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The Profession

Getting connected in a different country: job tips for new Canadians

Building your network and learning about some key differences will help you in your search for employment

Man and woman shaking hands at networking eventOne of the biggest barriers internationally educated professionals face is the lack of professional networks. It’s not always what you know, but who you know. (Getty Images/Luis Alvarez)

It can be challenging to find a job when you’re new to Canada. How can you get Canadian job experience if you can’t get a job in the country?

“There seems to be a common experience that many employers want to see a person first having Canadian work experience on their resume regardless if it is related to their career path,” says Sheila Cheung, student recruitment officer for CPABC. 

Allison Pond, CEO at ACCES Employment, has seen the barriers new Canadians face for years. ACCES is an employment services organization and Pond estimates more than 80 per cent of their clients are new Canadians.

“We know from years of doing this; we see this talent coming to Canada, but people don’t end up connected and working in their field,” she says. “Over a period of time, it becomes harder and harder.”

Here are a few tips so you can be successful at finding meaningful employment in Canada. 


You can jumpstart the search process while you’re overseas knowing you’re arriving several months later. You can also research bridging programs if you have education and work experience and want to work in your field in Canada.

“I think the job search and the readiness comes while you’re in your home country,” says Carmen Jacques, student recruitment manager for CPA Ontario. Jacques works mainly with internationally educated professionals, often before they even arrive in Canada. “I do webinars about the CPA pathway, we speak about the labour market and provide information about how to be ready and job search tools.”

She says CPA Ontario has partnered with CPAC (formerly Chinese Professionals Association of Canada), among other organizations, and their bridging program for internationally trained accounting professionals. The goal is not directly to get into the CPA program, but to get your first job and then to think about the CPA designation.

“We inform them about the CPA and they know about the next steps but, first, it’s about getting into the labour market,” she says.

Another step you can take before you arrive is to ensure your resume will stand out to Canadian recruiters and managers—what some experts call “Canadianizing your resume.” Make sure your resume is customized to the job description; highlight your accomplishments; and fill the gaps, whether it’s volunteer work, education, or other responsibilities or activities. You can even use online tools like Jobscan to compare your resume to the job description.


One of the biggest barriers internationally educated professionals face is the lack of professional networks. It’s not always what you know, but who you know. 

Pond points to the hidden job market—a term used for jobs that aren’t advertised or posted online—saying 80 per cent of jobs could be hidden. “If you don’t know anybody, if you’re new to the country, you don’t have access to that hidden job market,” she says.

Jacques understands this first-hand. Growing up in Mumbai, India, she says she didn’t have to build a network there. “Everyone there was my network; my family, my friends. Coming here, you don’t really have anyone.”

CPA provincial bodies offer a number of events to support both Canadian and internationally trained professionals, with the goal of sharing insight and experiences to those on their journey to become a CPA. CPABC, for example, hosts area-specific networking events, interview nights, trendsetters and more. The Quebec CPA Order has a support team in place specifically to assist internationally-trained professionals in their integration, including information sessions and personalized coaching.

“The Order believes that cultural diversity brings richness to the accounting profession,” says Hélène Racine, FCPA, FCA, vice-president, Qualification and Professional Development at the Quebec CPA Order. “Helping newcomers integrate into the profession and the workforce is therefore very important to us. With all these measures, newcomers can familiarize themselves with the landscape of the accounting profession in Quebec and rapidly enter the workforce.”

Another important method for expanding your network is mentorship. ACCES Employment offers speed mentoring, where you spend a short period of time with employees who are in a particular profession and when the bell rings, you move to the next person.

“What comes out of that is a lot of networking and connections. And a lot of tips and advice from mentors,” Pond says. “Employees and companies that participate just can’t believe the talent that newcomers are bringing to the country.” 


Today, Jacques says, even to come into the country, skilled immigrants are required to have a high level of language proficiency. But, while new Canadians may have the language skills to thrive in Canada, there may still be barriers with occupation-specific language.

“Occupational language is an important piece to survive in the job market as an accountant,” she says. “Things can be a little different, so knowing that is an important component.”

Workplace culture can be another hurdle to thriving in the Canadian workplace. Jacques says that coming to Canada meant overcoming office cultural barriers for her.

“I worked in the Middle East and it was so hierarchical,” she says. “You’re told what you have to do. You take it and run with it, just put it on your shoulders. You come here and it can be very different. Here it’s all about how you work in teams. You are as successful as your team is successful. I feel like I was a victim of that transition.”

Learning industry jargon, unfamiliar terminology, or even workplace culture is embedded in bridging programs and through community agencies like ACCES Employment. What are the dos and don’ts, how you speak, when do you speak up; these can be different in different parts of the world. A course called Workplace Communication in Canada at Toronto’s Ryerson University aims to maximize employability and leverage preparedness for professional bridging programs of internationally educated professionals.

Cheung says each province has their own provincial settlement agency providers. “They offer free programs, resources, case managers, low-interest loans to help with settlement and transition in your new home.”


CPA Canada offers learning sessions for new immigrants, covering topics such as how credit works, filing taxes and building wealth in Canada.

Get more experience

Jacques says volunteering is heavily weighted here in Canada. “I would look at it as a huge differentiator,” she says. “It’s a safe place for you to make mistakes. It’s the first place also to get that so-called Canadian experience that’s recognized by many employers. You have someone to vet you and give you a lot more credibility. You also get that workplace culture experience without being in a real job.”

Information interview
You might not be able to get an interview right away, but Jacques says many leaders in organizations would be open to meeting for a 20-minute coffee chat. “You could just get to know what’s happening in the organization and what some of the roles look like,” she says. “This is being leveraged by newcomer professionals and I think it works very well.”

Temp agencies
If you’re looking for accounting roles, recruiters are looking for individuals who are students in the program and CPAs. But temp roles could be a good opportunity for some newcomers, Jacques says. “It helps build your resume, it builds your credibility. Then you’re ready to get started looking for that full-time work.”