This Is Not Yesterday’s Economy: Internationally educated professionals face significant challenges transitioning into the Canadian job market
By Tara Orchard and Imran M. Ismail
The restructuring of the world economy has led to changes in the structure of work in Canada. Temporary jobs, contingent work, more competition and more skills are the reality of the modern Canadian workplace. These changes have resulted in the need for both employers and workers to be prepared to rapidly adapt and step outside of their comfort zones by doing things differently. These changes pose additional challenges for internationally educated professionals (IEPs) as they seek to transition successfully into the Canadian workforce.
According to the report Winning Strategies for IEPs’ Success In the Workplace, based on a study conducted by the Progress and Career Planning Institute (PCPI), among the biggest challenges facing IEPs has been a combination of a lack of knowledge about the realities of the Canadian workforce culture including employer expectations and the job search process coupled with unrealistic expectations about their opportunities. In fairness to IEPs, they have often come by these expectations honestly as they were wooed by a government seeking to attract workers to support economic growth. During the prosperity of 2002-2008, employers and workers alike were able to take risks; for IEPs, that often included the leap to immigrate to Canada without a clear job or career path. However, times are different now and it is important to help IEPs understand the changing reality of the Canadian job market.
An individual I met in 2011 wanted to know the steps he could take to prepare prior to immigrate to Canada. Following my advice, he proceeded to prepare while waiting to obtain his visa. Despite the difficult job market, he was able to obtain a professional job within only a few months of arriving in Canada in early 2012. Among the keys to his success were:
- Preparing before his arrival. This involved creating a job search plan including a Canadian resume, learning about the Canadian workplace culture and conducting research to identify relevant employers and geographic targets;
- Actively using social media networking to help achieve his preparations;
- Leveraging his international background as part of marketing his benefit to an employer. It is important to remind new Canadians that their training, experience and approach can add a different perspective to an organization and that is worth showcasing;
- Being adaptable and flexible. The job he obtained was not the job he was anticipating, but by being prepared and adaptable he was able to make it work.
In this difficult economy, not all IEPs will obtain quick success. Understanding the economic reality, which includes realizing what the opportunities are and will be, is an important piece of the puzzle. Hard work alone is not enough; adaptability, research and making connections with others can all support a successful transition when an internationally trained professional decides to step outside of his or her comfort zone to seek a new life in a new country.
Tara Orchard, MA has 18 years experience as a career professional. She is the founder of Career-Coach Canada, Principal at Careeradex LLC., and a featured writer with HRinsider.ca and Latin Business Today.
Imran M. Ismail, MSc, CDP, is an internationally educated professional with five years of experience as a career professional. He is the Co-ordinator of the Internationally Educated Professionals Program at Career-Coach Canada.