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Immigrants Volunteer to Get Jobs

The Land of Opportunity, Maybe Not

Immigrants coming to the USA and Canada face can face many challenges when finding work.  The number one complaint I hear from new Canadians and Americans is that they cannot find work in their professions due to a lack of North American work experience.  As such, they are often forced to take often menial entry level jobs because their education and qualifications are not recognized here.

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I can imagine how frustrating and disappointing it must be for someone who came to Canada looking for better opportunities to find none.  While I don’t have answer to such a complex problem, but I do have one job search tip to help immigrants find work in the North American job market:  Volunteer.

Volunteering Can Help Immigrants Overcome Job Search Obstacles

Volunteering can offer so many benefits to immigrants looking for work.  Often volunteering can help immigrants overcome some of the obstacles to finding paid employment.  Below I am going to provide a few job search tips and discuss how volunteering can help immigrants in their job search.

“Sorry You Have No Canadian or American Work Experience”

One of the main obstacles for immigrants to getting paid work is a lack of local experience.  Employers are cautious by nature and prefer to hire within their own comfort zone.  Employers do what they have always done, they scan resumes for previous experience (job titles that match the one they are filling) and for employers they recognize in their own industry.  I am not supporting this hiring practice, but that’s just how many employers hire and why they bypass many new immigrants.  Volunteering can you get a recognizable employer on your resume.  If you are new USA or Canada, you stand a better chance of finding work if you have local or domestic experience.  Immigrants who volunteer will have an employer that other employers can recognize.  Imagine how you can jump start your job search with an employer like the American Cancer Society or United Way or the Red Cross listed on your resume.

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Someone Who Will Vouch For You

The second way immigrants can benefit from volunteering is a reference.  Again, employers are cautious when they hire – they don’t like taking chances.  If you can provide a local reference from a recognizable employer, employers are more willing to take a chance on you.  If all of your references are from China, India and so on, it’s more inconvenient for North American employers to contact them.  Immigrants who volunteer get a local reference.

If They Can’t Understand You, They Won’t Hire You

The other main obstacle that prevents immigrants from getting meaningful work is poor English.  As a new immigrant to Canada or USA, you need to have a good command of English even to work in fast-food let alone in professional occupations.  In the corporate world, I see this all the time in interviews.  An immigrant who is super qualified interviewing for a job, but no one can understand what he or she is saying.  Unfortunately, while you may bring excellent qualifications from your native country, you will not be hired if no one can understand you.

[picappgallerysingle id=”680107″]Free English Lessons, Free Etiquette Lessons

Volunteering helps you improve your conversational English AND social skills in a work setting.  Notice how I included social skills?  Learning social norms is just as important as learning English grammar or spelling.  This means you will learn what is and is not appropriate when socializing in North American culture.  For example, when I worked in India, co-workers would ask me about questions about my marital status, my income, and so forth immediately after introductions.  In North America, these questions would be considered too personal by many.

Get Involved in Your New Community

Lastly, volunteering can your job search by helping you demonstrate social responsibility to an employer.  Corporate social responsibility has become increasingly important.  Employers want to hire people who are involved in their communities and demonstrate social responsibility.  What better way to get to know your community and your new home than by volunteering for a local charity.

What Volunteer Job Will Help With My Job Search?

As an immigrant, what kind of volunteer work will help you most in your job search?  Well the answer depends on what your career goals is.  There are many volunteer opportunities available, the key is to research ones that will help you build the skills you need.

For example, a friend of mine immigrated from China recently.  In his native country he holds a masters degree in social work and was a social worker.  Shortly after arriving in Canada, he began volunteering at a shelter for men with addictions.  Not only did he get free training as a volunteer, he got a job within two months!  Shortly after he started volunteering, a job opening came up and he applied.  Volunteering gave him a chance to show his skills to the employer, and the rest is history.

Suppose you were a nurse in your native country, but your education is not recognized in the USA or Canada.  Perhaps you can volunteer a few hours a week at a hospital and build contacts and research the steps needed to gain your credentials here.  Get to know other RN’s, hospital administrators, doctors, and so forth.  When you get your credentials you will be a step ahead of many other applicants.  For information technology professionals, how about volunteering as the tech support person in the computer resource centre for the local non-profit?

Immigrant Job Search Tip:  Volunteer

As you can see, no matter what your career objective is, volunteering can help you overcome common obstacles that prevent immigrants from finding meaningful paid work.  So if you are an immigrant and you are having trouble with your job search, maybe you should consider volunteering.

Photo by The Library of Congress