Category:Canadian Lifestyle

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Equivalency of qualifications

An early step that you should take during your relocation planning process is to establish whether or not your UK qualifications will be recognized in the Canadian province to which you intend to move.

Details are available at Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials.

Your qualifications may be accepted as they are, or you may be required to take some exams before you can practice in your field in Canada.


In many cases, four-year British university degrees are recognized in Canada. Three-year degrees from the UK enjoy varying levels of acceptance. A Canadian employer often is satisfied with a three-year degree, but a Canadian university may not accept it as a basis for entering a master's degree program.

Vocational training

Many of the UK's non-degree educational programs, such as NVQ, are not recognized in Canada.


An experienced tradesperson (electrician, plumber, mechanic, etc.) can take a challenge exam in the relevant Canadian province and become certified in that province. The best certification process to go through is Red Seal, because it is recognized across Canada.


There are some differences in British terminology and Canadian terminology. One difference that springs to mind is the interpretation of engineer. In Canada only a degreed engineer is referred to as an engineer. People who received their engineering qualifications at technical colleges are referred to as engineering technologists or engineering technicians. The one exception to this is a train driver. The Canadian term for train driver is engineer.


What is networking?

In the private sector, there is a huge "hidden job market." The size of the hidden job market -- that is, vacancies that are not advertised -- is estimated to be between 70% and 80% of the total job market. You hear about these opportunities through people you know, that is, your network.

Networking is the process whereby you market yourself. You need to mix with people so that you can find out where the opportunities are, and you need introductions to people who have the authority to hire you.

The public sector operates somewhat differently. There the employment process tends to be more transparent. Vacancies are posted on the relevant organization's website, advertised in the newspaper, and so on. This article primarily addresses job-hunting in the private sector.


To start getting some idea of which companies operate in which industry sector, in which region, and so on, you might start by looking at the Canadian government's website on Canadian Company Capabilities. This will familiarize you with the names of some of the main players.

Look at Canadian Newspaper "Help Wanted" Ads, Job Websites, Specialty Job Sites, and Placement Agencies (head hunters).

You may find your Canadian job through one of the above mentioned information sources, or you may not. However, the information that you can acquire from those websites will help you to feel more plugged into the Canadian system.

Networking from the UK

When you're still in the UK, it's difficult to network, because networking involves meeting people at functions, chatting with them on the phone, and so on. However, some posters on the British Expats forum have managed to pull off the feat of networking all the way from the UK. It helps if they have a qualification that is in high demand and if they are willing to go to a region that is crying out for people with specific skills. For example, some of the BE members who recently have moved to Alberta, which currently is enjoying an oil boom, fall into this category.

Recce trip

Doing a recce trip to Canada also helps. If you do a recce trip, it's ideal if you devote a substantial chunk of your time and energy focusing on relocation-related issues rather than simply holidaying. Seek out people who work in the field that you want to work in. Pick their brains about what it's like to work in that field.

Finding employment in Canada

It would be ideal to line up a job in Canada before you move. If you have not found a job before you arrive in Canada, you ought to have some savings to tide you over until you find employment.

Be aware that networking and job-hunting, on average, go more slowly in Canada than in the UK. Canada tends to be more laid back than the UK. If a Canadian says, "I'll get back to you," in many instances he/she will take longer to do that than you expect. You may be hoping to receive a response within a day or two, but it could be between a week and ten days (if ever).

In Canada you need to be proactive. You need to use the phone much more than you were used to doing in the UK. Even if your initial contact is in writing, you need to follow up with a phone call. Also, if someone promises to respond to you but doesn’t, you should phone. If you phone too soon, you may be viewed as pestering them. However, if you haven't heard back from them after a week or so, it would be a good idea to phone. Be friendly. Don't be aggressive or impatient. Say something like, "I'm wondering how things are going for you and how you're coming along with the position you want to fill."

An effective strategy is to ask people who work in your field to meet you for a cup of coffee so that you can pick their brains. This kind of informal meeting is known as an informational interview. You are not asking the person to consider you for a job. You are asking him/her to tell you what it's like to work in the field in which he/she works, to give you names of other people who work in that field and the names of companies that hire those kinds of people, and so on.

Whenever you can, find out the names of people who work in the departments of companies in which you would like to work. Say you're an accountant. Endeavour to find out names of people in a company's accounting department, and if possible the name of a senior person in that department. This is more useful than contacting a company's human resources department, although the HR department is alright as a fall-back position.

If you send your resume (Canadian version of CV) to someone and you're able to say in your cover letter, "So-And-So suggested I contact you," it makes a big difference. It gives you a better chance of being noticed than if you send a totally unsolicited resume.


It is extremely important to thank everyone who chats with you on the phone, who meets you, who gives you tips, etc. People who help you like to feel appreciated. They especially like to hear that the information they've given you has been put to good use. They like to hear that you've phoned So-And-So, whose name they gave you, and that that person, in turn, has given you a lead, agreed to meet you, or whatever.

