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Reframing the Narrative Around ‘No Canadian Experience’

It’s ironic that the same qualifications that allow newcomers to gain permanent residency status and come to Canada seem to work against them once they arrive.

Last Saturday, I hosted a Webinar through New Canadians TV on this notion of “No Canadian Experience”, and am sharing a synopsis of what was discussed. While the content is geared to newcomers, other job seekers will find some of these tips beneficial.

Reframe the Narrative

First of all, the phrase – No Canadian Experience – is a conversation stopper. It’s one way to stop you in your tracks and prevent you from talking about your unique journey and the benefits an employer could gain from hiring someone like you. Instead of ending the conversation, use the opportunity to engage and reframe the narrative.

Address the Elephant in the Room

(Image: Reddit)

If you get the sense your lack of Canadian work experience could be a concern, you might want to address the ‘elephant in the room’ upfront. Admit it (see a sample script below under elevator pitch), then steer the conversation to how your international experience aligns with the organization’s goals and the benefit they will gain from hiring you. However, before you can have such a conversation, you will need to do some preliminary work. This work won’t be easy, so commit to playing the long game. You will discover it’s a better use of your time than sending resumes to every company and not getting a response.

Take an Inventory of Your Skills

Look at all the things you have done, the skills you used and the outcome / impact you made and write them down. This exercise will help you quantify your achievements, make you stand out from other candidates, and provide you with an inventory of your skills to help you showcase your value.

Research, Research, Research

Every job is NOT for you so don’t go sending resumes to every company that has an opening. Research the ones you would want to work with, and you can start with these lists:

Extend your research to social media platforms, starting with LinkedIn. Sometimes names of your connections who work at a particular company may show up. If not, check if someone in your network knows someone at the company, and ask if they could introduce you. Keep in mind that not everyone is going to respond so don’t become despondent and give up if they dont. Remember you are in it for the long haul.

Once you have gone through the lists, select about 15-20 companies, whether or not they have advertised. When you are focusing on just the ones with advertised openings, you could be missing out on hidden opportunities.

Target Recruiters

While I am not aware there’s a Top 100 Best Recruiters list, you can find many recruiters on LinkedIn. Follow the same process as you did with companies. Check your network, then Connections, then search for recruiters (or any other related title). Make sure to target those in your industry. Start with 5-10 such recruiters and reach out to them. See how to forge authentic relationships below.

Dissect the Job Posting

To get the attention of an employer takes much more than sending a resume and cover letter. It requires an understanding of the employer’s needs. The first indicator of what the employer needs is in the job posting. Pay very close attention. Assess your skills and qualifications against the posting. What do you have to offer? How does your experience align with the requirements?

Prepare Your Career Documents

Depending on who you are talking to, employers take between 6 and 10 seconds to scan your resume; the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) probably takes less. This means if your resume isn’t addressing what’s asked for in the job posting, it will be rejected by the employer leaving them to think that you don’t understand their needs.

Forge Authentic Relationships

The key to a successful job search is to build relationships first, ask for assistance second, and offer to be of assistance always. This is where playing the long game will help you forge authentic relationships, build credibility and gain visibility. In the early stages of building these relationships, don’t go asking for a job (unless there’s one that you know they are hiring for.) After all, you wouldn’t ask someone to marry you on a first date! Develop a ‘give, give, get’ mentality. Always ask how you can help your new connections. If you happen to know that an employer is recruiting for another position and you have someone you can recommend, let them know.

Use Every Tool at Your Disposal

As a follow on to building relationships, you are now at the stage where you need to use every tool at your disposal to find the right contacts. You have experimented with LinkedIn, try Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Employers recruiters are on these platforms. What about emails? Most companies have standard e-mail formats. Try sending multiple emails in different format until you no longer receive a “mail delivery error.” You may even want to use the Advanced Search on Google.

Contact as many people as possible while being realistic — not everyone is going to respond.

Develop Your Elevator Sound-Bite

Once you have connected with people you need to tell them about yourself in approximately 30 seconds – the time it takes for an elevator to move from one floor to the next. This is when you craft your elevator pitch or sound-bite. As important as your degrees are to you, that’s not what you want to begin your introduction with. They want to know first how you can help them make or save money. Tell them what it is you do, and name a couple of your accomplishments.

Below is a sample script of an elevator pitch or sound-bite. While it is structured for the interview and will help you address your lack of Canadian experience, it can also be reworked to create a brand paragraph for your resume or help you perfect your elevator sound bite.

“First of all, thank you for inviting me to the interview. I am pleased that something in my background and experience caused you to select me as one of the candidates to be interviewed.

Second, it is true that I haven’t had an opportunity to work in Canada yet and I am hoping you will give me that first chance.

Third, and most significantly, my experience aligns very well with the position. For four years, I was the head of Digital Marketing at _______, with offices in Canada, the US and 17 other countries. My experience includes diverse managerial experience in performance marketing, digital media and marketing technology, and building partnerships with clients to achieve extraordinary results. Conducting regular meetings with staff across all locations and utilizing my bilingual skills, I gained a good grasp of workplace culture and norms allowing me to resolve problems and conflicts before they escalate. With such a background, I am confident I will be able to help you develop and implement your digital marketing strategy across all media channels and platforms.” 

Get Ready to Toot Your Own Horn

“Accomplishments don’t speak for themselves”, is a mantra from Google’s #IamRemarkable workshop that I have had the honour of hosting three times over the past several weeks. This means if you don’t speak up about your accomplishments, you will go unnoticed. In other words, if you don’t toot your own horn, no one will know you are coming.

I hope the above tips will help you reframe the narrative around your lack of Canadian experience and steer the conversation towards the value you will bring to the company. Your unique journey has value. Talk about it. “It’s not bragging if it’s based on facts!”

Have questions? Let’s connect!

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