Are you a new immigrant struggling for a job in Canada? Here’s a tip. Colour your CV with Canadian experience!
What? You’re from Mongolia and have no prior Canadian experience?
Too bad! Without prior Canadian experience, you shouldn’t have set foot in Canada.
What? That doesn’t make sense to you?
Too bad! It makes perfect sense to the workforce in Canada.
Knock on any door for a job interview and the line up of questions may have you hunting for a psychiatrist – if not for yourself then certainly for the person who is interviewing you.
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been in this country for two months or two minutes. The incisive truth is that without “Canadian experience”, job opportunities shut on you.
You may have well been a CEO in an International organization in an impressive city or garlanded with scholarships in distinguished universities, it makes no difference! Most foreign qualifications are declared null and void when you arrive in Canada.
Now you know why resourceful immigrants start off by setting up their own business. It works better to be self employed than look for employment.
The other option is to go for ‘survival jobs’ till you get the right break. We met corporate executives who flipped burgers for a living in their struggle here, doctors who swept homes till they got their Canadian medical degree, engineers who drove cabs and once bumped into an old friend from Asia who turned into ‘Tweety Bird’ to entertain kids till he found a more significant job title.
We know of several others whose situation got the better of them and they fled back to the countries they came from.
Darwin was right. It’s all about survival of the fittest. And fitness does not end with 6 pack abs. It is about sharpening your 6 senses, most especially intuition, to make it here.
Canadian immigration websites have an ingenious way of making you believe that job hunting is as easy as fishing in an aquarium!
They bait day-dreamers with a compelling string of job vacancies. You apply, imagining yourself picking daises in your new landscaped home, zipping around in a Lexus for holidays to the Blue Mountains.
If you are hopelessly gullible, you may expect a red carpet rolled out for you right at the aircraft leading straight into the arms of an ecstatic employer.
What you don’t expect is months of unemployment, days of disappointment and endless unexpected challenges.
Ironically, things that are easy back in Asia can be quite a challenge here. Coming from a country of a billion people, we are used to cheap and freely available labour. Here, if you haven’t figured out how to assemble a closet, fix drain pipes or figure out house wiring, be prepared to go broke or have sleepless nights.
It is only when you’ve stopped believing you were born for a life of aristocracy that things start falling into place.
Back to the job hunt, here’s the truth. It’s easier to find work when you come armed with Permanent Residency status. A PR card qualifies you for the magic word – SIN.
Now stop jumping to naughty conclusions and let me explain what SIN means.
SIN is Social Insurance Number – a nine digit number that allow Permanent Residents to work in Canada and enjoy the generous government incentives and benefits. The SIN card is so important that we were warned to guard it with our lives.
However, SIN or no SIN, till you are armed with sufficient Canadian experience, you’ll be shown the door. Recently I read somewhere that Canadian law has finally declared this practice discriminatory.
Unfortunately, it seems no one else has read this piece of news apart from me!
Foreign work experience is still blatantly disregarded. Canadian experience remains a criterion to find desk space. Ironic that the country that flings it doors open to new immigrants, dissuades them to work once they are in, forcing many to turn back.
The question is why is Canadian Experience such a big deal?
C’mon Canada, most of us are well versed in at least one of your national languages; a good chunk of your citizens are immigrants from our countries; you have a history that starts from yesterday; and culturally nothing much beyond Poutine and Maple Syrup so it really doesn’t take much time to get familiar. Aren’t you taking ‘Canadian Experience’ a tad too seriously?
To be fair to employers, it is a hard task rejecting hundreds of new immigrants looking for work every day. Since the last 22 years, Canada has embraced a phenomenal 250,000 new immigrants each year.
Whether this was done to genuinely provide assistance or garner votes from the increasing number of new immigrants, it is commendable that Canada’s intake is the highest per capita in the world.
Earlier, from 1969 to 1979, immigrants were mostly sourced through UK and Europe. The policy changed when Pierre Trudeau and his Liberals were elected and they opened their door to developing countries.
Canada’s multi-culture policy is based on the fact that there are no founding people in this country. Diversity is the essence and a world-wide campaign helped get immigrants in. Later entrepreneurs were courted to come in for $ 150,000 to bring in much needed funds. It was evident that this was politically profitable as well.
With mass migration, mayhem increased to such an extent that SIN numbers became freely available. There were cases where swindlers had more than one SIN card to claim unemployment welfare. In another case, a resident collected over 50 SIN numbers.
To prove a point about the inefficiency of the system, a Toronto lawyer once applied for a SIN number for his dog. To his shock, he got one.
Coming back to the controversial “Canadian Experience” in these times, perhaps it’s just a polite way to filter candidates without hurting sentiments.
Which comes back to the question – how do we work around this barrier?
After weeks of aimless research we finally found a key. Try your luck through the big “V” – Volunteering.
Volunteering is a word we seldom hear in Asia. Back in India, volunteering meant a badge granting us free entry to events, strut around feeling important, with free snacks at the end.
Here, volunteering goes beyond free food tasting. The Canadian society is centred on volunteering. From children to the aged, every citizen and resident is encouraged to lend a hand to humanity. Fund raising, environmental awareness programmes, wildlife and health care assistance are the norm in schools, community centres and corporations. There is a range of short term, long term, part-time and full time choices.
Volunteering can be both social and professional. If you are lucky, you can find mentors to take you in and train you, till you find your footing and get absorbed eventually.
For a new immigrant, volunteering is an effective way to make friends and blend into the social fabric.
Apart from valuable karmic points for a place in heaven, volunteering allows you strategic brownie points on your CV as well.
Once I opened my mind to the idea, destiny took a new turn. When a volunteering opportunity came my way, I jumped in. The hands on learning experience connected me with the local market and helped me work independently shortly thereafter.
The trick is to be flexible, keep the spirit unbreakable and goal unshakeable. Slowly, the fog lifted and some semblance of normalcy returned after a long time.
While volunteering worked for me, it may not always have a happy ending for all.
Volunteering can also spell exploitation. There’s a fine line between the two. Newspapers frequently report employers taking advantage of volunteers. Students and new immigrants are hired to work without pay for long periods to save costs. That is against Canadian law.
Other than that, volunteering helps you be the change that you seek in your new life. It was good to hold the reigns after a long time.
We had finally entered the workforce, done up our apartment and settled our kids in schools. We could differentiate between east and west in the subway, travel in a bus without ending up in some strange part of town and fix a few things around the house.
It was mid September. Fall was setting in, bringing new colours into our lives. The nip in the air made the leaves deepen to brilliant shades of red.
I stopped counting the stars through sleepless nights and thanked them instead. The festive season was round the corner. We had good reason to celebrate.
Just as we were beginning to appreciate the privileges of our SIN and PR cards in this scenic country, we got a frantic call from my daughter who is studying in Montreal.
She had lost her wallet with everything in it –money and several important cards!