Student Jobs are crucial
The number of international students in Canada is growing every year. Having a Canadian degree or certificate brings international recognition to the table for these students, and also it will help them apply and immigrate to Canada. For some of the permanent immigration programs, the study in Canada is a must. In many cases, international students will be eligible for an open work permit (OWP) after graduation from the Canadian post-secondary institution. That is why student jobs are so important for international students. A student job will help fresh graduates to get permanent residence. Also, a student job will help the applicant to be able to settle and stay till the permanent residence application is processed.
Challenges to get a student job
However, many of these students will face issues to find a student job that matches their certificate or degree and will be of NOC 0, A or B. The NOC codes are the ones that have been valued most for immigration to Canada, and many of these student jobs could be classified as high-wage jobs. The competition is fierce, and many job applications are killed even after the initial review of the resume and the cover letter.
Here are five of those strategies to help the students (and, to some extent, other newcomers) find a student job that could be as close as their previous education or experience.
1- Learn the Canadian way to seek a student job.
There are significant differences in the job search process in Canada (or somewhat in North America) than in other parts of the world. As the first step of any job application starts with sending the resume and cover letter to the potential employers, students must rewrite these two documents as per standard Canadian formats. You may find enormous guidelines and samples over the web on this topic, but below are some basic (and not conclusive) guidelines:
- In Canada, we use “Resume” and not CV (Curriculum Vitae): CV still exists for senior academic or professional positions. It is far more extended with details such as a description of the thesis or personal development courses, etc. CVs tend to be five to ten pages, while the resume is between one to two pages. The key for the resume to be seen is to keep it short and relevant to the position advertised. Employers ignore it when a resume starts to sound long and does not match the student job advertisement.
- For the same reason, it is crucial that the resume and the cover letter be customized for every student job posting. One of the best strategies is to have a master resume and a master cover letter containing all the possible information and remove the non-relevant information per job posting. Also, it would be a good practice to add a bit of the potential employer in your cover letter. It shows the applicant has researched the employer and the position in the company and knows what (s)he is doing.
- Do not under (or over) estimate yourself. It is challenging yet imperative to see yourself as realistic as possible. One of the best ways to achieve this goal in the resume is to review it with friends or family.
- The Canadian employers want to know the applicants’ strengths backed up by hard evidence and figures and numbers as much as possible. While “being an outstanding team player” is a very weak phrase in a resume, changing it to “…joined to the project team and increased the output by 34% and reduced the delays by %17.5″ is much more sensible.
2- The student job experience dilemma
The chicken or the egg dilemma is commonly known as “which came first: the chicken or the egg?”. The same could be said about companies who ask about work experience from fresh graduates or newcomers. Without a job, there would be no work experience, and without work experience, there would be no job!
Having Canadian work experience is more than the knowledge of doing the student job. In my experience, many Canadian employers are willing to help a new employees to improve their skill set. However, many small – yet essential skills widely known as “Soft Skills” are critical to getting and keeping a student job. These are mainly related to work ethics but could be further extended to socializing skills of the new employee to fit into the company’s culture and how to mingle among the old colleague.
Having Canadian work experience will assure the employer that the recruit has already been challenged by the soft skills in their previous work and succeeded in surviving in those situations. It is not easy to learn about soft skills, but it could be a deal or no deal for many Canadian employers.
Employers prefer to hire candidates who can prove that they have applied their education, skills and knowledge to an actual workplace. It is widely accepted that work-integrated learning opportunities have value and benefit students and employers. If that doesn’t lead to work, it can still show employers that the applicant has Canadian work experience.
3-Improve your knowledge of the Canadian English language, and culture
Employer: “Get the ball rolling on this project, eh?”
You: “Umm, say what?”
Translation: “Could you please start working on this project?”
Although a good command of the English language is essential for every skilled worker (or every employee), that is not enough to succeed to survive the job interviews, and after that, the job itself.
Even having English competencies near English speakers does not mean that the applicant is familiar with Canadian English slang and idioms, which are used daily in the working environment.
Loonie (Toonie), Timmies, Double-double, Two-four, Toque, Mickey, Pop, Keener, Kerfuffle, Runners, Beauty, Snowbirds, Chesterfield, Whale’s tail are just a few samples of these words. A runner is not a person who runs, and Beauty does not refer to appearances.
Knowing the Canadian culture, news, sports etc., will improve your soft skills and make you a cornerstone of your workplace. Please remember that politics is considered personal and private and is typically not discussed in the workplace (except the election time).
4-Leverage social media
Social media is a powerful tool to present your experience to various HR professionals and employers. Consider enhancing your LinkedIn profile. Cold-calling potential employers and keeping track of their company news is very common in the competitive job market of Canada.
5-Network to get the student job
The more industry contacts you connect with, the better your chances of landing that ideal position. Participate in as many industry events (information sessions, employer events and career fairs etc.) as possible. Join professional networking groups and clubs on campus.
I encourage you to use these strategies to gain successful entry into the student job market. These five strategies are not the ultimate solution for any student job applicant but merely a starting point for the job-hunting process. Eventually, you will be able to improve, fine-tune and customize these strategies based on your personal preferences and your professional needs.