This resource is specifically designed for returning Canadian expatriates. However, it can also be useful for spouses who are moving to Canada for the first time and for new Permanent Residents who are coming to this country for the first time.
Typical of all those moving back is the desire to get a good paying job...fast. This is obviously for financial and life stability reasons.
This resource offers questions, thoughts, and ideas that may be of help as you work to establish your career in Canada.
The insights and guidance in this resource come from my work with over a thousand clients moving back to Canada and my support of hundreds of international MBA students who I taught in Canada. Most of my students wanted a job in Canada after graduation as a pathway to Canadian citizenship, so career coaching was a regular part of my work for 14 years!
Before we get into the deeper aspects of jobs and careers in Canada let's get one frequently asked question out of the way:
"How can I get a job in Canada before I move back?"
If you have a very special skill, such as a being an expert in engineering, software design, some scientific field, or a special government field, you can apply for Canadian jobs from outside of Canada and you may very well be interviewed and offered a job before you leave the country you are living in now.
This applies to about 25% of all returning Canadians, from my experience.
For everyone else: You must either move first to Canada and apply when you get here or visit Canada for at least 10 days and seek work while you are visiting.
Let's talk about the visiting option, which is the most common one chosen by Canadians living in the U.S. or abroad. For those living in the U.S., visiting and seeking work, doing interviews, etc. is easier, obviously, than for a Canadian living in Australia. But the same principle applies: You will be able to get job interviews, information interviews, etc. when you are in Canada.
From the experiences of some of my very determined and organized clients, this means planning 10+ days of time in Canada very strategically, including not only setting up information and job interviews ahead of time, but also timing their visit to coincide with networking opportunities at conferences and trade shows in their field and when they know organizations are hiring and staff are available for information interviews (NOT in June, July, August, and December!)
What if you could keep working for your current employer while after moving to Canada either for a few months or permanently?
Check out my new Resources for returning Canadians who can work in Canada for their U.S. or foreign employer, as a contractor, as an independent professional or in another manner!
Part 1: You and your skills.
Part 2: The nature of work in Canada and the Canadian job market.
Part 3: Making the right career, job, or venture happen quickly for you.
Most people define their skills as the title of what they do. For example:
"I am an accountant. I have accounting skills."
"I am an engineer. I have engineering skills."
"I am a teacher. I have teaching skills."
The problem? This narrow definition of what you do, as dictated by the title of your chosen occupation, limits your job and career prospects. I suggest a wider definition of who you are and what your skills really are. In other words, you are more than a job or occupation title. Even if the title gives you a lot of comfort and self worth, suspend it for a while in your mind and trust that consideration of your deeper skills will broaden and deepen your self-worth.
Make a list of what you can really do and see what kind of jobs might utilize those skills. Example:
Possible jobs that could use those skills:
Do you see the difference? Now you have vastly more job possibilities than just "accountant"!
I worked with someone who was absolutely driven to be an English teacher (ESL) at a university or college in the city she had arrived at in Canada. Nothing I could say or do would convince her to consider anything else. To her, anything else was not appropriate or acceptable.
This woman suffered. Literally years went by until she finally got a part-time job teaching English at a private language school. Not a university or college - a private language school. Dozens of applications, countless hours of networking, self-worth doubts, and unhappiness for all involved from the waiting. Everyone suffered - her family for a lack of income and living with her unhappiness, her friendships, and most importantly, herself. Was it worth the wait? Was it worth sticking to her beliefs about who she "was" and what title she should have, instead of allowing her mind to change and grow and to think more widely and flexibly? You be the judge...
"But I don't have a 'financial analyst' credential. I have a certificate that proves I am an 'Accountant'!"
There are some jobs that require very specific qualifications. But most do not require exactly the qualification for the job title! This is again where a narrowing of potential careers and jobs happens in our mind: We assume that a 'financial analyst' must have a 'financial analyst certificate'. Not true! Employers are looking more for your skills, attitude, and interpersonal skills than for your proof of your education.
Again, letting go of job titles and education certificates can make you feel vulnerable. If you are in this situation and you can be brave enough to let go of them for the purposes of considering other options, you will likely find that the amazing opportunities you uncover will reward you for your bravery. Trust that you are more than your job title or educational background. Let that "more" come out and you will find bigger and faster success in getting a job in Canada and establishing a career.
"But the job requirements say that I MUST have _______ skills / qualification / years experience / etc.... that I don't have!"
This has been the single most pervasive perceptual "block" I have seen and coached on with my clients and MBA students. When a job ad says "required" or just "the ideal candidate will have...", this means that if the perfect candidate applies then they will have an advantage over other applicants. Does this mean you shouldn't apply for the job? No! Job ads are written for a mythical "perfect candidate"...who usually doesn't exist. If you are a candidate with at least some of the position's requirements you will have a very good chance of getting an interview, at least, and if you do well, you may very well get the job!
