As a Newcomer!

I vividly remember May 13, 2005, landing on Canadian soil, coming out of Toronto Pearson Airport, I just fell in love with the ‘space’ and knew, I belong here.

Was it a smooth transition-emotionally, culturally, socially and financially? No, it wasn’t! I had wet eyes, cultural shocks and missed my dear ones. Yet, I chose to stay centered and inspired. My inspiration came from the experience of starting life from scratch at the age of almost 40. My inspiration came from the hope that my daughter will have freedom of expression and a safer environment to grow up.  It came from an opportunity to embrace diversity, unlearn and relearn.

The journey was overwhelming. My job applications were rejected for either ‘being overqualified’ or ‘no Canadian work experience’. Many voices started haunting me ‘ pull Ph.D. out of your resume’, ‘change your South Asian name to a Western name.’ Seriously?

I had a conversation with myself,asked for guidance from my mentorsand carved my career path.  Ironically, I decided to go back to school, a few close friends were amazed at my decision. “why would you go back to school for a certificate course when you have a terminal degree”. I smiled and said it is not about the degree(s) and certificate(s) rather it is about proactively filling in the gaps, upgrading your skills to be best-fit in the new working environment.

My close friends in India were sure I will return back in less than 6 months as it will be very difficult to give up on that lifestyle. ButI chose life over lifestyle and decided to stay here. It has been a wonderful experience so far and I am sure it will get better and better!

In all these years, I met many amazing people, received unconditional support, worked hard, got invaluable exposure and immense opportunities. I thank all the people who supported my journey. With this post, I intend to share the lessons and insights I learned that might be valuable for the new Canadians.

Accept the place: Are youoften comparing ‘back home’ perks and comforts with your newly chosen place of residence? If the answer is yes, then probably you are not fully accepting the new country of residence. If you do not accept the place, the place will not accept you. Take in time to know the community and find ways to engage in community events. It is good to remind yourself every now and then that it was your decision to migrate here.

Be self-aware and be true to yourself: Are you often stuck in ‘self-ego’? You may be stuck with the ‘I know’ attitude. That is not the ideal place to operate from. The transition to the new society, new economy, new workplace is real and tough. Be an empty vessel to absorb the new way of life. Be ready to unlearn and relearn.

Be supportive and ask for support: Are you often blaming your spouse/partner for the decision to migrate? This is natural but be mindful this only deepens the challenges. Work as a team (even at home for the household chores!)  Yeah, even if you had the luxury of not doing any household chores ‘back home’! Mutual support will help you to move quickly from a survival job to a career job.

Follow the Rules of the Land: Are you often wonder why there is a lineup at the bus stop, at cinema halls, even in the washrooms? So when I say follow the rules, I do not mean or suggest that you should give up on your identity, this simply means that learn about the Canadian mannerism and etiquettes. For example, maintain eye contact when you are talking to someone. Treat everyone equally. Be courteous. Be inclusive. Do not be selectively dismissive of someone’s presence or opinion.

Develop the Soft Skills: Are you often getting a regret email from an employer because you do not have Canadian work experience? This is a signal that you should develop soft skills that resonate with DNA of the social fabric of Canada. You may have all the knowledge and transferable skills but need Canadian work experience to be a ‘cultural-fit’ in the organization. Get feedback on your resume to make sure that it meets Canadian job market standards. Be observant. Be an effective listener, rather than cutting someone in between the conversation to prove a point!

Build your Network Currency: Are you sending your resumes to endless places online and not hearing back anything? Networking is the key to get the first career job. Meet people, present yourself, that eliminates the chances of being trapped in stereotyping. Keep building your network currency. Have a professionally done LinkedIn profile that helps to stay connected with your professional network.

Have a Mentor: Are you dealing with information overload and do not know how to filter the relevant information? It is a great idea to have at least one mentor. You may have multiple mentors to get a different perspective on your career path, challenges, opportunities, and action plan. Mentoring is very helpful in learning the skills that will bridge the gap in the ‘job-fit’ and cultural-fit’.

Give back to the community: Are you interested in paying forward? There are endless opportunities to give back to the community. Identify a cause that is close to your heart. Be a volunteer. It is so rewarding and fulfilling.

Be Grateful: Most importantly, be grateful for all the positives in your life. Be grateful for fresh air, water, and a safe environment. Be a proud Canadian and find ways to make Canada more beautiful, friendly and the safest place to live! 

Contributed by Dr. Parveen Gill

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