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Gaining work experience as an International Student

In my 3rd year of university, I worked towards getting a work placement and was confronted with a ridiculous story I will like to share with you.

In 2016, I moved to Canada to begin my university experience. Overall, this was a fantastic experience at one of the most socially exciting schools in North America. In my four years at York, I encountered many ups and downs, which brings me to my ridiculous story.

In the second semester of my 3rd year, I applied for a summer work placement. This placement was eye-catching because they offered approximately $10,000 to work for four months. As this was the university’s placement, we had to go through a series of interviews and seminars to be selected. Long story short, I passed all the interviews, made it to the last step to receive a call saying I was not eligible because I was an international student without the appropriate permit for the said internship.

It was ridiculous that all through my interviews and meetings with counsellors, no one mentioned I needed a co-op permit to proceed as it was not a requirement for applying for the role. The situation became extra complicated when I realized that a co-op permit takes about three months to get approved. The applications and promotion for this placement were posted a month and a half before the start date. Moreover, you could only apply for these placements in your 3rd year to meet credit requisites. Therefore, I could not even get this placement even if I wanted to unless I try the following year again, but it will be too late since I will be graduating then.

The moral of the story, don’t rely only on just the people in authority; ask all the questions, look for someone you think has been on the same journey you are looking to go through. My mistake was that I listened to all the information I was told and found online and became complacent. I should have gone further to speak to people who were willing to share their experiences with me.

Today I am working as a Leasing and Community Manager for a private owned apartment-style student residence. I got this job even before graduating, and it became a full-time position after graduating. If you asked me three years ago, I would not have guessed I will be in this position, but it has been such a fantastic blessing to have a job in such a difficult time (Covid-19 pandemic). After working in so many retail and sports-related jobs such as Zara and Footlocker, I got a job as a Community Assistant in the building I lived in; a year into the job, there was a management position that opened up, and I saw this is an opportunity to grow within this organization. After close training from my boss and now mentor, I applied and got promoted as a Leasing Manager. This was only possible because of my strategy to make the hard decision to leave my job at Footlocker to become a Community Assistant and then strategize myself into getting this new position.

My best advice is, try to be strategic in all your approaches in looking for a job, and while in your role, be strategic to get the best out of it by getting advice from the right people, building relationships with managers and older friends you meet. I can not stress how much this would help you, as lessons from these experiences I have shared could be applied wherever you find yourself as an international student; ask the questions, study the system, and find the best plans to work for you.

Thank you for your time & I wish you the best.

Darren Adamah

Student, Bsc Financial and Business Economics

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