"But, but, but, that is not how it works!" Yes, actually that is how the real world of hiring works in Canada. Even if in the rare chance the perfect candidate did apply to the same position you are applying for, and is offered the job, they might take another offer instead of this one and this job might be yours!
But you won't know unless you apply. So apply for any job that you feel you can do well, even if you don't meet all the "required" or "ideal candidate" qualifications and experience.
Canada is a relatively simple country, job-wise. With only 37.6 million people (2019) spread over a massive geographic area, there are simply not as many jobs in specialized fields in Canada as there might be in a country with a larger population in a more condensed geographic area. For example, if you have skills in a very specialized engineering field, you may find there are only 3 people doing your work in Vancouver and 3 more in Toronto, which is 5000km away! And in this case there might simply be few job openings for your skills at time you are seeking employment.
Compounding the population size and geographic issues is the nature of Canada: A country of rich natural resources and pretty simple thinking. Most wealth and jobs are centralized in very few sectors:
The general mind-set of Canada is that a good life is a simple process:
And the job market reflects this simplicity, as a whole. Canada is less entrepreneurial than America, less strategic than Germany, Switzerland, and Japan in their investment in the future, and less hard working than China. Even the "Technology" sector noted above as a bright light for jobs and growth is mostly "branch plant" tech - subsidiary divisions of U.S. or other foreign companies.
No judgment here, just some hard facts to help you focus your job search in the right areas. Implications:
An alternative: The above is a generalization. It applies to most people and places. However, there is another side to the Canadian job market that is very vibrant and can offer amazing opportunities: Small business. Small businesses are often overlooked by people coming to Canada. Most people look for jobs in big organizations in larger cities. These jobs are assumed to pay more, be more stable, and allow new immigrants to live near family and culturally related friends. However, this is not always true! Big organizations do not always pay the best, they don't always allow for mobility and learning, and you can get "stuck" in them. And living costs in big cities are often much higher than in smaller cities and towns. Any gains in salary for working for a large organization might be wiped out by the higher costs of living in a large city!
Benefits of jobs with small businesses:
Another alternative: If you find a need in Canada that is not being met, or you can meet it better, consider starting your own business!
For example, if you speak and write Portuguese, this is a great time to offer Canadian businesses help in exporting to Brazil. As a consultant, translator, marketer, representative, or contractor, you have something to offer.
Another example: If you cook great Indian food, and you move to a small or medium-sized city that doesn't have a good Indian restaurant, research if an opportunity exists for a new one.
These are just examples to get you thinking that starting your own business as an option.
"But I don't have any money to invest to start my own business!"
Most business startups require little or no investment - just time and effort. Those that do require investment? There are tons of potential investors in Canada who you can find funds from. Preparation is needed before you approach investors, but money is available for investment.
Here is a really simple way of looking at the Canadian job market and how you might best fit in: Success Orientations.
There are three main orientations. Each of us thinks and acts from one main orientation and to a lesser extent one secondary one:
Jobs are just the same! Most jobs explicitly fit within one of the three orientations:
Which orientation is your dominant one?
Which type of job might be the best fit for you?
(Can you see which Success Orientation is evident in most jobs in Canada, based on the industries noted as being the biggest in Canada?)
"What takes 3 months to accomplish in Dubai takes 3 years to accomplish in North America"
There is some truth to this statement when applied to Canada. When I was living in Dubai, a new graduate from my alma mater (the university I attended), contacted me to see if I could help him find a job there. My advice was for him to come for a week or two and scout for work. He followed my suggestion and came for two weeks. By the end of the first week, he had secured a position with a top company, earning USD $100,000 per year to start.
In Canada, the same job hunt could take months. Why? Well, in Part 2, above, we explored how different types of employment come about in Canada. Applied to the situation, above, here is why the recent graduate got a job so quickly in Dubai - a job that might have taken months to secure in Canada (if ever):
Remote hiring - getting a job before you arrive back in Canada - doesn't really happen much. Most applications from non-local applicants are rejected immediately, unless there are very special requirements for the position and a nation-wide or international hunt for the right skills is needed.
Why? A few reasons:
I. There are normally too many applicants. Screening then, is designed to get rid of applications, so reviewers can have a manageable number to actually review. Shocking, right? Well it is true.
