunteer opportunity you have ever done. Instead, do your research! Focus your efforts on the key skills required for the job posting and make sure to highlight why you may be a good match. Pinpoint any specific specializations or areas of expertise to show employers that you know what you are talking about! Research the companies you want to work for, get a sense of their organizational culture and mandate, and tailor your resume and cover letter accordingly.

Step 4) Ask for feedback. 
Employers are very busy people and can’t be expected to respond to each applicant about why they did not receive an interview.  However, they are usually more than willing to help if you take it upon yourself to ask for feedback.  Pick up the telephone and ask for feedback about why you didn’t receive an interview.  Is there something you could have done better or differently to stand out from other applicants?  Be polite and courteous and more often than not you will find people willing to help you.

The Challenge: I’m not sure whether my education and qualifications are recognized in Canada.

How to Solve It: Check your qualifications and build your skills.

Canadian occupational standards can be quite different than what you may be used to in your home country. It is important to see if your qualifications match up – you can use the Working in Canada Tool from the Government of Canada to check whether your skills and education will be recognized in Canada.

It may also help to obtain a local certificate or environmental certification to show employers that you are qualified, ready, and motivated to delve into the Canadian environmental workforce. ECO Canada’s Immigrant Bridging Program is a great way to build your soft skills and ease the transition into the Canadian environmental workforce.

Sector Overview graphic

A breakdown of Canada’s environmental sector.

The Challenge: I don’t have any business contacts in the environment industry.

How to Solve It: Network with like-minded professionals.

Finding a job in the environmental sector often comes down to who you know. As a newcomer to Canada, it can be difficult to build a new network from the ground up, making your job search that much harder. There are many ways that you can get to know others in the industry:  get involved in industry and networking events or join a local environmental association.

Meet new people and maybe even find yourself a mentor – someone working in your ideal position who can show you the ropes and guide you in your career path. Word of mouth and internal recruitment are often seen as more reliable and valuable during the hiring process.

Prepare yourself for networking opportunities by carrying business cards with you to hand out and a concise introduction that describes who you are and what you can do (i.e. a 30 second elevator speech).  Ask for referrals for informational interviews and coffee meetings with professionals in the occupation you are looking to enter into and don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Also, try to offer your help to other professionals if you can somehow fill a business need.  Follow-up with these leads promptly and politely.   

The Challenge: I don’t know if my level of English is strong enough for my job search.

How to Solve It: Take an English proficiency benchmark test.

Clear, understandable communication is key to a successful job search. Many immigrants find English language proficiency to be a significant barrier when entering into a highly skilled sector, such as the environment. To check your fluency, try taking the free Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) test at an immigrant serving agency near you. If you score under a 6 on the test, you may want to consider taking an ESL class or language training course to further increase your skill level.

The Challenge: I’m feeling frustrated and overwhelmed with my job search.

How to Solve It: Keep your head up and stay positive.

Finding your ideal job in Canada can be a frustrating and tedious process and it is easy to get overwhelmed quickly. Many recruiters and employers value a positive attitude and consider it a key asset when hiring new employees, so it is important to always maintain a light, optimistic demeanor throughout any industry interactions you may have.

Canadian employers aren’t only concerned with the skills you possess, but how easy you are to work with and how you can help support the company culture.