Get Your First job in Canada as an International Student – Here is How!

three women smiling at each other

Let’s acknowledge the giant (but often invisible) elephant in the room at the very outset – finding a job in an unfamiliar country is no cakewalk. As an international student still learning to survive on your own – familiarizing yourself with a whole new country and its people, and adjusting to an unfamiliar education system – you already have too many things on your plate. While landing your first job in Canada is a big feat to achieve, it does in no way need to be stressful. I did all the research on your behalf and have put together a step-by-step guide to your first job. Here are all the things that you need to follow in order to land your first job in Canada as an international student:

Step 1: Determine your Eligibility to Work

Before you begin your job search, make sure you have all your documents in place. Your study permit will determine whether or not you are eligible to work while you study. In most circumstances, you are eligible to work up to 20 hours per week on or off-campus.

Step 2: Social Insurance Number (SIN) 

Your Social Insurance Number lets you be a part of a company’s payroll/or access government programs and benefits. Hence, make sure to get your SIN as soon as possible. You can either apply for a SIN online, by mail, or in person. Additionally, many universities set up SIN booths for their new students in the first few weeks of a new semester. Check on your school’s website to see if they offer SIN services or talk to your international student advisor. 

Step 3: Tailor your resume according to the Canadian standards

Most Canadian organizations accept resumes that are not more than two pages long. Keep a standard template for your resume which you can customize according to every job profile that you apply to. You can also consult job search resources provided by your school for sample resumes and CVs. Here are a couple of samples of how your resume should be like:

Sample 1

Sample 2


Cover letters let you put across your voice and your personality to your potential employers and make them know you as more than just pointers on a resume. While a lot of job postings may list a cover letter as an optional document, we strongly recommend that you write one regardless. A well-written cover letter shows that the applicant did not mindlessly apply to the position but has taken the pain to go through the job description, research about the company, and come up with reasons to justify their intent for the application. Here are some samples:

Sample 1

Sample 2

Step 5: Look for opportunities within your school

Always look at the opportunities available in your school first.  Always keep in mind that your school is your first point of contact and often the only support system you have in Canada. Also, most job opportunities within your school’s campus or in your school would be credible enough – reducing the chances of you getting duped in the process of finding a job! Furthermore, these positions would be already tailored to suit your school schedule and mindful of the fact that you are a new international student. Since a school campus is an independent eco-system in itself, you will be able to find all types of job opportunities from service sector jobs to various job profiles for skilled students. If you want to pursue a career in academics later, you can also apply for undergraduate/graduate teaching assistantships, Research Assistantships, or part-time positions like class representative (CR). 

Job Search Banner
How/where to apply: 

Keep an eye on your school’s career portals or talk to your program advisor for on-campus student job opportunities. You can also look for Hiring street signs or posters up outside businesses on Campus since not all small businesses in Canada hire workers online. It is beneficial if you make a list of similar businesses on campus(say, coffee shops or bookstores) that you want to apply to and hand over physical copies of your resume and contact information in person. Here are the top 4 job search engines used in Canada:

  1. LinkedIn
  2. Indeed
  3. Zip Recruiter
  4. Jooble

Step 5: Apply to off-campus positions

You can also apply to off-campus positions across job profiles. Use the in-built job search feature on our website to start your job search today! While using reliable search engines like ours is one of the primary methods of searching for your first job, the connections you make in school are of utmost value also to make professional connections and land your first job in Canada. Keep an open eye and an open mind at school and socialize with your professors and fellow classmates.

Step 6: Sit for interviews

While most full-time/part-time positions typically require you to sit for 2-3 rounds of interviews, small businesses and school positions often require you to sit for only one. Be confident and do not undersell your qualifications and skills just because they are not Canadian. Employers are bounded by the law to take your international experience into consideration while interviewing you. Do not underplay your skills and dress in your sharpest. Be your authentic, warm self.

Step 7: Know your rights

In order to ensure that fair wage practices are being carried out in the company that hires you,  it is very important to keep a track of the minimum wage rate in your province and familiarize yourself with the Federal labour standards

Pro-tip: Did you know that Volunteer experience also count as Canadian experience?

Do not underestimate the power of volunteer positions in Canada. Volunteer experience, although unpaid, is of utmost value to your potential employers. Look for volunteer positions at your school’s student clubs or non-profit organizations. Most volunteer opportunities teach you valuable skills for future job opportunities and also reflect your sense of responsibility towards your new community. 

Sources: Canada Government website, UBC Career resources

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