II. It is now common knowledge that people "fish" for jobs. If they get an offer, then they consider seriously if they would leave their current job, lifestyle, and geographic location. As a result of so many applicants declining offers that organizations say to themselves: Why put out a lot of effort for someone who is only casually fishing? We make an offer and then the applicant decides "Nah. I like living near my mother-in-law in Timbuktu. No thanks."
III. A remote hire means relocation - costs and time to settle and get up to speed productivity-wise. Which equals high costs and low productivity for some time.
The key is to be here. Travel to Canada or move back here ahead of your family and make face-to-face contact with people. Network. Apply with a local address.
Sorry, no easy way around that. You have to invest your time and effort locally.
Again, remote hiring can take place if you have contacts in a very specific field - game design, for example, or bridge engineering, or particle physics. And you have very special skills and experience to offer. For the rest of us? You normally have to be local. A visit for 2-3 weeks can get the ball rolling. You demonstrate that you are local and ready to commit.
The farther you are from the jobs you are targeting based on your education, skills, and experience, the longer it will take to get the job you want.
If getting a job in Canada is a top priority on your list - and particularly if you want one fast - go to where the jobs are in Canada. Big cities are your best bet. Secondary cities that have a strong presence in the industry you are seeking to gain a job in should be your next consideration.
This means your first choices are:
Your second choices are:
Government? Process oriented.
Sales? Goal oriented.
Real estate? Relationship oriented.
Banking? Process oriented.
Per the Success Orientations model noted above, are you researching, targeting, and approaching the right kind of industries, companies, and jobs themselves, for who you really are?
"Yes, but banking is safe and there are a lot of jobs." If safety is the central concern in life, then by all means: Get a job in a bank.
Consider these two approaches to looking for work:
"I would like a job in your company."
"I want to help you build sales. I have some ideas that can help you operate faster, more efficiently, and get more sales as a result."
What does a manager of company, for example, hear about you in the different approaches?
Approach "A": The manager hears this: "I would like to be an expense to you. May I become an expense to you?"
The manager, if they were to respond, would immediately say: "Thank you for offering to be an expense to me. I have enough expenses already."
Approach "B": The manager hears this: "This person might be able to help our company make more sales and cut costs, too." The manager, if they were to respond, would immediately say: "Sounds great! Would you come to my office tomorrow to discuss how you might help us?" (An interview!!!)
1. Some 80% of jobs never get advertised publicly.
2. Networking is the only way to access these jobs.
3. Applying to a publicly posted job (the other 20%) is where there is the most competition from other candidates.
In summary, most people spend their time finding online job postings and submitting applications and resumes for those jobs, putting all their effort and hopes into this approach
Unless you have very, very special skills, experience, and education to offer to a specific posted job that requires these special attributes you have, applying for jobs should be only part of your job search strategy.
Networking, and learning how to network, is a 10x better use of your time and effort!
"Yes, but I don't know anyone in Canada!"
1. Target a specific industry you want to work in. Hopefully you are qualified, experienced, and/or simply interested in working in this industry.
2. Attend public events related to that industry. Also, attend industry events, like trade shows. These are the best places to get to know specific companies and meet real people who work there - people who can advocate for you and decide to hire you.
Note: I am not talking about "Job fairs", which seem to offer exactly what you are looking for. Job fairs do not allow you to network with decision makers - only with human resources staff, who are not decision makers. Job fairs are useful for gathering information, but not for networking. You want to talk to those who actually decide on who gets hired - managers, key employees, etc. Industry events are a great place to meet decision makers.
3. Get to know the geographic and virtual communities in which specific companies operate. Join service clubs, business groups, etc. Learn to speak the language of the industry, the companies who operate locally, and the people who work for them. Learn what challenges they have and the opportunities, too. A casual conversation at a service club meeting is more likely to lead to an interview than sending in a resume to a publicly posted job opening!
1. Can you do the job?
2. Can we get along with you?
3. Will you stay?
Really - that is all you are answering in any job interview. Nail those three questions and you have a great chance at getting the job!
Over the last 17 years I have coached hundreds of people in their career development and job hunt in Canada. From MBA students wanting to work in Canada to families from India wanting to emigrate to Canada in hopes of a better income and life - from new immigrant professionals to office clerks. I have worked with all professions.
What I have learned are the differences between those who struggled to get established in Canada, often for many years, and those who prospered with relative ease, often succeeding quite quickly.
My hope is that this resource page of the Moving Back to Canada web site will help you join the group of those who found great jobs in Canada, created wonderful careers, and prospered...quickly.
Best wishes for building an exciting career or new venture for yourself in Canada!
Please share your ideas, considerations, and experiences relating to returning to Canada and your career. I will post them here as help for others. Along with a credit to you will be a big thank you on behalf of the many people you will be helping!
Latest update to this resource page: May 2021