TALES FROM HUMBER: It’s hard for international students to enter the Canadian job market

by | Apr 22, 2021 | Opinion, Tales From Humber

Before coming to Canada from Brazil two years ago, I repeatedly heard people say they would find all kinds of opportunities here. Arriving here, for some time I lost hope, but last week I finally learned what they meant.

I was about to start my first semester at Humber College and at the time I didn’t know anything about the Canadian job market, but thanks to the lectures the college gave to new students, I discovered not only was I not qualified, but I was restricted by law in how much I can work, which would make the process even more challenging.

In my country, it isn’t normal for teenagers to work while in school. Those that do work, only do it because they really need to, and unfortunately, they often end up dropping out of school because they just can focus on working.

One significant reason people look for opportunities in other countries is that Brazil does not have many job openings because of an economic crisis. It is extremely competitive for people with experience and a degree to find one, and almost impossible to find work without both.

In Canada, the only difference is the lack of an economic crisis. There are many job opportunities in the country. But the problem this time was my lack of experience and realizing international students could only work 20 hours while studying.

I spent a few fruitless months sending resumes until early 2020. When the pandemic started, I took advantage of classes being transferred to online and returned to Brazil to be with my family. I spent almost a year in my country, and when I returned, I was more determined than ever to get a job.

Before the pandemic started, I met other Brazilian international students who had been in the country longer and one offered tips on several things, including how to find a job.

I sought her guidance, adding experiences I had in college, in my field, and the extra courses I took while on vacation. I updated my profiles on employment websites and then sent out resumes.

I spent two weeks sending them to all the job openings I could find on websites.

I had the first job interview in the second week of my campaign. The interview was through a new internet tool that allows you record videos of one minute. I recorded seven videos, one for each question asked by interviewers. I was very excited but thought I wasn’t going to get it.

While waiting for that rejection, I was called for two other job interviews, this time in person: one for a not-famous food chain and the other for a restaurant. The first one had many people waiting to be interviewed, and I waited in that long line for my turn.

The interview went well, but I knew there were many others more qualified than I, so I went home knowing I would probably not be called back.

Of all the 30 resumes I sent, I was only called for three interviews and two of them already seemed lost. Nevertheless, I remained excited going to the next day’s interview at the restaurant.

The day started with everything conspiring towards not working out. I had to go to the library before to print more copies of my resume, and it looked like I was going to be late because of traffic.

I managed to arrive five minutes early and as soon as I entered the eatery I felt it was going to work out. The place was beautiful and the atmosphere felt familiar. During the interview, I was told several times they understood my lack of experience but admired my determination.

This week I finished training. It was very hard, but I did better than I expected.

And the best part was finding out the owner is an immigrant who came here looking for better opportunities and decided to believe in me.