Yet another great thing about being an international student at a Canadian university is the opportunity it provides to work while you study – especially during summer term, when many students are free to take a break from their full-time programs.
With more and more employers looking for (and expecting) hands-on practical work experience, even from freshly graduated applicants, summer jobs can be a great way to up your marketability for post-graduation! They also get you that first ‘full-time working in Canada’ experience – a definite bonus for any future resumé.
Whether you are looking for a full-time or part-time position, keep in mind the number one rule:
The early bird gets the worm. If you haven’t already snagged yourself a position, then start your job hunt as soon as possible!
Particularly for any high-demand seasonal positions, such as office internships, camp jobs or hospitality positions at summer vacation destinations, it’s not uncommon for jobs to be filled up as early as February or March.
That said – it’s still not too late! Even if your term has already ended, you can still go about finding some great summer work.
You just have to know where (and how!) to look. As an international student, you may feel at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to knowing the “right” places or people to ask for jobs from. However, you can still use what you know!
Consider the network that you have built up over the past school year (or years) in Canada; professors, other students, perhaps colleagues or employers from any on-campus jobs you’ve held, organizations you’ve volunteered with, societies you’ve joined… Besides being great sources for job references, such individuals may also be able to point you in the direction of job openings, so be sure to put the word out that you’re looking for summer employment.
Beyond relying on word-of- mouth, keep an eye out for any seasonal job opportunities. Resorts, regional parks or recreation areas, community theatres, restaurants – anywhere that’s likely to receive increased business over the summer will almost certainly be needing extra help. Other places to look include online job searches, your school’s career counselling office or international student centre, or even your university’s alumni network. Wherever you look, just make sure you always put your best foot forward – and consider any conversation surrounding your job search as a potential opportunity to show off your abilities.
Market yourself. Although it’s always extra hard to find work if you haven’t actually held any prior jobs, no matter what your level of experience, you can always improve your chances by making a good impression. Beyond the basics of writing a brilliant CV and doing some background research on places before you get in touch, make sure to play up your own strengths – specifically using your international student status to its utmost advantage. Multiple languages, cross-cultural skills, travel experience, a proven interest in trying new things...these are all bonuses employers often take into account, especially in multi-cultural Canada!
Consider other options. If, at the end of the day, you’ve looked everywhere and just can’t seem to find a paid summer job you’re interested in, don’t give up.
Although financially less ideal, in Canada, it’s worth it to realize that unpaid and/or volunteer work experience is often regarded just as highly by future employers as paid experience. An additional bonus in many cases is it’s far easier to find directly career-oriented experience when you’re not looking for pay. Whether this involves volunteering at a hospital or retirement home (for those interested in medicine), helping out at a business you find interesting (assisting at an understaffed law office, for example), finding a working professional to shadow and/or assist in your field of interest, or asking your favourite professors if they could use any (free!) help in conducting research over the summer, you’re almost certain to find some type of interesting opportunity. Opportunity and experience – which you can then use to apply for positions with early next summer!
Already hired? That’s great! But there are still a number of things you can do to help get the most (besides money!) out of your summer job experience. Even if you don’t think a position is directly linked to your main career goals (how will waitressing help me become a top lawyer?), it’s amazing how many skills cross over. Besides being a great chance to practice your English in a professional setting (always a bonus!), summer employment can also allow you to better understand the overall Canadian ‘job environment’ and employer expectations – early starts, friendly attitudes, and all.
What’s more, if you succeed at the basics, showing your worth as a dependable, hard-working employee, then a strong employer recommendation can greatly improve your chances of landing further, more career-oriented positions in Canada – either for next summer, or post-graduation!
– ARWEN KIDD
• ARWEN KIDD currently serves as Communications Director for the Canadian University Application Centre and its parent organization, Higher-Edge. A Canadian university graduate herself, Arwen has spent most of the past five years working and travelling overseas. Among her credits are various documentary film and photo journalism projects in Eastern Europe, Australia and West Africa. Arwen is currently based in Liberia.