Mitigating obstacles and barriers for newcomers


By Lori Jazvac.

Newcomers form an integral part of our diverse multicultural landscape. Canada has brought in more than 250,000 immigrants each year since 1991. This number continues to grow due to complex economic and political factors, here and overseas. Despite considerable challenges regarding national security since 9/11 and onward, immigration serves as a vehicle for strengthening our communities and promoting economic diversity, globalization, and business growth.

Newcomers often desire to explore better career opportunities and a higher quality of life for themselves and their families. What might be overlooked is that many are highly educated and have developed a fair number of professional contacts throughout their careers. They offer a diverse background and valuable areas of expertise, which are critical assets to Canada.

In November 2014, Statistics Canada found 14 per cent of university-educated immigrants who have arrived in Canada in the last five years are without a job. This poses significant challenges to our economy, which career service providers must address. Employers also need to restructure their efforts in order to offer a hiring model that is inclusive to professionals of all walks of life.

With this influx of newcomers, we as career practitioners must offer innovative strategies in career coaching, résumé writing, and interview preparation. Despite the abundant skill set and expertise that newcomers bring to the table, they still face a myriad of obstacles to obtaining and securing employment in Canada. Barriers related to Canadian work experience, credential recognition, child care, and transportation are typical.

  • Credentials are not always fully recognized in Canada. While many newcomers hold masters and even PhD level degrees, and considerable job experience, they may be faced with the dilemma of having to start over from scratch. They may spend a considerable amount of time upgrading their education and skills, which can result in employment gaps.
  • Newcomers have been socialized in a different culture with unique norms, values, and attitudes. Adapting to new cultural values and a changing work culture often pose a challenge to their independence, culture, and identity. Some have left their families and tight community networks to start a whole new life without any financial or social support.
  • Newcomers are turned down due to lack of Canadian experience or accredited Canadian academic credentials. However, volunteering and internships are often crucial starting points for newcomers to gain meaningful experience, connections, and social networks in the community.
  • Newcomers may face starting in lower paid occupations in a totally different field or a similar field at the bottom of the career ladder. This often generates frustration and impatience with their career development while hindering career growth.
  • Some newcomers are not completely proficient in our official language(s) and may have to work on mastering the basics of the English or French language even before they tackle the job search. Not being proficient can hinder them from getting well-paid jobs and securing full time employment or a higher level of employment.

According to Newcomer Connections, some common concerns of real immigrants entail managing the impact of “culture shock” and cultural differences along with not having the means of earning a decent income to support themselves and their families. Most newcomers are not aware of how to tap into the ‘hidden job market’ because they may have likely found jobs in their home country through the newspaper rather than social media or professional networks. One newcomer on this particular site indicated that her experience with her family was overwhelming. However, with the assistance and support of YMCA Immigrant Settlement Services and professionals who guided her on working through immigration barriers, she was able to slowly adjust to life in a new country and gradually capitalize on her successes.

Strategies for Career Professionals

As career practitioners, we need to demonstrate genuine empathy and support in helping newcomers tackle this new milestone of change in their lives and career transition with zest, enthusiasm, and optimism.

What the career professional can do:

  • Remain positive and supportive to the goals and needs of the newcomer. Actively listen to their concerns without judgment.
  • Formulate a strategy for working with the newcomer based on their personality, interests, goals, and career needs.
  • Suggest and provide some helpful written career development assessments and/or resources as part of career exploration/decision-making.
  • Provide focused and results-oriented career coaching and interview coaching services and resources using specific strategies to address obstacles to growth and advancement.
  • Guide the newcomer about ‘tapping into the hidden job market’ via LinkedIn and networking. Encourage volunteering and community leadership initiatives.

With a well-thought through plan and focused support, newcomers can secure meaningful work in appropriate fields – and Career Professionals can make a significant difference in their Canadian journey.


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