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The Hiring Obstacles Faced by International Students

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Sékou Dabo

by Sékou Dabo

2nd-Year Student in Management Information Systems and Analytics (Entrepreneurship)

Foreign students in Canada do not always have an easy time building the foundations for a solid career. Indeed, international students face a number of obstacles when searching for work. This article deals with this subject and provides advice to all international students.

Lack of Canadian job experience

Private and public organizations are reluctant to trust international expertise and to hire applicants who lack work experience in Canada. Therefore, I recommend that international students get actively involved within the University, by volunteering, networking, taking part in work-study programs over the summer, in order to acquire precious Canadian job experience. Students don’t necessarily need to work in an office or in a prestigious position at first: the goal is to gain experience in any field. The skills they develop in any job can be transferred to other fields. In addition, Telfer’s Career Centre organizes many workshops and events, such as Telfer Connects and Telfer Networks, which are ideal for honing skills and finding tools that will help foreign students succeed.

International student status

Ottawa and Gatineau are government towns: since government is one of the area’s main employers, much of the job market is government-based. Unfortunately, international student status greatly limits access to certain positions in government and in private companies that have landed government contracts. I experienced this situation first hand when the CO-OP counsellor informed me that I would probably not be able to undertake a CO-OP placement in a government department, even though I am a permanent resident.

It’s all fine and well to network, meet people, get involved and succeed in your field, but some jobs will always be out of reach for those who are not Canadian citizens. When you’re told “You’re really competent, and we’d love to hire you, but unfortunately, you’re not a Canadian citizen”, you realize that being a foreign student is a real handicap and closes several doors.

Message to international students

Even so, the message I would like foreign students to take away from this article is that even if they don’t have a wide network in a host country, in this case Canada, they shouldn’t give up hope. Foreign students simply need to understand that they will have to work two or three times harder to reach their goals. This type of attitude can tip the scales and by knowing what to expect, students can prepare to face these challenges. I was once a foreign student and I know better than anyone what awaits us in Canada; even though I am now a permanent resident, there are still opportunities that are closed to me.

In closing, Canada is a beautiful country with more and more opportunities: a new Eldorado. The country’s growing immigrant population has increased diversity in Canada, creating an environment that is changing the attitudes and lifestyles of Canadians. Newcomers to Canada just need to work hard and keep hope alive. As is often say: there is light at the end of the tunnel.