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Working in Canada: Workplace culture and in-demand jobs

05 June 2020 by National Bank
Working in Canada

Each country has its own particularities in terms of workplace culture, and Canada is no exception. If you’re thinking about coming to Canada to find work (and to settle down!), here’s some advice to make your job search easier and help you get used to your new work environment, as well as some leads on which industries have a high demand for labour. 

What are the first steps to take?

Employment and professional integration advisor Danielle Staraci’s job is to help newcomers, using her knowledge of the job market, administrative procedures, and the process of immigrating for work. “I help people who are legally authorized to work in Canada, whether as a temporary or a permanent resident. The criteria for issuing work permits or granting permanent residency are detailed on the official website for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Before you start looking for a job, you need to make sure you’re eligible and that you will have the right visa (French only).” 

What can I expect when I start looking for a job?

First of all, take the time to really learn about the market related to your sector, and focus on the province you plan on moving to. “The market can be quite different from one province to another, and even from one city to another. You also need to understand that looking for a job is your individual responsibility, and it can be quite demanding. The fact that your immigration application went through doesn’t guarantee that you’ll find a job. It’s possible that your training and the experience you gained in your country of origin are not equivalent to the standards in Canada. You can start doing research while you’re still in your country of origin. For example, it may be a good idea to evaluate the degrees and professional titles you acquired abroad. Just make sure to do your research before you leave. The websites for the ministries of immigration at both the federal and the provincial level may very well have the answers to many of your questions on the job market.”

“Once you’re settled in the country, you can start building your social network. To do so, meet new people and develop good relationships with people from all walks of life. For example, you could find a small job that isn’t necessarily related to the position you’re looking for. Doing this will allow you to learn about the country’s culture, develop good relationships, and get familiar with new cultural codes, which will make your job search easier (French only),” Danielle Staraci insists. “This will help you understand the particularities of workplace culture in North America. Your main goal is to adapt.” Volunteering is another great way to gain experience and build relationships within your new community. Employers look favourably on this, and donating your time will demonstrate your willingness to integrate yourself into the community. 

What are the particularities of the workplace culture in Canada?

Cultural codes

“Before going in for an interview, you need to adapt to some new cultural codes. This will help you avoid misperceptions or misinterpretations. For example, in some cultures, people avoid looking one another in the eye as a sign of respect. In Quebec, this could make someone seem distant or disingenuous.”

You will also have to draft a CV and a cover letter tailored specifically to the Canadian market and the kind of job you’re seeking. Learn more by reading our article on looking for a job as an immigrant.

Another reality that newcomers will have to learn about is the concept of the bubble. “In Canada, we tend to keep a physical distance, especially in a professional setting. We avoid being too close to one another, embracing one another or demonstrating affection, which may cause discomfort. Handshakes are firm and people have an easygoing body language. We avoid being too formal in our interactions,” Danielle Staraci warns. Once again, advice from an expert in professional integration is invaluable if you want to avoid any faux pas.


Don’t forget about bilingualism as an important prerequisite. If you want to work in Canada as someone from France (French only), even in a French-speaking city in Quebec like Montreal, being fluent in English is a big asset. Elsewhere in Canada, in provinces that are mostly English-speaking, being bilingual could help you find a job more easily.

Life outside of the workplace

Workers enjoy spending time with one another by getting a drink after work. This is called “happy hour.” Either the employees or the employer may initiate the idea for everyone to go out for a drink.

“On weekends, colleagues are less likely to see each other. For some people, it’s because Canadians tend to compartmentalize their social life. Family, friends and colleagues are three distinct social circles that don’t mix very much.”

Hierarchy and degrees

In Canada, professional relationships are more informal and reporting relationships are less stringent. You can socialize with your boss and speak with them informally. Elitist culture, where people look more favourably on those who went to prestigious schools, is more of a rarity.

“In terms of degrees, you’ll notice that employers here often look at experience more than education. It’s rare for someone to be asked for their diploma if they’ve been working for several years,” the expert asserts.

Still, be ready to provide copies of your diplomas and keep them together. Some major companies still ask for them. For specialized or highly technical jobs, you will have to show that you’ve had the required training, and it’s your responsibility to ensure that your certificates and credentials are recognized in Canada.

If you’re immigrating through Canada’s Express Entry program, you’ll need an education credential assessment (ECA). However, if you plan on working in a regulated field (architect, plumber, engineer, etc.), you will need to get a permit or a licence in the province you plan on practising in.

Work schedules

In general, Canadian workers spend 35 to 40 hours per week at work. Workdays normally start at 9 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. Of course, work schedules may vary depending on the industry you’re in, or if you’re an entrepreneur.

“Elsewhere in the world, leaving the office at 5 p.m. may create the impression that the person is unmotivated. Here, it’s the opposite. An employee who can’t finish their workday on time may give the impression that they aren’t efficient,” notes Danielle Staraci.


An excellent way of setting yourself apart on the job market is by specializing your skill set. Employers are often on the lookout for candidates with specialized skills.

Which industries have a high demand for labour?

Every year, Quebec’s ministry of immigration publishes a list of in-demand professions (French only). This list identifies the fields with a strong need for labour across the province. Demand is highest in companies that are trying to fill highly specialized IT positions. In particular, there is high demand for the following jobs:

  • Information system managers
  • Computer engineers
  • Computer analysts and consultants
  • Database analysts and data administrators
  • Software engineers and designers
  • Interactive media programmers and developers
  • Web developers
  • Network technicians
  • Information system technicians

“There’s also high demand in the visual effects, video game and digital media industries, particularly for jobs related to audiovisual animation and special effects. In the coming years, I think there will be a labour shortage in many industries. Employers will be looking for extra hands rather than minds. They’ll want to fill positions in specialized sectors. Labourers, welders, drivers, electricians and mechanics will all be more sought after in Canada.”

In Ontario, the immigration process is simpler for nurses as well as for people who work in agriculture, transportation or construction.

“I’ve also noticed higher demand in the field of technical support and customer relationship management. Candidates who specialize in digital, SEO and web analytics will have an easier time finding a job. Sales and marketing jobs have gone digital in Canada,” the expert adds.

“Finally, the best advice I can give someone who’s thinking about moving here is to seek assistance, regardless of your level of education, experience, or area of expertise. This will help you save time and avoid making mistakes when looking for a job,” Danielle Staraci concludes.

Before you prepare to enter the job market, you should also look into the administrative steps to take to move to Canada with peace of mind.

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