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Why Do I Need International Experience To Get A Job In Canada?

“I don’t have Canadian Experience but I have International experience.”

I cringe every time I hear a newcomer make this statement.

It’s a mistake that most job seekers make – thinking about themselves before thinking about what decision makers for the job want.

A Man Who Discovered The Truth About “International Experience”

I recently did a workshop about job searching in Canada and I always take questions during the presentation.

There is always at least ONE frustrated job seeker in the room who will grab the mic and vent their frustration.

This time, it was a gentleman at the back of the room, talking about how he’s not finding a job even though he has “international experience.”

He said, “Every time I get into a job interview, I tell the hiring manager I don’t have Canadian experience, but I have worked in the middle east, I have worked in India, I have even worked with the Chinese market! They don’t seem to care.”

In response, I asked him a simple question – “These companies that you applied for – do they do business in the middle east, India or Chinese markets?”

He replied “No.”

He dropped his head, gave himself a moment, and gave the mic back.

The Truth About International Experience

To answer your question, Canadian companies do not recognize international experience because they don’t do business internationally.

Their claim to multiculturalism is a testament to how the hiring process is not biased to race. But experience? That’s a whole different story.

If you’re applying for a job where you will only be dealing with Canadians or North Americans, why would your international experience matter on paper?

I always encourage my students – Before thinking about yourself, think about your customer (the hiring manager) and think about your competition. A job search, after all, is a marketing campaign. And marketing rule 101 is – Think about your customer’s needs and think about what makes you stand out from your competition.

For example, let’s take a hiring manager for an internal Business Analyst role for clients based in Canada only, has 20 resumés in front of him.

Most candidates have 10 years of experience in Canada. You have 10 years of experience in India and China. Who do you think the manager will favour?

The Benefit Of International Experience

But don’t get discouraged. I truly believe there is value in your international experience. Ideas and experience that you had in the past may surface on the job, and that skillset you used at that time may very well bring diversity to the decision making process and solutions you provide on the job.

But that applies only AFTER you get the job.

The resumé screening and job interviewing phase is initially a process of elimination. It transitions to a process of selection at the end when they have narrowed down to two or three candidates.

So if “International experience” is all you’re leading with, you will be the victim of elimination right at the beginning.

If you truly believe that International experience is your core strength, then you need to target companies and jobs that deal with those markets.

For the gentleman above who prides himself on having experience in the Chinese market, he’s better off finding work in Markham, Ontario, which is home base to a lot of Chinese communities and businesses.

I’m not suggesting it’s easy. Newcomers do face the Canadian experience problem. If all your experience is foreign, how do you compete with local competition?

This is where networking comes in – once again, think about the hiring manager.

Canadian Experience and Car Insurance

Did you know car insurance is a lot more expensive for newcomers to Canada? I know, I’ve been paying!

The reason is because statistics show that newcomers to Canada are a higher risk and more accident prone, because they are not accustomed to driving styles in Canada.

This is what Canadian experience is like. Even though you may have decades of experience driving in your home country, statistically you are a risk as newcomer to Canada.

What does this have to do with networking?

Networking is like taking the hiring manager for ride in your car. You have a chance to prove to them – “Look, I know I only have international driving experience, but I can drive in Canada perfectly.” Now, you’re not a statistic anymore. You’ve proven to them you know your stuff.

All the experience and qualifications in the world will not match commitment and dedication and hard work. The hiring manager knows this. If you can demonstrate these unprovable-on-paper skills to decision makers in person, they will choose you over local talent any day.

Because they met you. They know you. You have engaged with them and shown them your personality in a way that no piece of paper can. That’s the limit your resumé AND competition has. They only went so far as to submit a resumé online to the decision maker of that job.

Make Your Experience Count

If you take your job search to the next level by actively reaching out (and meeting in person) decision makers, you will overcome the Canadian experience dilemma.

And by meeting in person, you have an opportunity to share a story where your international experience might even impress them.

To your success in Canada!

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