2023-08-25T11:05:13-04:00Feb 5, 2020|

What international students need to know about working in Canada

Whether you choose to work in a restaurant or coffee shop, retail sales or as a teacher’s assistant, having a job while studying abroad may be a great way to help cover your expenses. If you are able to balance the demands of your course load with those of your job, the extra income can help bolster your budget, making your money go further and relieving some of the financial stress.

Working in Canada: Some basic ground rules.

As an international student (and depending on your visa class) you may be able to work while you study, your spouse or common-law partner may be able to work while you study, and you may be able to work temporarily or stay permanently after you graduate. Let’s take a topline look at the job options available to you as an international student and lay out some must-dos for working in Canada. You can find full details through Government of Canada Immigration and Citizenship.

Get a Social Insurance Number to work in Canada.

Before you can work in Canada, you’ll need a 9 digit Social Insurance Number (SIN). This will also give you access to government programs and benefits. Find all the details at Employment and Social Development Canada.Your SIN can only be legally used by you – and you are responsible for protecting your SIN. Don’t carry your SIN document with you. Always keep it in a safe place. You can apply for your SIN in person at a Service Canada Office or by mail using the Application for SIN  form.

Working while studying in Canada – Option A: Work on campus

Working ‘on campus’ means you must work on the campus where you study, even if your school has more than one campus. You can ONLY start working in Canada once your courses begin. You CAN’T work before school starts and you must stop working the day you stop studying full-time or when your study permit expires. Your study permit must list a condition that allows you to work on or off-campus to work as an international student.

If you are a full-time post secondary student at any college, university in canada (or CEGEP in the province of Quebec), you can work on your school campus. You must have a valid study permit and a Social Insurance number.They’re are a couple of exceptions: 

If you are working as a teaching or research assistant, or if the project you are working on is strictly related to a research grant, then you can work at a hospital or research facility connected to your school even if it is off-campus.

While working on campus, you can work for the school, a student organization, a faculty member, a private business or a private contractor working on campus. You can also work for yourself, if your business is located on campus. 

Working while studying in Canada – Option B: Work off campus

Working ‘off campus’ opens up even more opportunities for employment. Just think about all the coffee shops, restaurants and retailers out there. Before you start working off campus, make sure you are permitted to do so. Find out if you qualify here.

For example, you have to be in a program that is at least 6 months long and leads to a certificate, diploma, or degree, and importantly, your study permit states that you can work off-campus.

There are lots of opportunities for International students to work in Canada. However, there are also very specific limitations and regulations. It’s really important to understand all of these. You can find the details at Studying and working in Canada as an international student.

A few steps to help you land a job while studying in Canada 

So, for the sake of discussion, let’s say you have fulfilled all of the requirements to work on or off campus as a full-time international student.  Now, how do you find a job? And while it may be a temporary job to help you cover the expenses associated with your studies, it is an important step in building a career in Canada – if that’s your eventual goal.

Start with research. And start early.

As soon as you make your decision to study in Canada (or when you receive your acceptance letter), you’ll want to get started in finding out about the school, the surrounding area, the city you’ll be living in, and of course – what kinds of jobs are available. This goes beyond just checking job sites.

If you have family or friends in Canada, especially if they are students, talk to them. Even if they’re not students themselves, they may know people who can help. It is important to get a head start, so get as much information as you can before you arrive.

Once you get here, check in with the career services office at your university or college. The friendly people there want to help you succeed and are very well connected on campus. You’ll find on-campus jobs posted there as well as career guidance and resources.

Recognize the strengths you bring to the table

Starting out in a new country is highly challenging. It will take determination and dedication to succeed. Don’t forget you bring skills and experiences from your international experience that can set you apart from other job seekers.

Tell your story and customize your resume for every job

The tactic of making blanket submissions to job postings is not very strategic. It’s kind of like tossing your resumes in the air and hoping one lands on the right desk. In Canada, hiring managers and recruiters want to know about you, your skills and how you fit with the role and the organization.

The best way to stand out from the job seeker competition is to submit a customized cover letter and resume. By doing so, you can focus on your most relevant skills (whether specific or transferable) and how your experience makes you the best choice for the job. It also shows that you took the effort to understand the organization and their specific needs. Remember, these people see hundreds if not thousands of resumes. You want to stand out.

Make a cover letter that counts

  • Think of the cover letter as your head start versus the competition
  • Done well, the cover letter can be an excellent way for you to stand out amongst your peers and make a memorable impression on recruiters and hiring managers alike
  • Don’t worry – it doesn’t have to be a long essay. In fact, It shouldn’t be
    Keep it short and sweet but include  just enough to make employers want to meet you in person
  • There is no way to get around the fact that creating custom cover letters for every application is time consuming. But it’s worth it (see point 1)
  • If you are truly committed to getting the jobs you are applying to (and we hope you are), a custom cover letter will go much further than applying impersonally to hundreds of jobs
  • TIP – Don’t apologize for any lack of experience you may not have – instead, highlight how excited you are to apply your transferable skills

Build a better resume

  • Your resume should make a strong first impression on the hiring manager
  • and feature your most relevant skills and work experience for the role

Our templates will help you create your amazing resume.

There are two basic types of resumes: Chronological and Skills

A Chronological Resume is probably the most familiar.

  • A summary of your professional experience, listed out role by role.
  • Each role is complemented by several points highlighting your accomplishments.

A Skills Resume is great  for people who don’t have a lot of relevant professional experience, either because you’re early in your career or switching fields.

  • Instead of providing detail by JOBS you’ve had, you provide detail by SKILLS you have, focusing on what the employer is looking for in the role you’re interested in.

If you have some relevant experience, you may want to use a Chronological style. If you don’t have much or any relevant experience, why not give the Skills format a try?

Make Canadian connections and build your network

Many jobs in Canada aren’t posted on online job boards (somewhere between 60 and 80%)
So, the more people you know, the better chance you will have of finding that job you’re after.

Get that elusive Canadian experience

Many newcomers face the dilemma of being qualified for a job but they lack ‘Canadian experience’.
It’s a familiar conundrum: How can I get Canadian experience if I can’t get a job in Canada. So, while your first job in Canada may not be exactly what you’re looking for, it will tick the ‘Canadian experience’ box on a hiring manager’s checklist and set you up for your future. Another great way to acquire experience in your desired field is through volunteering.

Now you know a few of  the general ground rules for working while studying in Canada. And you’ve got some insight and tools to help you locate and land the right  job here.

Once you start working you’ll need a bank account to deposit your hard-earned money. You can Start your application for a Canadian bank account before you leave. You’ll be able to securely send money to Canada and have immediate access to your money when you arrive.

Check out Arrive articles, What International Students Need to Know About Banking in Canada and Mind over money: How to budget for Student Life in Canada to get a better understanding about the basics of banking and budgeting in Canada. All of this will help you make the most of your student life and academic career in Canada.