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If you have recently graduated in Canada or are about to do so you are likely already on a path towards exciting life and employment opportunities. If you are hoping to remain and start a career in Canada after you graduate, you need to be fully prepared. Read on to learn how to kick-start your career.

Canada recognizes that international graduates can be a great addition to the country’s workforce, and there are various options in place that encourage you to stay after you graduate and start a career in Canada, one of the world’s strongest and most diverse economies.

Even if you are not planning to remain in Canada long-term or are unsure about where you may end up, it’s worth exploring your options for getting valuable work experience which could help you later in your career in Canada or abroad.

During your studies

It may be easy to get wrapped up in the excitement and challenge of your classes and student life, but it’s important to keep thinking about life after graduation even while you are still studying. Proactive students who take steps to improve their career in Canada options are often the first to get the job they want upon leaving university or college.

  • Network: Networking is crucial in the Canadian job market. Many graduates find a job through people they know, and employers are often likely to consider hiring someone based on a recommendation from somebody they know and trust. Some jobs are never even advertised, as employers already know who they want to hire through their network. More on networking later.
  • Use the career centre: Most universities and colleges in Canada have a career centre where you can get advice on the Canadian job market, opportunities within your specialization, and more resources for starting a career in Canada. These centres may have connections with employers who are looking for graduates in your field, or they may be able to connect you with a mentor or internship opportunity. If you have any more general questions about a career in Canada or the job market more broadly, the career centre may have the answers to your questions.
  • Find a mentorA mentor is someone with experience in your field who can offer you advice about achieving success in the career  in Canada that you are most interested in. A mentor may be an older student, a professor or lecturer, a family friend, someone you meet at a conference or industry event, a manager or other staff member, or anyone who is willing to chat with you about how you can reach your career in Canada goals. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people who have a strong presence in your desired industry, even if you have never met in person.
  • LinkedIn: When you start a career in Canada, it’s more than acceptable, even encouraged, to reach out via LinkedIn with a quick, polite message to ask some questions about working in a particular field., The person you are contacting maybe enthusiastic to share their experience with a keen graduate (that’s you!) looking for an opportunity.
  • Go to events: University and college life can be about much more than your classes. Canada’s universities and colleges are centres of research and development as much as teaching, and consequently they may often host conferences, events, workshops, and lectures by top professionals and academics from around the world. Students are often allowed to attend these events, and there are probably student discounts on ticket prices if the event is not free. Major research universities in Canada such as University of Toronto, McGill University, University of British Columbia and others have the influence and impact to host major visiting speakers and internationally-recognized conferences. Even if you are not a student at these universities, you may be able to attend anyway. Even better, try to volunteer at a larger event – you could stand a better chance of meeting the people that matter (and you’ll probably get a free lunch too, there is such a thing).

The main takeaway message here is: put yourself out there. You never know where or when you will meet the person who may be able to connect you with your next big opportunity.

Networking

As mentioned already, networking is key in the Canadian job market, particularly if you’re looking to start a career in Canada. The key here is to keep your options open, and stay in touch with the people you meet. Follow up with your lecturers and teaching assistants (TAs) after you have finished their classes and send a follow-up email to anyone you meet at an event. If you undertake an internship, work placement, or volunteer opportunity as part of your study program, keep in touch with people from your workplace – they will remember the impact you made during your placement, and you could be first in line when an opportunity opens up.

If you are going to a larger event or conference, consider getting some business cards made. Companies like Moo help you make professional-looking business cards with small minimum orders – if you are still a student, choose a simple text-based template and include your contact information and social network platforms only (it’s a good idea to use your non-university or non-college email address, in case someone tries to contact you after you have graduated when the address may no longer be active). Offering a business card to a new acquaintance will make you seem professional and prepared, and gives them the chance to reach out to you later without pressure. Feel free to ask for business cards as well.

LinkedIn deserves a special mention here. The employment-oriented social network has become almost indispensable as a networking tool for students, workers, and employers alike. Even if you are not looking for a permanent, full-time job while you are still studying, the connections you build on LinkedIn while you are a student could help you later on. You may also find events near you. It is acceptable, and even encouraged, to add lecturers to your network.

Get hunting for the dream career in Canada

After graduation comes the real work – job hunting. The first step is to ensure that you are able to continue working legally in Canada. If your university or college is eligible, you could work for up to three years after graduation with a Canadian Post-Graduation Work Permit.

There are many places to start looking for jobs.

