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An Immigrant's Diary – Work wise
Immigrants in their first few months hear the elusive “Canadian experience” over and over.
A person starts to wonder how to eat this forbidden fruit. All the more so, because when one thinks about it, you are presented with a paradoxical situation that seems daunting.
If I don’t have a job, how will I get the “Canadian experience,” and if I don’t have the said experience, how I will get a job? For new immigrants, it is imperative to get to know people. Network, volunteer, take informational interviews.
Coming from India after working for a decade as the national director of a multi-national corporation, it seemed like even if I do volunteer I would be unable to exhibit my skills in the right manner. But then, opportunity came knocking. One must realize that much like the advice we give to fresh graduates from college, we have to make the best of the situations that present themselves.
I have, in the last 10 months, started working in my field of human resources in the retail sector, completed four short courses in HR at BCIT, and submitted a research consultation on performance appraisal for a non-profit organization. My point is not to showcase myself, but to show that events that happen in the journey of immigration in Canada are related. One day, opportunity will knock at your door – make sure that you welcome it with both hands.
Many immigrants have become extremely successful Canadians. The common thread remains the same in their success stories. That common thread is based on “focus”. There is a requirement to remain true to why we have come to Canada. Those who are not honest of their reason to be in this country, always remain dissatisfied to some extent. It is this negativity of dissatisfaction that all immigrants should avoid.
I, for one, have come for wider scope of my talent. The wider scope comprises the choices we have for the skills. In India, I was indeed a success story, but in one field only. Here people are known for the fields they are experts in and that can be more than one. My goals are to become a successful HR professional and give a shape to my inherent skill of creative writing and photography. Today, I have taken the first few baby steps in that goal. The golden rule is to take one step at a time, excel and then take the next step.
What I am sharing has been shared with several of my ilk in my journey here in Canada.
People do not wish to acknowledge why they have immigrated to Canada. Some acknowledge that they came to Canada because the wife wanted to and not because they wished to. Some others look at Canada as the land where dollars can be earned in no time. A few others look at the quality of life. And more just do not know why they are here. They just immigrated because that is what they thought was the solution to their problems in life. Let us make a concerted change to arrive at the belief that we came to Canada because we wanted to as it is most crucial to achieving success. You need to think that if you wish to succeed here, you have to have a goal and there is no harm to start afresh.
We may have been very successful professionals in our fields in the home country. When I came here, I knew that I was an unknown entity and that I would have to start from the very bottom of the ladder. A new immigrant has to create an identity for himself and that is what I find missing in the endeavor of new immigrants here. Here I do wish to suggest that the standard path is volunteering in a field connected to the profession, taking as many informational interviews as possible and networking. It is never too late to volunteer in Canada. I will continue to volunteer, keep learning and sharing. My target is that in two years, I will reach mid-way to the career level that I was in India, and in four, I aim to reach a level higher than I was.
Networking is the key to success in any task that one does in Canada. First you get to know people, learn new skills, learn what others are doing, and the most important thing is for others to learn who you are and what you can do. My network is growing here. I must have taken 60 informational interviews. SHARE, a non-profit, had selected me to research their performance management system, and suggest / redesign the system based on a recommendation from a person I knew in the network. A new performance management profile is now in place in that organization and they acknowledged my work by recommending me to several similar organizations.
Fraser Valley Women Resource Society had contacted me to design their human resource policy. This work was through the SHARE recommendation. I got the SHARE work through MAPLE, a program run by ISS of B.C. All this recognition came through to me by volunteering in SHARE. These benefits came through connecting and networking. Canada is a country of 'giving and contributing' selflessly to society and those who need your help. In return, your soft skills and technical skills will be recognized. You will find someone who will need you. You will find a job which is only yours.
One may have been a highly skilled person “back home.” However, you need to demonstrate your skills and wait till someone recognizes that he or she needs a person of your skills. For that your credentials must be evaluated by ICES / WES. Get Prior Learning Assessment Recognition done at any of the recognized universities or authorized institutions. This will facilitate the claim of the value of your tons of experience back home. One may also consider joining the B.C. association of the profession we aim to be working in. We must try every resource available which will give a window to connect with people from a similar field. The association always conducts meetings and conferences which provide an opportunity to meet people.
Getting a job is not easy here. If you are not getting a job of the same level, try lower. I am a human resource person, but started with selling televisions in the fourth month since I landed here. In India, I was the signatory only if the contract was more than $5 million USD. What I have consciously done is that I have erased my past success story from my memory. That has helped me to start from the beginning of life again.
In the same organization where I was selling TVs on the sales floor, the leaders in the store saw my worth and moved me to selling mattresses and vacuums in three months. It so happened that a HR vacancy came my way in the same work place. I went through the hiring process and in the eight month of my arrival in Canada, I was selected to be the HR Leader of two stores.
The lesson that I have followed once again is that we need to take one step at a time. There are a very few quick-fix solutions in settlement in immigration in a new country.
There are several immigrant support organizations in B.C. It is my opinion that one should join a program like Skills Connect in the early part of the journey in Canada. These programs open windows for a new immigrant. One needs to be supported / advised of informational interviews and their value, networking and what it can do to a new immigrant in terms of human capital, alternative careers, goal-setting, where to volunteer, and internships in connected field, etc. Then there are mentors one could connect with. They can suggest where one can find people who are willing to give time. No one else will make this effort except you.
On the side, one must keep oneself very busy. In the beginning (second month), I connected with a kind publisher of a local weekly bilingual newspaper. I will never forget that this gentleman approved my credentials and found my first written work interesting and began publishing articles every alternate week. The money was sufficient to buy my gas and groceries. I also had my personal blog online. Now The News, the larger circulation paper, evaluated my writing and encouraged me to pen my journey. I write this special series for you now. I had never imagined that my alternate career had already taken shape. What I wish to convey is that Canada is a land of opportunities. One needs to make that extra effort and take that first step and the risk to explore. The fruits will be there to enjoy.
En route one will find angels in the journey. They work tirelessly to make this journey of settlement in a new life interesting, of learning value and of course a challenge to accomplish. And lastly, one must keep humour and jest in the new life intact because this journey is stressful. It is easy for others to advice but extremely difficult for the person who is going through these dilemmas in the transition. There are very many chances of breaking down of the resolve to succeed. The key to success is to not give up against all odds.
The learned in the immigrant support organizations do say that a new immigrant settles down comfortably in Canada only after 24 months. I would say that the struggle subsides at 24 months but the journey continues. Consider life to have just begun.
Now a resident of Abbotsford, Ajit Sinha has specialized in human resources. He is a military veteran, and is in his third career. He enjoys writing to connect with people. His love for culture and challenges has brought him to Canada.