IEC: The Job Hunt – How to find work, navigate temp agencies, update your resume and generally stay sane during this process!

It’s time to tackle the nightmare that is finding a job when you first arrive in Canada.  My experience is pretty Toronto-centric, but I imagine there is a heap of overlap with other places.  

After finding a place to live, the job hunt is probably the most stressful aspect of moving countries, and it’s going to be something that will inevitably shape your experience abroad.  Are you looking for something that you can apply back home and is in the field you’re qualified in or are you more focused on travelling and being able to supplement your savings with the odd bits and pieces of work?  It’s important and stressful but it doesn’t have to control your life.  You just have to be persistent, adaptable and realistic. Remember that unemployment is difficult – just do not give up! 

So below, I’ve popped some hints, tips and websites to help you with finding that perfect role during your time in the Great White North.  


  1. Your CV

Your CV is generally known as a resume here, later in my job hunt I decided to change the document title of my ‘CV’ to ‘resume’ – maybe that was pedantic (definitely).  I spent hours trying to figure out the differences between a British CV and a Canadian Resume and truth be told, there aren’t THAT many to get hung up about.  Pretty much the same rules apply, be clear, be concise and target to the job spec. 

For a while in my little personal overview I did have that I was on a Working Holiday Visa and looking for experience here in Canada.  When it comes to addressing the visa aspect, I would recommend you leave it to an interview or when you have someone on the telephone before mentioning it.  It’s probably going to be far easier to explain and show the visa and it’s restrictions etc when you’re face to face.  It’s going to be obvious you’ve not been in the country if your experience and education is all British/Australian/Lithuanian.   I’ve found that hiring managers are looking for a reason to throw your application away, so if you leave the visa bit off at the first hurdle you might have more of a chance to meet them and convince them of your suitability for the role, which might make the visa thing a bit less of an issue.

Some websites I find are godsends in the application department: (I’ve recommended this one before, but it’s great for tips and examples of cover letters and resumes!)

Guardian Careers (little taste of home! – they do some great examples of cover letters)


  1. What you’re applying for

There are a couple of options to go for when you’re looking for work.  Of course it will be more difficult to find permanent positions while your visa has an expiry date, but it’s definitely possible.  It’s going to be far easier to begin with by looking at fixed term contracts or heading down the temp route.  This gives you the option to flaunt your skills while making money and not being roped into anything long term. There’s also always the chance that an employer will like you and help you out with any permanent residency process you might decide to go down. With temping there are lots of agencies here and it all depends on what your skills are and what you’re looking for.  

A couple of specific agencies…

Where to look for a job:


  1. Some top tips for navigating

For weeks – WEEKS – I trawled the dark depths of Indeed, finding a combination of jobs I would be perfect for as well as jobs I would hate.  There are all sorts of ads on Indeed, ones placed by individuals directly, ones Indeed has taken from other places and going through them all and applying can be a nightmare.

Things I would recommend you do:

  • Use the service.  Use it as an incredible search engine for finding different roles and positions you might be interested in.
  • If you decide to apply through Indeed write a thorough cover letter and be sure to send a resume along with it.   
  • If there’s a phone number, definitely call, if you can talk to someone it’s harder for them to reject you on the spot vs not replying to an email and you can get more information about the job before spending any time on an application.

Things I would recommend you do not do:

  • Create an Indeed resume.  If your education was in the UK, the translation doesn’t always work out and you could find that your resume states that you attended uni somewhere in the States that has the same town name. It’s very confusing.  
  • Be cautious about applying for roles directly on the Indeed.  If there are no other details about the job then go for it and apply on the website itself, but if there’s a company name or an alternative website to go to then I would recommend you do that.  I must’ve applied for 100 jobs on indeed to get one email notification that said an employer had read my application. 1/100 to have just READ it!?


  1.  Keep your standards reasonable

During this process you might find you receive some very strange offers; one job wanted me to pay them $300 for the ability to train and then work for them. Err, no. What I learned after attending a couple of interviews in very inconvenient locations and being asked to work for free, was that I had to try my very best to stay in a field I enjoyed – I was looking for long term stuff, so ‘hating mondays’ was not what I needed.

I’ve come up with 3 little questions that I think are key for deciding when to take a job.

  1. Does it make me happy?
  2. Can I make enough money with it?
  3. Is it a reasonable time commitment?

I’d probably lean toward a job that answers ‘yes’ to at least 2 of these criteria but if it does not satisfy at least ONE of those criteria, run. Run fast.  It might seem obvious to you right now, but 3 months into unemployment and that 12 hour a day job that begins at 2am and pays minimum wage can look pretty tasty.  Stick it out.  It’s going to be okay.  Sail through those hellish, rocky, shark-infested waters of being unemployed.  You’ll come out stronger for it and with your sense of self-worth intact.


Generally, in my experience of the Canadian job market,  sometimes person specifications can be really specific, e.g ‘must be a wizard, have experience colouring in flowers and be a strong swimmer’.  Don’t panic.  If you’re a colouring swimmer go ahead and apply. Read the job description, think about your skills.  If there’s a named contact, drop them an email or even better, a phone call and say ‘I’m an Olympic swimmer and I have great attention to detail with colouring flowers, but I haven’t mastered pulling a rabbit from a hat yet, should I still apply?’ They might say no, or they might give you a really quick telephone interview and ask you to apply.  It’s not going to hurt to ask and if they’re horrible to you, you didn’t want to work there anyway!
You are a great person.  You will find a job. Life will be okay.  Stay happy and positive!


One thought on “IEC: The Job Hunt – How to find work, navigate temp agencies, update your resume and generally stay sane during this process!

  1. Paul Atkinson

    Excellent blog, again, Lorna! Reading these makes my day (which is really kind of pathetic, isn’t it?)
    Ignore me. Well done!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s