It’s Not As Easy as They Say: International Students’ Perspectives About Gaining Canadian Work Experience




international students, employability, critical incidents, career transitions


This study provides insights into international students’ perspectives of preparing for entry into employment in the Canadian workforce. From a human capital perspective, international students are valuable resources for the Canadian labour market and other countries where populations are in decline. However, most research on international students has focused on their initial transition experience, and available research on their employment experiences is often limited to the post-graduation transition. International students need to build their capacity for employment concurrently while they are studying, gaining local work experience. In this article we present an analysis of critical incidents collected from international students which highlights five key barriers in their experience of the Canadian work context, including policies and procedures, competition and economic conditions, challenges for navigating local cultural norms, language abilities, and their personal life circumstances. The discussion draws connections between international student recruitment and their longer-term goals for residency in Canada, with recommendations for bridging policies and services.

Author Biographies

Nancy Arthur, University of South Australia

Prof Nancy Arthur is appointed as Dean Research, UniSA Business, University of South Australia and Professor Emeritus, University of Calgary.  Her research focuses on the ways professionals incorporate diversity and social justice into practice roles and how students and workers manage international transitions. Nancy is a Registered Psychologist in Alberta, an Elected Fellow of the Canadian Psychological Assocation, and serves on the Board of the International Association for Educational and Vocational Guidance. 

Jon Woodend, University of Victoria

Dr. Jon Woodend is an Assistant Professor in Counselling Psychology at the University of Victoria in Canada. Jon’s research focuses on international career transitions including working with international students and their accompanying partners to facilitate access to supports. Jon is also an Adjunct Lecturer in the College of Business, Law and Governance at James Cook University in Australia, and a Registered Provisional Psychologist in Alberta.

Lisa Gust, Living Well Counselling Services

Lisa Gust obtained a Masters of Science in Counselling Psychology from the University of Calgary. She works as a Registered Psychologist in private practice, with a particular interest in career and education direction.


April Dyrda, Registered Provisional Psychologist

April Dyrda is a registered provisional psychologist practicing in Calgary, Alberta where she also received her Master’s Degree in Counselling Psychology from the University of Calgary. She currently works as both a career counsellor in private practice and a workplace psychology consultant with a national consulting firm.

Judy Dang, Registered Provisional Psychologist

Judy Dang, MSc, is a registered provisional psychologist in the province of Alberta, Canada and received her graduate degree from the University of Calgary’s Counselling Psychology program. She currently works for a community counselling agency, where she provides counselling services to children, adolescents, and adults.


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How to Cite

Arthur, N. ., Woodend, J., Gust, L., Dyrda, A., & Dang, J. (2022). It’s Not As Easy as They Say: International Students’ Perspectives About Gaining Canadian Work Experience. Canadian Journal of Career Development, 21(2), 42–58.




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