Landing a Career in Canada: International Students’ Professional Development Journey
Going Glocal: International Education Week is a series celebrating the partnerships that International Student Support (ISS) shares with colleagues and units across RyersonSA, all in support of students studying internationally from around the world. This year, the Canadian Bureau of International Education honoured ISS for their Glocal Links program by awarding them the Panorama Award for Outstanding International Education Program.
Both of us came to Canada as international students: Lyn hails from Barbados and studied at University of Guelph, while Wincy is from Hong Kong and first went to Simon Fraser University via another 2-year stay in Norway.
Even though we’re from very different parts of the world, Canada just seemed like a beacon of opportunities, possibilities, and adventures to us. It became our destination of choice, where we could spread our wings and establish ourselves as independent women away from home.
We did not initially think that we would stay in Canada after our studies—at least Lyn did not—but life happens, social ties to our new home country were formed, and most importantly, we were both fortunate enough to secure a job before we graduated. So we stayed, and the rest, as they say, is history. As we can attest to, the student journey can be complex and varied; as such this article will represent the different pathways that are offered to our international students on their professional development journeys.
Our Students’ Journeys
Every student’s journey is unique, but we can look at some of the research to get a broad idea of the trends we see in our daily interactions with international students at the International Student Support office and the Career Centre. Here are a few that you should note:
- There were 353,262 international students studying at all levels in Canada in 2015—a 105% increase from 2006—and the three top source countries are China, India, and France (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada [IRCC], 2016).
- 51% of international students in Canada are interested in applying for permanent residence after graduation (Canadian Bureau for International Education, 2015). Many international students choose to immigrate through one of the economic streams, which require proof of employment and work experience at specific skills level (IRCC, 2016; Lu & Hou, 2015).
- While education professionals assumed that reputation of the institution, financial concerns, and academic difficulties were the top three reasons that explain international students’ attrition, the students themselves cited the following reasons for leaving an institution: lack of access to jobs or internships, affordability, and availability of scholarships (NAFSA: Association of International Educators, 2014).
In his book, The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch says, “If you can find your footing between two cultures, sometimes you can have the best of both worlds.” This quote is so fitting when we think about the work that we do across Student Affairs; to help students find that footing by taking advantage of the opportunities which help them unlock their power through learning.
Though Canada has many rich traditions and positive attributes, from a professional development lens, it is Canada’s post-graduation work permit that makes it an attractive destination for international students seeking Canadian work experience after graduation, since the Post-graduation Work Permit Program opens up a pathway for Permanent Residence status if that is a student’s desired end goal.
Following the Ryerson Academic Plan 2014-19, the Ryerson International Student Support (ISS) and the Career Centre endeavour to collaborate and provide support to the whole student: to empower international students to embrace and reach their full potential, and to help them build careers for life. Both offices provide transitional support and connect students to the campus and Toronto community at large, and ISS supports students through the immigration process as well.
To help students settle in Canada, as temporary or permanent residents, the ISS and Career Centre offer a wide range of workshops, events, and program offerings to provide students with all the tools and materials needed to navigate this transition.
Our Programming — Student Development
Both the Career Centre and ISS work tirelessly to cultivate workplace experiential learning opportunities for international students. The Career Boost — International program is administered by ISS, providing funding to on-campus employers who are looking to hire international students on a part-time basis. The Career Boost — Off Campus program by the Career Centre takes this experiential learning beyond graduation, and offers new international graduates opportunities to work as short-term, full-time interns off campus in non-profit organizations as well as small and medium-sized enterprises.
Career Workshop Series:
To help students acquire more skills and knowledge about their new country of residence, the Career Centre and the ISS host two workshops. From Home to Canada: How to Land a Career targets first-year students who are new to Canada, and deepens students’ understanding of the expectations and the culture of a typical Canadian workplace. World of Opportunities: Job Search for International Students is designed with graduating international students in mind, and imparts job search tips to them, whether they are staying in Canada or returning home.
For those students unable to come to our workshops in person, they can access some job search tips online with the Career Centre’s award-winning Career Compass, which has an entire chapter, as well as an accompanying video, dedicated to students studying/working internationally and newcomer students who are unfamiliar with the Canadian job search landscape. The Career Compass provides guidance on a variety of topics: resume writing, interview preparation, networking, personal branding online, etc. It is also constantly updated to reflect the latest job search trends and tips.
Let’s Talk Series:
The Let’s Talk Series focuses on a different theme every month according to the Student Life monthly curriculum, and its goal is to support international students’ holistic development through informal and social group conversations. Sessions like Let’s Talk Success and Let’s Talk Productivity work to help motivate students and push them to succeed in their time here at Ryerson and beyond, as they move on to greater professional endeavours.
Our Programming — Employer Engagement
To better prepare on-campus Career Boost employers to work and communicate effectively with international student staff, the Career Centre and ISS will be collaborating to work on a special chapter in Career Checkpoint that is catered to this group of students. The goal of the Career Checkpoint is to develop all on-campus employers into good career mentors for their staff; in particular, this new chapter will provide tools and resources to facilitate career conversations between international students and employers.
Investing in Inclusion:
As important as it is for us to prepare our students for employment in the Canadian context, our belief is that this learning should not just be limited to our students, but to their future employers as well. Investing in Inclusion is an interactive seminar series that focuses on providing support to equity-seeking groups in the workplace by educating employers on inclusive hiring practices, and the Career Centre and ISS are collaborating on an event that will educate employers on how to support the international student population in the workplace by discussing issues pertaining to the recruitment of international students and internationally trained professionals.
Moving & Paying Forward
Both of us managed to find the footing between cultures that Randy Pausch referred to in The Last Lecture, constantly traversing between our home cultures and the Canadian one, constantly adjusting, adapting, reflecting, and learning. Our success in Canada was made possible by the effort of countless educators in our lives, and now we want to be that guiding support for our students.
They say, “Home is where the heart is.” By that standard, Lyn and Wincy have homes all over the world. With our hard work and that of our #RyersonSA colleagues, we so look forward to making Ryerson one of the places our international students can call home.