How I got my job in Calgary

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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.

I hope this helps.

Have a lovely week.

JDIM

Finding a church

I have been a Christian since I can remember. I was born one and made a conscious decision to stay a Christian when I was old enough to make the choice myself. Naturally, as a practising Christian, I go to church on most Sundays. As such, one of the key things on my to do list for when we arrived in Calgary was to find a church to settle as a family in.

My first port of call was good old google. I searched for churches in the area I knew we would be living in and I quickly settled for one that seemed to tick all the boxes based on their website. Their website looked exciting, Jesus. Check. Kids church, Check. 8 minutes drive from my house, even better.

Excitedly, this morning, I got everyone ready and we got to church 10 minutes late. Not too bad as we still met the worship session. The preaching was okay but I missed most of it because my kids would not settle in the adults church and I had trouble trying to get them into the kids church.

However, I felt anything but welcome as soon as we walked in. I have to confess that I did not fully appreciate the importance of ushers until my experience this morning. This church was a big church, I will estimate about 250 members with three services every Sunday. So, surely, having new members shouldn’t be new to them. In my experience in church for the last 20+ years, new people get even special treatment. We get asked to put up our hands and additional information about the church gets handed to us. People go out of their way to say hello to us and most definitely, an usher welcomes you to the church and tries to find you a seat in this new environment.

However, no one said a word to us when we arrived, there was no usher in sight. If there was one, we didn’t notice him or her. I had to find a seat for the four of us, and once settled, I headed off to find the kids church.

Now, this was where I decided I was never going back to that church again. The kids seemed to be sitting and watching a video about a lesson there were to be learning about before the breakout sessions. Nothing wrong with this, however, I couldn’t find an adult to ask how the kids church worked, if I could deposit my kids there for the next hour, where to sign them in, etc. There was no one to ask. I went back with my now disappointed son, who couldn’t understand why he couldn’t join the other kids and this time, there was a gentleman dispensing sweets for the kids, he glanced once at me, with two kids in my hands and went back to dispensing sweets. No hello, nothing. I had to remind myself I was at church.

I took my son to the bathroom, once again, bumped into another Sunday school teacher, I was eager to say hello and maybe finally ask her how to go about using the Sunday school, once again, she didn’t look interested in having a chat and was focused on the kids she brought to use the toilet. Which is fine.

To avoid going into too much detail, it was not a very nice feeling and I can’t imagine experiencing this and going back to church if I was not a Christian. I reported my experience to a friend and she asked maybe they were having an off day but, there were so many people involved in this off day that could have at least said hello. I wanted to say hello, but no one held my gaze long enough for me to do just that. It was a very upsetting experience if I am being honest.

I really wanted to like the church. I mean, I had spent ages on their website for the last three months and was so eager to get involved. We won’t be going back and my search for a warm welcoming church continues.

Most importantly, this serves as a reminder to me to be warm and friendly to people, particularly as a Christian. More so when I am at church. Church is where we encourage non-Christians to come to learn more about Christ, learning about Christ starts with the individual.

I hope we find somewhere soon!

Enjoy your week!

LHR to YYC

Eeek!

It has been so difficult to write this blog. I started writing it on 7 February and couldn’t bring myself to complete it. Maybe now that I’m thousands of feet in the air and finally on our way to Calgary, I have plenty of time in the 8.5 hours or so it will take us to get there to complete this blog.

My family and I are moving to Calgary, Alberta and I have been in total denial about this.

Our love affair with YYC started two years ago when we visited a couple of friends over there. After our first night. We started exploring the option of moving.

We expected the process of applying for permanent residence to be long and tedious but it was surprising quick. It required providing a lot of information upfront but once this was done the rest of it was straightforward. We are grateful for the opportunity to start our lives somewhere new and exciting and looking forward to the prospects of creating beautiful and exciting memories together.

However, it isn’t all singing and dancing as I am a bit apprehensive about the move. A lot of people have said I have nothing to worry about and although I believe them, it does not change the fact we are taking a big step and a big risk. We are leaving good jobs, great schools for kids and the comfort blanket of having great friends and family surrounding us to move to a country where we will have to rebuild what we know all over again. I will be moving from a country that has become home, where everything is familiar and we are nicely settled, to another with numerous unknowns in a different continent.

We all know you don’t buy everything in the same place, well I certainly do not. For example, I can buy my milk anywhere because it’s just milk but I drive to Tesco for their brioche because my family love their brioche. I will need to find a supermarket that actually does the brioche my children like. This proved difficult when we visited back in January.

For celebrations, I will need to find a lovely bakers to put my Pinterest downloads into edible form.

Not to forget, learning the new tricks about commuting downtown, what is the best time and station to travel from.

Learn the new ‘lingo’. I know they speak English, but every country has its lingo I’ve come to find. For example, it took my a while to understand British humour, but now I do and I love it. I can laugh for days at a British joke but 15 years ago, I just didn’t get it.

So, you get the drift. I’m going to have to learn it all again. It is okay however, because it is an adventure and I’m privileged enough to be doing this with my family.

The hardest part of this whole ordeal has been my family and my friends. You know the ones that are really there for you when it matters? The ones that are just totally amazing, the ones you can’t even think of replacing, those are the people that make this move all the more painful.

It has been such an emotional few days for us. My sister in law who is just great on so many levels! I couldn’t be the wife and mum I am today without my Sister Ore! She has been a constant rock, a constant support! She has been a sister. Let’s just say the tears were never ending. It will be a lot to adjust to not being able to just pick up the phone to call her as often as I will like because of the time difference.

My friend become big sister, Buki. She is all sorts of amazing as well, and extremely thoughtful! She is cool and extremely resourceful. The kind of friend that stops in unannounced with a tonne of thoughtful gifts that make you tear up. I have learnt so much from her in such a short space of time and I’m sure going to miss her.

My best friend, Vese. It’s been an extremely emotional one. I’m not going to dwell on this paragraph. All I will say is thank you. Thank you for being amazing. Our friendship is going to be tested by distance and time, but I trust that we will be okay. I will miss you loads.

I will talk about the practicalities of our moving in another blog, but until then, I’m going to cry some more before we land in YYC because I’ve promised myself, Calgary is going to be happy, we are going to be happy and it will be worth it all!

JDIM