Canada Calling, Now What!

You have landed in Canada, gone through the initial process of applying for the SIN card, registering for medical care, looking for a place to live and a school for children. The next step is to search for a job, preferably for a career, similar to one you had in your country of origin. In a lighter vein, this step draws a parallel to the popular words by Neil Armstrong after he took the first step on moon. He commented, one small step for a man – one giant leap for mankind. Yes, looking for a livelihood could be another step but getting the right job is a giant leap for you and your family in the new homeland.

The settling-in period in Canada varies from person to person and family to family. It could span from few months to years. Most of the people who I have asked have opined that it took six months to a year or more to find a decent job and getting settled. Meanwhile, as the time passes and the savings dwindle, it dawns on you that immigration is not a bed of roses. You ask yourself the same question that your mother used to ask when you were a kid, Now what have you done? Well, you have immigrated to a different environment, culture and society for long-term benefits. These could be better education and future for your children, your professional development, better quality of life, security or for enjoying beautiful outdoors, which abound in Canada. What ever your Canadian dream is, you are in for long haul and there are no short cuts to it. Once you bite the bullet and set your sight on long-term benefits, the settling-in process feels down hill.

Based on my research, observing successful immigrants from South Asia and going through the grind myself, I suggest following six initiatives to shorten and make the most out of the gestation period in Canada. These suggestions are neither a rocket science nor a panacea; however, many happy immigrants have successfully practiced these.

1. Change your mindset. You are in a different country, culture, market and work environment that are new to you. New environment requires a different approach – a paradigm shift. You may have been a guru in your field in past, a head of division, but that was in a different environment and work place. That was once was. Leave that baggage behind. Now it is imperative to take stock of the ground reality. Re-evaluate your strengths and weaknesses vis-à-vis new work environment and what you offer to your prospective employers; see how you can extend your strengths to a new workplace. What is your value proposition? Is an improvement required in your professional profile? Do you need a Canadian diploma or certification to land the desired job? What kind of soft skills you have that possibly suit Canadian work environment. By answering the above questions you will have a clear picture about where you are, where you want to reach, how and when you can reach there.

I have rarely seen someone starting in Canada on the same seniority level as he / she was in the country of origin. (Though Accountants and I.T managers, working at back-end positions, do get in on similar level) Many others have taken a couple of steps back in their career. I do not intend to sound discouraging here. Just want to drive this point home to be mentally prepared for taking a step or two back in order to get into a good organization and work hard to make your way up the corporate ladder.

2. Sharpen the saw, as coined by Steven Covey in his famous book, 7 Basic Habits of Highly Effective People and I quote here to stress the need for polishing skills-set (both hard & soft skills) to be marketable in Canada. There are many ways to polish hard skills and to adapt to Canadian marketplace. For example, getting Canadian education (a diploma or certification), enrolling in a mentor program or joining a government sponsored internship in your line of business. These programs not only support with conceptual and technical knowledge, they also provide the know-how about the market, which is so vital to fast track into the job market. For example, information on major players in the industry and current market trends. The aim should be to get quality Canadian experience and know-how. With ever-changing technology and ways of doing business, continuing education is indispensable these days, more so in a new work environment.

3. Network, especially outside your comfort zone, that is, outside your community. Why network? The answer is simple, to know what’s happening in job market, getting leads and most importantly acquiring soft skills, which are equally essential for success, if not more than education or hard skills. And soft skills like your body language, clear communication, use of language (cliché), dress, confidence level and time management are not taught in schools. Intermingling with all Canadians (not just Pakistanis) provides the required exposure to Canadian ways. I am not suggesting to necessarily adopting Canadian ways but it is prudent to be aware of it and use it to your advantage.

Join a social network, a charity, a game club or volunteer in your locality. Be regular at it and add value to your organization, community and country. Few hours a week will positively affect the lives of people you would be affiliated with and will also change your life. Generally speaking, South Asians are not seen giving their time for a cause. Many of us find it easier to help with money than contribute with our time. Try volunteering your time, establish a connection and see the positive change for yourself.

4. Have a fallback option – a plan B. You have taken the right steps and played your cards well. That is, you are mentally prepared to accept a position a notch below your previous job, have enrolled in one of the acclimatization programs and started networking. Now ask what if, What if you do not get the expected results or your results are delayed due to external factors beyond your control. Do you have another set of headhunters that you can contact, another field of operations that you could contribute too or a business expertise that you can check out simultaneously (though I do not suggest venturing into a business during initial years until you know the market and business norms like back of your palm).

Looking for a job is a full-time task, if it gets prolonged can your spouse work (full-time or part-time) as a plan B and contribute to kitchen expense so you keep yourself committed to want is important. Are children grown up to contribute? Do you have another savings account to lean on? Always have a fall back option and hope not to use it. However, having a plan B will give you the peace of mind and commitment to stay focused.

5. Stay focused and make it happen, as nothing succeeds like success. What good a paradigm shift, self-improvement and networking are if one cannot persevere or walk the talk. There will be distractions in shape of let downs, disappointments, road bumps, misunderstanding due to cultural differences and last but not the least prolonged cold weather. You would meet people who have not had good experience here. Stay away from them, if you can. The challenge is to stay focused, persistent and keep your sights on the long-term benefits. Recall how disciplined and regimental you were in order to achieve the success and status you enjoyed and reapply the same character and efforts.

6. Be positive and keep enjoying. Remember life is a journey not an end and try making your journey a happy one for your family and yourself. You can do so by getting into many activities that you may not have been able to do in past. For example, spend quality time with your family, enjoy outdoors on weekends, stay active and healthy, take one day at a time, one problem at a time and keep smiling. We used to hear that the USA is a land of opportunity, I believe so is Canada (perhaps a smaller land of opportunity than the US but still a land of opportunity). I have seen many success stories in few years in Canada. One has to stay focused, happy and believe in yourself and the system.

Best of all, you knew all this anyways, this article just served as a reminder!

Please comment below and let me know what do you think of it.


About Fazal Siddiqi
Fazal Siddiqi Writes on current marketing, branding, communications, diversity and socio-economic opportunities & challenges. He lives in Canada and works for OPAL Marketing Group.

4 Responses to Canada Calling, Now What!

  1. Martin says:

    nice article – lists fundamental steps to success as an immigrant

  2. Rifaa says:

    Great article. Very well written. Good points for newcomers and serves as a reminder too! Persevere. It pays off in the end. Stay in touch with support groups if the going get tough!

  3. Rifaat Jafari says:

    Very well written article. Good advice. Persevere. Stay in touch with support groups if the going gets tough.

  4. Thanks Riffat.

    I recall from your comment on LinkedIn that you are in the HR. If you want to pursue it here too, try looking for short courses / certification that you can take on arrival to be job ready sooner.

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