SIWIKE FAQ: How do I get Canadian experience?

Canadian experience is often highly prized to get a job in Canada. It can be a “chicken and egg” scenario where you need can you experience to get a Canadian job and you can eat a job to have Canadian experience.  You could start with a part-time job. You might be able to do some freelancing. Maybe some personal projects. One of the best ways to get Canadian experience is to volunteer.

Benefits of volunteering

Volunteering can I have multiple benefits:

  1. Getting familiar with work experience in a Canadian context. Understanding communication styles. Cultural contacts is. And other nuances that can only be gathered through experience.
  2. Getting new experiences and potentially adding additional achievements. Depending on the type of role that you were able to acquire in the amount of trust that you’re able to build, you might be able to have significant achievements to include on your resume.
  3. Helping out the great cause. Make sure you pick a volunteer opportunity that resonates with you. Something that you would want to be doing or supporting even if it wasn’t for the purposes of getting a job. 
  4. Networking and building meaningful connections. Other volunteers or coordinators or the people that you are supporting, may work at organizations that you are interested in joining in the workforce. Or perhaps someone they know, one of their family members, one of your friends, or another colleague. When you are able to demonstrate a great work ethic, amazing performance, and the ability to add value than that might be sufficient enough for them to want you to join their organization once they are aware of the skills you bring to the table.


How do you find volunteer opportunities?

Simply using Google results by putting “volunteer opportunities Toronto” or whatever area you live in can provide many results. Otherwise, search for causes that you support. Interested in supporting the environment? Look for organizations in the conservation Authority, parks and recreation. Love the arts? Perhaps volunteering at a museum or local historical site.

Love reading? Perhaps a volunteer at the library.

Deeply or just somewhat religious?  Volunteer at your local church, mosque, synagogue or place of worship.

Very supportive of your culture? Find a local cultural organization.

Find some sort of cause that you have an interest in, and see if there is a local organization that could provide you with an opportunity.

Some volunteer organizations have an application process. Some of them require you to get police and reference checks, especially those that deal with youth or at-risk populations.

When you volunteer, consider pre-writing your resume for your experience there. Some organizations operate like businesses and you could potentially be afforded opportunities to gain significant work experience. For example, if you were to volunteer at the food bank, instead of stacking cans, why not help them build their website if you are a technical person. Or for the local animal shelter, instead of babysitting the puppies, perhaps managing their finances if you are an accountant.

BMC while volunteering

When volunteering (before, after and during) consider spending time to build meaningful connections. Get to know your fellow volunteers. Learn what they do in their day jobs. Share what your interests are. Be curious, interested and most importantly add value.

Make sure to showcase all of your soft skills. Your initiative. Your customer service. Your quality of work. Your work ethic. All of the characteristics that might not come across on a resume, and that employers would be all too willing to hire.

Part-time jobs

While you might be lucky enough to get a job within your area of interest, it’s more likely that you’re considering a “survival job”. For those that think employers look down on them, think again. While there are some recruiters that might not appreciate you working at the local fast-food or retail chain, many do take the work experience as an indicator that you are working to understand Canadian culture. Think about it: if you had 2 of the exact same people, one with a Canadian survival job and one without, which are you most likely to hire?

Now it is a competitive process, so you’re not the same as everyone else. However, in lieu of not having it, then it’s better to have a part-time job vs not.

Freelance work can also be considered part-time work. While not the same as freelance work is not as consistent, providing your services on a freelance contract basis for Canadian companies over the course of several shorter projects shows an understanding of the Canadian marketplace.

Personal projects

A personal project could be based on a BMC conversation you’ve had


The question often becomes: if I have time for only one of: volunteer, part-time job/freelance, or personal project, which should I do? If I were you, I’d look to do all. And if I could only pick one, I’d pick the one that is most relevant to the job you want. Generally, I’d put part-time/freelance as the priority, then volunteer then personal project. However, if you can have a very relevant personal project and present it to someone in the local market that is very relevant to the area you want to work in, that could change the order.