Also invite constructive feedback. Tell people that you would welcome their observations about any gaps you may have -- flaws in your resume, weak spots in your qualifications that could be remedied by taking a course, etc. Listen sincerely. Don't be defensive. Thank people for their feedback.

Recognize that, unless you have very specific qualifications that are in high demand in Canada, you most likely will have to start at a more junior level than the one you had attained in the UK. Be grateful for an opportunity to learn how things are done in Canada. If you do well in that first job, you can move up the ladder.

Finding people in your field

A good way to meet people who work in your field is to attend functions of relevant professional organizations. Whether you're a lawyer or an engineer or an IT person or an administrative assistant, you can be sure there is an organization that provides opportunities for people in that field to meet each other, to keep up to date with developments in that field, etc.

Another constructive way to network is to do a course that's related to your field, even if it's just a single course. The lecturer and your classmates, all of whom work in your field or want to work in your field, become your fledgling network. In addition to that, if you're able to add a local qualification to your resume, it shows you in a positive light. It demonstrates that you are committed to making a go of things in Canada and that you are eager to learn how things are done in Canada.

Networking is forever

Your network is something that you should maintain even after you have found a job. You should devote at least some of your attention to the job that you'll have after this one. You may move jobs for what might be considered "positive" or "negative" reasons. Most people view a change that they themselves initiate as a positive one. They tend to think of a change that is forced on them as a negative one. But both the so called positive and so called negative changes provide you with opportunities to grow, to take your career in a more interesting direction, etc. In any event, you'll be in a much stronger position to manage your next move if you have maintained your network in the interim.

Resume (CV)

Excellent websites for looking at sample resumes are the Canadian government's Job Bank and Susan Ireland Resumes.

Some points about Canadian-style resumes:

  • Create a boilerplate resume as a starting point. However, avoid handing out your boilerplate resume. Try to customize each resume you send out, even if only a little, so that it highlights the fit between your qualifications and experience and the employers needs.
  • Leave out personal information (age, nationality, family details, hobbies, etc.).
  • Include

-contact information (name, address, phone number, e-mail address)

-career objective (optional)

-profile (an optional, brief list of your personal strengths)

-experience (career history is another acceptable term)

-education (degrees and diplomas)

-continuing education (also can be called professional development; refers to career-related courses that you have undertaken after you started working)

-professional affiliations (also can be referred to as professional memberships)

  • Write your name as Joanne Smith, not Mrs. Joanne Smith, Miss Joanne Smith, or Ms. Joanne Smith.

  • If you're still in the UK, it's unlikely that a Canadian employer will phone you (unless you have a skill set that is in extremely high demand in Canada). Nonetheless, you should give exactly the phone number that the person would need to dial from Canada.

Your phone number should be preceded by 011 (the code that a Canadian has to dial to get an overseas line) and 44 (the UK's country code). In addition to that, you should drop the 0 from your area code. Finally, since Canadians are accustomed to phone numbers being broken up into groups of three and four digits that are separated by dashes, you should arrange your phone number in a way that looks familiar to them.

So let's suppose your UK phone number is (0777) 9393939. You should type it as 011-44-777-939-3939.

  • Canadians understand what a B.Sc. degree is. They don't understand what A levels are. If you have A levels or GCSEs, simply say you have a high school diploma, and give the date at which you finished what Canadians would call high school (GCSEs or A levels).

  • Leave out references. Print your references on a separate piece of paper that you can provide during an interview. It is acceptable to end your resume with, "References available upon request."

  • If you use the chronological resume format, list jobs in reverse chronological order (most recent first).

  • Format the page to print on North American letter sized paper (8.5" x 11"). Do not format the page to print on A4.

  • If you will be sending your resume as an e-mail attachment, it would be a good idea to send it as a PDF file. It will be “locked,” and no one will be able to fiddle with it and wreck it. If you don't have PDF writer software, here is a free version.

  • However, if you send your resume to a placement agency (head hunter), send it as an MS-Word file. Head hunters often present resumes to client companies on the head hunters’ own letterhead and/or in their own format. You’ll save them work if you send them an MS-Word file that they can manipulate.

  • Use verbs instead of nouns whenever possible. "Recruited computer programmers," has a more active ring to it than "Recruitment of computer programmers."

  • Include as many concrete accomplishments in your work history as you can. For example, a person might say, "Managed a group of shelf stockers." It would be more powerful to say, "Managed a group of twenty shelf stockers." Another weak statement that is common is, "Duties included shelf stocking." It's better to say, "Stocked 40 shelves per eight-hour shift." Anything that demonstrates the size of the budget that you were responsible for, the number of people you supervised, or the number and complexity of the operations you performed, sounds more solid.

  • If you can do so, it is even more powerful to quote improvements that you made and problems that you resolved on behalf of your employers. An effective formula to use is C-A-R (challenge - action - resolution).

  • Bullet points give a resume a clean, crisp appearance.

  • Make it easy to read. Favour short statements over long, convoluted sentences.