  • Your university or college may have its own job listings site for students and graduates, and this is a great place to start as the employers who post on such sites are explicitly looking for recent graduates from your university or college.
  • The Moving2Canada Jobs Board hosts listings from across Canada.
  • Websites such as Monster, Indeed, and Craigslist are all commonly used by Canadian employers – though bear in mind that Craigslist is more popular for part-time and temporary or lower-paid jobs.

Learn more about finding a job in Canada.

Applying for jobs

Prepare a strong resume that you can send to different jobs with minimal customisation, and focus on writing a tailored cover letter for each application. Before you start a career in Canada, you need to build a strong resume. Your resume and cover letter should act as focused summaries of your experience; keep the resume to one or two pages, and the cover letter to one page. The goal of these documents is to get you an interview, not to tell your life story.

There are various ways to apply for jobs in Canada. You may find that a company asks for applications through an online portal that allows you to fill out a profile and upload files. There may be an email address for submitting applications – in this case, submit your cover letter as the email body text, rather than as a separate attachment.

As a recent graduate, you may not have lengthy work experiences to showcase your talents. Nevertheless, part-time work experience is still valuable: if you have managed a part-time job while maintaining a good standard of work in your studies, you probably learned a lot about teamwork, how to cope under pressure, and how to prioritize your time. If you have been working at a cafe or in retail, where part-time employee turnover can be high, chances are you have  experience in training a new employee.

Even if you haven’t had a part-time job during your studies, there are still activities you can turn to to showcase your strengths. Leading group projects and managing study groups, participating in sport, clubs, or student journalism, contributing to student government, or volunteering can all build the skill set you need to impress a future employer. Hiring managers know that you won’t have decades of work experience: they are interested in a recent graduate for your diverse experience and your strong education in the most recent and relevant developments in your field.

Plus, as an international student you have something going for you that others may not: you have made the leap to come to a new country and immerse yourself in a new culture, and maybe a new language. This shows determination and adaptability, both of which are impressive to employers, so showcase these strengths in your resume and cover letter.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to people in your network to ask if they know of any job opportunities. If you are doing so, start by sending a brief and polite email first, explaining that you have recently graduated and are looking for jobs in your field, and that you would be grateful for any assistance they can offer. If they are able to help, then send your resume as a PDF attachment.

In the interview

So you’ve got an interview – congratulations! This is your chance to make a strong first impression and communicate your skills and personality to the people who matter.

Never go into an interview unprepared. Read up on the company: its mission statement, its recent activities, its management team, and any media coverage from other sources. Showing that you have done your research on the company and the position will prove to a hiring manager that you care about the opportunity. Realistically, hiring managers and employers receive a lot of resumes and conduct numerous interviews. One way to stand out amongst other candidates is to show that you are invested in the position even before you are hired.

Take some time before the interview to prepare answers to common questions that may arise. Try to think of answers that other candidates won’t be able to give, for example, instead of saying you are able to meet deadlines (anyone can say this), think of a specific situation in which you went above and beyond to help a project succeed on time. Prepare a few such anecdotes to use if you are asked about your past achievements, successes, or even failures.

Read more: 57 things you could be asked in an interview.

Don’t be afraid to talk about your weaknesses and failures. Everyone knows these things happen – employers are not expecting to hire someone who is perfect in every way. If you are asked about your weaknesses, resist the urge to ‘humble-brag’ with answers like, “I work too hard” or “I’m a perfectionist”. Employers want to hear how you respond to and manage failure or shortcomings, and how you learn from your mistakes. These are more revealing insights into your strengths than focusing on your ‘punctuality’ or ‘attention to detail’.

Finally, be prepared to be patient. It may take some time to land the job that will open up an exciting career in Canada for you, but all your efforts during your studies can pay off if you stay focused and motivated during your job search.

How many hours can you work a week as a student?

On a study permit, students can work 20 hours a week during term time and full time during scheduled breaks. This gives students a great opportunity to gain valuable Canadian work experience during their Canadian studies.

A public policy allows students from October 2023 to December 2023 to work full time in Canada during term time. This measure was introduced to help combat labour shortages.

About the author

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Hugo O'Doherty

He/Him
Canadian Immigration & Integration Specialist
Hugo O’Doherty has over a decade of experience and research in Canadian immigration, establishing him as a recognized authority on immigrant integration and adaptation. His personal and professional experiences with immigration have made him an expert on the practical aspects of successfully moving to and settling in Canada.
Read more about Hugo O'Doherty
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