It has been five months since we moved from the UK to Calgary and four and a half months since I started working. At the time, it felt like a huge mountain to climb and every day of not hearing back about whether or not I had secured a job felt like months.
Based on my conversation with other recent immigrants who have either secured jobs here or are job searching, I have noticed that a number of people have moved to Canada without a job. The good news however is that the majority of those who have moved under the permanent residence programme and are persistently looking for a job will get a job within 6 months of moving. I have no real statistics to back this up other than a rough estimate based on those I have been communicating with. In addition, as the conditions to qualify for the permanent residence programme are quite rigorous, and takes into consideration your employability, this increases your likelihood of getting a job.
My path to getting a job in Calgary was slightly different as I worked for a multinational firm in the UK and the Calgary firm was open to accepting me as an employee, provided I passed the interview. As our move was time-bound, I had to be very proactive about trying to secure a job before we moved. We had decided as a family that we will move provided either myself or my husband secured a job and so the search began.
My first point of call was to have an open conversation with my line manager at work. I had the type of relationship with her that made me confident enough to have this conversation as I knew my job will not be at risk, and if it was, we were moving anyway. The reason I decided to speak to her about it was to see if she would be able to assist with getting a job in the Calgary office. I explained we were looking to move to Canada by June 2018 (it was September when I had this conversation) and it would be dependent on me getting a job there. She seemed excited for me and said she will speak with her contacts to see if I could be transferred. However, I did not wait around for this favour as I knew it would not be a priority for her.
I got desperate a few days later as I really wanted to get the ball rolling and so, I went looking on good old Linkedin. In my situation, because my speciality is Tax, which is very country specific, I was at a disadvantage because, although I was already a Manager in the UK, it was of little value to me in Canada as I knew nothing, or shall I say very little about the Canadian tax system. As such, I deduced that my best chance of being employed in the same line of work would be to stay with the same firm, where I have proved my ability in the UK and to try to build on that goodwill to convince them to hire me.
With this in mind, my search on Linkedin was targeted at looking for my firm’s recruiters in Canada, in particular, Calgary. My search yielded three promising results and I decided to email two, leaving the third one for later if my first two emails yielded no results (no real logic to this). I drafted an email using the office internal email to both of them. One of them blew me off with a generic email along the lines of – contact me when you are sure you will be moving and have your dates confirmed – thanks, but no thanks. Thankfully, the second person I emailed was kind enough to respond, telling me she had forwarded my email to the person who deals with Tax in the Calgary office. This person turned out to be the third person I was saving to email later! Let’s call her Anna.
Anna turned out to be so helpful. She took her time to have an initial telephone interview with me to understand my background, motive for moving, my expectations and then she asked me to send her my reference from a Partner or Director in the UK. This was where I appreciated the importance of being diligent and the benefits of networking. I called on a Director I had worked with in the past who liked my work and I had subsequently built a good relationship with. She too was excited about the move and remembered that one of her friends who is also a Director had done a secondment in the – wait for it – Calgary office over 6 years ago and may still have contacts there. She shoots her friend an email with a glowing recommendation for me, asking him if he could refer me to the Partner in Calgary. Her friend calls me to interview me to make sure I was legit and that he wasn’t just rubber-stamping me based on what my friend said. He sends an email to the Partner and without me going back to Anna, she emails me to confirm she had received my reference/recommendation.
Anna managed my expectations by letting me know they will not be able to offer me a job as a manager based on my limited knowledge on Canadian Tax and so, I would have to take a step own – Boo! But it is a means to an end right? I would rather take a step down than move without a job or watch my career fizzle before my eyes, or at least it felt that way. I accepted this compromise. She then arranged for me to have a two telephone interviews with Partners and just before Christmas, she confirmed I had a job. Christmas was a lot merrier as this was one less thing to worry about. We could finally fix a date to move and start packing up.
This whole experience confirmed for me the following: importance of being good, networking and going out of your comfort zone to get what you want. It may not come easy, it may not come quick, but I know you will learn something from it. Going on Linkedin and sending cold emails where there was no job advertised did not come naturally to me, neither did calling in a favour from a friend.
I am grateful that settling in my new team has been seamless. They are a warm bunch of people and also willing to help. I have learnt a whole lot since April and I still have a bunch more to learn. Most importantly, they are happy with my progress, and I hope it stays this way.
To those who have recently moved and are job searching, I can imagine it gets frustrating after some time, keep at it. Praying with you that you get something good soon. Here are a few tips that could help:
1. CV format – the first thing I did before applying for jobs in Canada was to change the format of my CV. Speaking to a few people who live in Canada, and just a general google search, I found that the CV format here was different to the UK. This small change can make a big difference to your job search experience.
2. Feedback – where you have interviewed for jobs and have not been successful, ask for feedback and work on this feedback.
3. Network – Once you have exhausted applying for all the jobs you can find online with no success, speak to your employed friends with jobs or anyone you meet, you never know where your help will come from. As an example, most offices have a referral system whereby, if an employee successfully recruits for the company, they will get a finders fee. It is a win win situation as you get a job, your friend gets rewarded by the company and the company does not have to pay recruiting agency to fill the position.
4. Connect – Connect with other immigrants. It can be very lonely leaving the comfort of a secure job and a country you called home to move to a foreign land, searching for a job. Connecting with other immigrants, particularly, those from where you have moved from can make the process less lonely. There are different Facebook and Whatsapp groups made for this purpose. I joined one of such groups and I find that job adverts are shared often for those who are still job searching.