  • Grammar and spelling have to be impeccable. The irony is that a resume – on its own – will not get you a job. Many other elements of the career search process are more important. But a flawed resume can stop you dead in your tracks even before you get out the starting gate.

  • In many cases Canadian feel equally comfortable reading British or American spelling. Words about which they feel flexible include grey / gray and labour / labor. A couple of words that they always spell the American way are tire (not tyre), aluminum (not aluminium) and oriented (not orientated). Canadians also write organize (rather than organise) and specialize (rather than specialize). It would be best to adhere to Canadian spelling.

  • After you’ve looked at your resume zillions of times, your eyes will start to glaze over, and you’ll miss obvious mistakes. Ask someone else who has not been staring at your resume all day to proofread it for you.

  • Do not include a photo.

  • There are different resume styles, and there is not a “right” one or a “wrong” one. The Job Bank website provides examples of three popular styles. Whichever style you choose, be consistent. Once you have settled on a font, indentation style, etc., stick to them throughout the resume.

  • Use a standard font. Stay away from an exotic font. Arial and Times Roman are best.

  • There are endless discussions about the length of a resume. There are some people who stick to an iron-clad rule that a resume must be no more than two pages.

However, some people with extensive experience trim their work history so radically to fit it into the two-page space allotment that it ends up looking meaningless. A senior person can come across looking like a junior when the meaningful detail has been stripped out of his/her resume.

You need to take a long, hard look at your resume. Delete all “padding” and “fluff.” If you have an extensive career with specific, concrete accomplishments and you cannot do justice to it on two pages, then go ahead and let your resume roll over to three pages.

Another approach is to create two different resumes, a “summary” resume that fits onto two pages and a longer resume, one that possibly may run to several pages and that lists your accomplishments in more detail.

  • Maintain a professional, businesslike tone. Leave humour out of your resume. Don’t use informal expressions, like “admin assistant.” Refer to your title in full, “administrative assistant.”

  • British culture requires you to convey a more modest demeanour than Canadian culture requires. Part of translating your resume into “Canadian” involves turning up the level of self-promotion a couple of notches.

  • Don’t lie on your resume.

  • Although you should at all costs avoid lying on your resume, you also do not have to confess everything about your life. For example, when you arrived in Canada, you may have done a stint in a job that was inconsistent with the rest of your work history. You may be a computer programmer in “real life,” but you may have cleaned hotel rooms or worked at a gas (petrol) station for a couple of months to keep the wolf from the door. You do not have to ‘fess up to a temporary job that you did in an emergency and that was well outside your normal pattern of employment.

  • One yardstick to use in deciding if you want something to be included in your resume is to consider whether or not you would like to do it again. You may have cleaned hotel rooms in the past, but do you want to clean hotel rooms in the future? If the answer is Yes, by all means include cleaning on your resume. If the answer is No, leave references to cleaning out of your resume.

  • Mentioning volunteer work is risky. One potential employer may look at the fact that you’re a volunteer ski patroller and think it’s wonderful. He/she may think it demonstrates that you are fit, lead a balanced lifestyle, and participate in activities that re-charge your batteries and energize you for work on Monday morning. Another employer may view it in a poor light. He/she may interpret it to mean that you are not committed to your career.

Volunteer work that is closely related to your job probably adds to your credibility. If you are a computer programmer and you’re the president of the Manchester Unix Users Group or some such organization, that most likely would be viewed in a favourable light. The same is likely to be true if you’re an engineer and you have a volunteer position with your Association of Professional Engineers.

So it is safest to mention only volunteer positions that are related to the field in which you work. If you get to the job interview stage, you can “read” the interviewer’s body language and assess if he/she would appreciate hearing about your volunteer work for the ski patrol.

  • Don’t mention your driver’s licence. Most adult Canadians have drivers’ licences, and it’s taken as a given that people have them. The only time it would be worth mentioning would be an instance in which the job description specifically required it. For example, some jobs in the Alberta oil industry require people to drive long distances to reach oil wells, and employers stipulate that workers have drivers’ licences.

  • It is especially damaging to mention that you have a UK driver’s licence. If you already are in Canada, it begs the question as to why you have not yet exchanged your UK driver’s licence for a provincial one.

  • In fact you should root out of your resume anything that makes you look as if you are living in the past. Any reasonable person understands that you’re still attached to family and friends in the UK and that you’ll always have a soft spot for the UK. They wouldn’t expect you to renounce the UK. Having said that, they would expect you to be fully present in Canada, ready to hit the ground running. You will not help to convey that impression if you are physically in Canada while sending out subtle signals that you have not left the UK at the emotional level.

  • If your job title in the UK had a different name than the same job in Canada, you should use the Canadian title. This will make it easier for the reader to understand and also reinforce the impression that you have switched over to the Canadian system.

  • If you have changed careers or have gaps in your career, the standard, reverse chronological resume may not showcase your experience to the best advantage. In that case, you are better off using a functional resume. You can find examples of functional resumes on the Job Bank and Susan Ireland’s websites.

Cover Letters and Thank You Letters

More info about cover letters and thank you letters coming soon.