A lot has happened over the last year and three months in my life, both personally and professionally. Some of the highlights include: me joining and finishing an eight-month professional writing course, my subsequent job search and associated experiences, my husband working for a call centre and then quitting the job, my husband taking a nosedive by enrolling for a full-time IT advanced diploma course, and my kid growing by a year and three months.
In terms of my life as an immigrant, I (or we as a family) have gone through an emotional and experiential roller-coaster. We started off from a place of positivity, then found ourselves struggling with daily realities and now have somewhat found our balance back. By balance I don’t mean financial stability. I mean the ability to see things as they truly are. I now realise that the road to achieve your dreams (or at least your most basic requirements, such as a house) involve a steep uphill struggle. I have to admit, I’ve lost much of the positivity that I had in the beginning. But I do have a realistic understanding of what must be done.
I love it here, I’ve found great friends here. Most of them have undergone the same uphill struggle that we are going through right now. My child is adjusting really well to the country, except for the issues with dryness and blocked nose during the winter. My husband is absolutely zen with how things are going, and he feels positive about our future. Despite living on a meagre income, we still enjoy a minimum standard of living.
Some of the things I’ve learnt as a recent immigrant are:
- There are two types of immigrants – those who came on a permanent residency (PR) visa and those who came on a work permit. Those who came on a work permit have to struggle way less than those who come on PR visas. They already have a high-paying job when they land here. Their road to obtaining PR is relatively easy. They are financially and professionally far ahead of their PR counterparts. Those who come on PR, however, have to start from square one. So if you see recent immigrant doing well, it would be interesting to find out whether they came on a work permit or a PR visa.
- PR immigrants need to enrol in Canadian courses or programs to begin their career here. This is especially true for regulated professions such as those in the medical and financial fields. But it extends to other non-regulated fields as well. Let’s take my case for example. I’m a content writer. There are no Canadian certifications that I need to take. But my job search before I took the course was significantly less successful than after I had taken the course. I did some volunteering and had a great internship which boosted my chances at getting interviews. Even my husband, who had five years of experience, got very few call backs. Until finally he decided to jump fields and join an IT course (my husband was in talent acquisition before). Its more than just the technical skills and knowledge that you learn. You will learn interpersonal skills that are probably way different than the ones you’ve seen back home. You will also find that your professors could provide you great job references in the future.
- Relationship-building is key. Along with joining a course, relationship-building skills are very important in your professional pursuits. No matter how academically and technically qualified you are, if you don’t have people-skills, your career will suffer. You must realise that you’re competing with a well-connected, locally qualified pool of candidates who know this landscape well. Your ability to connect with people is considered a crucial skill, without which employers will be nervous to hire you. They take it so seriously that you will be asked to involve in team bonding exercises during the interview itself. Being open, affable, confident and conversational helps in getting you that extra edge.
- Managing expectations can help with the transition. One of the biggest problems that immigrants have are with overwhelming expectations, both personal and social. So many immigrants are initially shocked at how long and arduous the struggle looks like that they immediately turn surly. Couple this with their family’s expectations back home, they really find it difficult to cope. This is my message to whoever wants to come on PR: research your fields, read about the Canadian work culture, talk to people who live here and come with the least amount of expectations as you can carry.
Seriously, the worst thing about Canada is not the winter, but the amount of expectations that you carry as a new immigrant.