Ethiopia insights: Displaced job seekers ready and eager to meet the needs of Canadian employers

Muhsin is a talented nurse living in Ethiopia. In 2023, he’ll arrive in Canada to  join Chancellor Park, a long-term continuing care facility in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.

“I’m an artist and a carpenter. My dream is to be an engineer.”

“My wish is to join a telecom in human resources.”

“My dream job is to support individuals in finding their way into entrepreneurship.”

“I have a dream of becoming a gynaecologist.”

“I want to study international relations and help other refugees. I want to help my people.”

This April, members of the TalentLift team had the opportunity to speak with a few of the many talented candidates who are living in displacement in Ethiopia. With the support of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Ethiopia, we were able to hear about the challenges they face and the dreams of a better future for themselves and their families that keep them hopeful. Ethiopia is host to over 823,000 people registered as refugees, although the number is likely higher when accounting for those not yet registered.

Among those who we met were a group of registered nurses, including nurses specializing in mental health support, teachers, entrepreneurs, business and management professionals, statisticians and data analysts, artists, carpenters and other skilled tradespeople, and software developers. Across their varied skill sets and educational backgrounds, a commonality is their immense talent and their desire to put these talents, and their education, to good use. 

Unfortunately, this has not been possible for almost all of the candidates we spoke with, and data from Refugees International’s 2022 Global Refugee Work Rights Report shows that these experiences are sadly the norm. 

In this study, Refugees International surveyed the work rights, both in law and in practice, of 51 countries that together host approximately 87% of the global refugee population (as of December 2021). Their findings were disheartening, with each of these 51 countries imposing barriers to work rights. Alarmingly, the study showed that more than 55% of the refugee population lives in countries that “significantly restrict refugees’ work rights in practice” and none of these 51 countries gave refugees equitable access to the labour market. This is even the case in the majority of countries that had laws put in place to ensure fair access to employment for people living as refugees. In fact, the study found huge gaps between the right to work as stated by the law and actual experiences in trying to access employment.

The candidates we met with are all too familiar with these barriers, and shared other challenges they face in accessing education and documentation. Despite these challenges, many had pursued higher education or learned a skilled trade, and all had persisted in the hopes of future opportunities.

One of the opportunities they were most eager to discuss was Canada’s Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP). They had heard that Canada is a country that provides opportunities for refugees and that they could be valued for their hard-won knowledge and abilities. We share their vision of being uplifted for their achievements and are proud to be part of the Canadian government’s work making skilled visas more accessible. As part of this growing work, Canada will launch a new federal immigration pathway in June that will expand the EMPP and allow more people living as refugees to access the program and more Canadian employers to hire through it. 

More information about this exciting expansion can be found here. We look forward to supporting a lot more employers across Canada to find and relocate talented new colleagues through the EMPP. 

In discussing his career, one candidate shared his concern that many people living as refugees have gaps in their career and that their career continuity has been “broken.” Reflecting on this, he said, “maybe some employers are keen to hear our stories and empathize with our situation, but this doesn’t happen every day.”

Our hope is that, more and more, this can and will happen every day. 

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A practical guide to building your strongest CV: Tips for displaced job seekers

Building a strong CV is an essential part of putting your best foot forward to potential employers. It is a key way for you to clearly articulate how your skills and experience align with the employer’s requirements, allowing employers to easily visualize you in the role.

It’s an opportunity to outline relevant experience, skills and achievements, while also telling employers a little bit about yourself and your personality.

Using the following suggestions, we recommend building a standard CV that you can use widely but that you can also tailor for each employment opportunity that you apply for so that it is as relevant to the opportunity as possible.

Many of these tips come from talent acquisition professionals Rabia Moaz, Senior Manager, Talent Acquisition – Tangerine and Sean Araujo, Head of Talent, Klarna Canada, who shared their expertise in a CV workshop for displaced job seekers. This workshop can be viewed in English and Spanish

Basics of a strong CV

Name and contact information: If you have a preferred name that differs from your legal name, you can use your preferred name in your CV. As for contact details, we recommend including your email address and, if applicable, a link to your LinkedIn profile or other professional page, such as GitHub. There is no need to include a phone number or home address.

Summary: This is an opportunity to summarize your strongest qualifications for an employer such as length of work experience and highest education. You can list core technical skills here. You can also include a career goal, though this is optional. An ideal length would be 2-4 sentences.

Education: List all your post-secondary education. You may include your grade point average (GPA) or designation (i.e. ‘honours’) if it’s a strength you would like to highlight. Only include your high school if it is the highest level of education obtained. If you would like to include incomplete education, you can do so. You can clarify that this was incomplete with a note, such as: “Incomplete due to displacement.”

Work experience: A good rule of thumb is to start by including all your work experience in the past 10 years, all of which should be listed in reverse chronological order (from most recent to oldest). You can also include earlier work experience, depending on how relevant this older work experience remains. Very short-term jobs don’t need to be included, but avoid creating many gaps in your work experience history.

Under each job, we recommend including a few points to describe your responsibilities and any major achievements or key performance indicators (KPIs). Hiring managers often have many CVs to review and have only a short amount of time to dedicate to each CV they receive – being as specific as you can be in your job descriptions while keeping it short and concise allows them to learn as much about you as possible in their limited time.

You may also choose to include unpaid internships and volunteer experience to strengthen this section if you don’t have a lot of relevant work experience. If you have a long gap in your work experience, you may choose to explain it. You can add a note, for example: “Unable to work due to relocation” or “Unable to work while providing care for children and family” or “Worked in several short-term jobs while settling into a new country.”

Projects, certificates, or volunteerism: This is a great opportunity to include items that make you stand out. This may include personal or educational projects outside work, continuous learning certificates, and volunteer experience. Include items that might show you’re creative, curious and dedicated. You may also include links to personal projects, publications, or portfolios here. 

Skills (optional): You may want to have a skills section if you think you have specialized or job-related knowledge and abilities, such as software programs or tools. If you do opt to include a skills section, try to focus on your core technical skills. 

You may also include ‘soft’ skills or strengths that make you a good colleague. Think of items like communication, attention to detail, reliability, creativity, etc. You may include one or two hobbies outside work that help show you as a fuller person (optional).

Languages: List the languages you know and your level of proficiency. You can include adjectives such as “fluent” or “intermediate” or “beginner” and test scores if you have them.

With this basic structure in place, here are some general dos and don’ts to think about throughout your CV writing process.


  • Do aim for 1-2 pages in length.
  • Do use consistent fonts and spacing, leave enough white space for comfortable reading, and ensure clear organization of information.
  • Do check your spelling and grammar, and once you’ve done that, have a friend check your spelling and grammar to ensure nothing was missed.
  • Do keep your CV updated and make sure TalentLift has the most recent version.
  • Do, if possible, add photos of your work at the end of your CV, using an extra page or two, if relevant. For example, carpenters or roofers may wish to add photos of their work. Alternatively, a link to a portfolio may be included. 


  • Don’t include your photo. 
  • Don’t include private biographical information such as gender, age, or marital status.
  • Don’t include references, but you may say: References available upon request. 
  • Don’t include a cover letter unless asked. 

With all this information in hand, we are confident that you will be able to build a strong CV, allowing you to put your best foot forward to potential employers. 

We also encourage you to reach out to TalentLift through the live chat on our site or talent platform with any questions you may have. We are here to support you along your journey and hope that you found this guide helpful.

Further resources: 

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