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Within a job market that is constantly evolving to adapt to new technologies and trends, having a degree or several years of experience is no guarantee of a job, at least not an ideal or permanent one. Chances are that once you land that first job in Canada, it might be less than you expected, or it might be a contract position for a determined period, or after a while, you might want to move to a different company or even to a different industry. In most cases, once you have that first job, you will want to continue looking, and your employability will rely very much on how well you can adapt, which depends on your transferable skills.

Besides good academic qualifications and work experience, most employers look for skills that are developed in one occupation, but can be used in another, such as teamwork, leadership, communication, determination, organization and problem solving. They also look for evidence of these transferable skills in your written application, when deciding who to interview, and during the interview process.

Therefore, if you want to keep yourself employable, start by constantly updating your résumé, and communicate your experience in a way that shows that you possess these types of skills.

Have your qualifications assessed in Canada. If your bachelor or postgraduate degree is equivalent to a Canadian degree, have it evaluated, and add that your résumé. World Education Services is one place where you can get your credentials assessed. (To learn more about credential accreditation, please read Getting Your Education Recognized in CNMAG 27) There are many services available throughout Ontario that can help you find a job that suits you.

Whether you are looking for the first time or if you are looking for a change, they can assist you with researching different fields, becoming familiar with the labour market trends, and identifying your own interests and skills set.

Manjeet Dhiman is Senior Director of Services and Business Development at ACCES Employment, a not-for-profit organization that connects employers with qualified employees across the Greater Toronto Area. She tells us about some of the key elements for keeping yourself employable.

Dhiman’s first recommendation for people wanting to change careers or start over in Canada is to make sure that they’re making the right decision. “This means going beyond the internet research by asking for information interviews, and finding ways to link with people involved in the area they want to explore,” she explains.

You can even go one step further and ask for the opportunity to job shadow. This will allow you to experience an occupation first hand and help you stand out during the interview process. Normally, job shadowing is offered as part of educational programs or internships, but it is also used by non-student adults.

In Dhiman’s opinion, people who are making a career change need to be prepared for the possibility of taking a few steps down the ladder. “Sometimes you start out in an entry-level position and then work your way up. The full transition doesn’t always happen right away,” she advises.

However, this doesn’t mean that everyone has to start over at the bottom rung by volunteering or doing unpaid internships. “What you did before matters, and it is marketable, but it is a question of how you market it. Some people have incredible experience that can really impress employers, who want them to start right away.

Volunteer positions and internships are recommended when you don’t have direct experience, or there is a skill gap. It could be a strategy, but not something everyone has to do,” she clarifies.

Whether you want to walk along a different path in your own field or make the crossover to another industry, inform yourself of what the labour market needs. In some cases, it might be necessary to put some extra money and time in retraining or further education, but in others cases, you might be just the person a company is looking for.

“Employers really feel the skills shortages in certain occupations, where they are having trouble finding the right people, so we do need skilled immigrants to help fill those positions. Lots of employers are looking at changing their strategies to find the best people, and making use of international talent, because sometimes their hiring strategies are screening people out that shouldn’t be.”

One way to make the cut is to learn how to “sell” yourself. “When we talk about job search we’re asking individuals to market themselves to employers, and to talk to them in the interview about their skills and qualifications, but they need to continue to do that when they are working, either within the same company or even to other opportunities that might be around in other companies,” says Dhiman, adding that for some newcomers, this last part is more difficult, because of cultural differences.

“Sometimes, depending on their cultural backgrounds, an individual might feel that is not appropriate to talk to their managers about their achievements and about their interests, and they just expect them to recognize their hard work, without the need to say anything,” she observes.

For this reason, ACCES offers support to some of their clients after they are employed, to teach them how to continue to express interest in advancement, and how to make sure that their boss is noticing their effort and progress, and their desire to move forward.

According to the expert, one of the most direct ways to market yourself is through continuous professional networking, while you are in the work place, because those are the connections that will help you get your next job. Networking and social events, and networking websites, like Linkedin and Facebook, can give you a powerful marketing platform.

Dhiman emphasizes that the best time to look for a job is when you already have one “You don’t have the pressure of not having a job, so you can really look for something that is the right fit in terms of skills, qualifications, and advancement,” she concludes.

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