How can Irish workers improve their job prospects in Canada?

Employment has tightened in construction and engineering, but Irish workers have good reputation

‘Having worked in two or more countries is definitely an advantage in terms of selling your ability to adapt to the Canadian way.’ Photograph: iStock

‘Having worked in two or more countries is definitely an advantage in terms of selling your ability to adapt to the Canadian way.’ Photograph: iStock

 

Ireland’s crop of recent emigrants are enjoying a well-earned reputation for hard work in Canada; so much so, that companies are now specifically headhunting Irish people for their skills and performance.

If there’s one silver lining from the recession that Ireland’s endured, it’s that Irish people now know employment is hard to come by, so we tend to value jobs when we have them. Our willingness to work hard means job prospects for the Irish in Canada are good, particularly if you have Canadian experience.

I run a recruitment agency called Outpost Recruitment (formerly Moving2Canada Recruitment), which finds work for construction and engineering candidates.

Canada, Australia and the Middle East have provided good jobs for Irish workers in these industries who were fleeing the recession at home, but the recent global commodity burst has meant fewer opportunities, as all three regions feel the impact of low resource prices.

A tighter employment market in Canada has led to a reduction in the number of employers willing to sponsor workers from overseas. As a result, our recruitment business has focused more and more on Irish workers who already have local Canadian experience.

Canadian work experience tends to be overvalued by employers here, so it can take a year or two for Irish workers to adapt. Once they have this experience, however, they tend to advance quickly and do very well.

So what can Irish jobseekers do to improve their chances of finding their ideal job in Canada? Here are my top four tips:

1. Have a five-year plan

One of the key areas where I see candidates let themselves down is not having a five-year plan. It’s such a common question used to figure out whether a candidate is living for today or motivated to build a career in Canada.

If you arrive on a two-year working holiday visa, you must convince an employer that you intend to stay beyond this period. Investing in a candidate and seeing them leave within two years is the employer’s number one fear. If you can’t satisfy them that you are thinking longer term, then they will deem hiring you as too risky.

2. Acknowledge the importance of local experience

Local Canadian experience is key. It’s crucial that you recognise a learning curve exists when transitioning to any new market. No matter how much international experience you have, most Canadian employers will lament that you haven’t worked in Canada when making a hiring decision.

Having worked in two or more countries is definitely an advantage in terms of selling your ability to adapt to the Canadian way. When preparing candidates for interview, we drill them on their strengths and weaknesses in the eyes of a Canadian employer, as it’s crucial to be aware of their potential objections in addition to the positives they see in you.

3. Negotiate a starting salary

“Why do all the Irish think that streets of Canada are paved with gold?” the HR manager of a leading general contractor quipped to me a few years ago.

“They do really well in interviews until we ask them about salary expectation and it’s very obvious they haven’t done their research.”

It’s true. Many Irish arrive in Canada thinking they will be offered the same inflated salaries as the Middle East or Australia, which is not the case.

Factor in lifestyle, living costs and taxation rates to understand the full equation. Canada is a lifestyle choice, but the money will come if you are willing to be patient.

We advise our candidates carefully on the salary thresholds for each client so they don’t stumble at the first hurdle. A candidate who wants more than market rate, without proving anything in terms of their ability, is a massive turn-off for employers.

Why not negotiate a pay raise subject to your performance over the first three or six months? This will demonstrate that you are willing to bet on your ability.

4. Invest time in your resume

The connection between a strong resume (CV) and a healthier salary is a factor most people overlook. If you feel you are worth more than market average then prove it with clear examples.

Don’t wait until you get into the interview room, as it may not happen. Your resume should be packed with mentions of how you have consistently delivered results for previous projects and employers. A results-focused resume will deliver far more interviews and give you the platform to communicate your value in the interview stage. First impressions last.

Outlook

The Irish population in Canada is likely to expand further as the Australian economy is shedding construction roles.

Australia has been very good to Irish immigrants, but thousands of Irish working on remote resource projects, particularly in Western Australia, will have to move on as those projects come to an end or scale down. With global uncertainty in 2016, I’m hopeful a potential LNG export infrastructure boom will see Canada absorb a large proportion of these workers.

Ruairi Spillane (30) emigrated to Canada from Beaufort, Co Kerry, in 2008. He set up Moving2Canada.com as a free information resource in March 2011, then in July 2012 he launched a recruitment agency, Moving2Canada Recruitment (now called Outpost Recruitment), to assist immigrants find work in Canada. Outpost now focuses on civil, infrastructure, and buildings projects. See outpostrecruitment.com

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