Sunday, March 31, 2013

Immigration: Changing Your Route

Toronto Skyline
Toronto Skyline (Photo credit: Bobolink)

By Pankaj Tripathi
Every adventurer to this land, down from Jacques Cartier in 1536 to you – has experienced doubt. “This isn't turning out as I expected it to.” “Should I have come?” “Is it all worth it?”
Do those doubts and fears have a basis in fact? Are they real? Do others in the same boat feel the same way? Well, sure they do. Even people who move from one city to another lose their networks and may need to start at lower positions.
Those who land jobs before coming to Canada or who have networks of friends or family here may not feel as uncertain or vulnerable as you, but most people deal with some degree of worry and self-doubt.
Middle aged immigrants with families to care for may be facing mid-life crisis, change in career, low self esteem, lack of job and depleting financial resources all at the same time.
But rather than caving in and giving up to depression and resignation, think of the successes that brought you this far in life. Be positive, calm and confident. And, as Ted Rogers said, "Don't be afraid to ask."
Starting down a new road
The first few steps of immigration are relatively easy. From the Permanent Card application, renting an apartment, applying for the Health Card (OHIP), opening a bank account, getting a drivers license, everything is pretty well organized.
Credit Cards might be a bit difficult, but you could always go for a secured credit card.
Then comes the difficult part. With limited financial resources and endless responsibilities, you have to find a job. You send out your résumé and call up companies. You may often be told you don't have Canadian experience, or the position is already filled. You may even encounter fraudulent recruitment agencies. If days turn to weeks, and weeks into months without success, panic can set in. No one intends to leave a stable job and a family that loves you in order to come to this strange land and flip burgers, distribute flyers; become a security guard or recruit other newcomers for a dodgy multi-level marketing scheme. If you were already an engineer, regional sales manager or other professional back home, how do you bring yourself to take a job stocking shelves at the local supermarket?
While volunteer opportunities may get you needed Canadian experience, they are by definition “unpaid” – and you have bills to pay. So what do you do when you are down to your last 1,000 dollars and your worst fears seem about to come true?
A few decide to throw in the towel and go back to their homeland. They may close this chapter forever, or re-plan and come back after a few years.
Some take survival jobs. While you attend school and drive a cab at the same time, keep in mind the individuals in Canadian society who were stocking shelves at the local grocery store twenty years ago and now own multi-million dollar retail chains. Our current Chief of the Defence Staff flipped burgers and was a newspaper boy as a young man in Winnipeg, and one of our prime ministers sold newspapers in Saskatoon. So respect the work you are doing, do it well and be proud of it. This pride and confidence will show in other aspects of your life. But never lose sight of your end goals and allow the survival job to become your new career.
Some of the more tenacious folks get their credentials evaluated, retool themselves, go to school upgrade their qualifications and try to re-enter the job market in their chosen profession. This is the most difficult but potentially rewarding option. It requires stamina, mental toughness, resilience and belief in oneself. You may even have to swallow your pride and accept some form of social assistance. But then who said success is easy? It takes a really special effort.
Be prudent in your spending habits. Look for deals and offers, and don't buy stuff you could do without. Every dollar saved lets you wait one day longer for your success.
Be prepared to make adjustments in your career, level of entry or take any new courses that you might need to kick start your career. From banking to education to driving, systems are different in Canada, and at times simply confusing. Seek help in understanding them. From friendly colleagues to numerous free courses and seminars, there are ways to learn and avoid costly mistakes.
Network, all the time. Find the right person. There is someone, somewhere in this huge crowd, in whichever city, town or village you are in, from Vancouver to Halifax, Toronto to Iqaluit, who will help you or knows someone who will make it happen for you.
As you go about your settlement process, keep in mind that it takes time, and you have to be patient, especially if you are not so young and have no local educational credentials or references. The economic crisis and uncertainty have not made it any easier. You have to balance expectations and reality, as it might be quite a different equation than what you were used to back home.
The process in itself is full of stress and different individuals have varying abilities to cope, based on their financial, emotional and psychological strengths. But the question will you ever make it, and will it all be worth it? Well yes, for sure.

Ask everyone who has stayed behind, done their slogging and made it. Empires don't happen when you have a boat waiting in the harbour. Success is for those who believe beyond belief, not for those who are ready to cut and run.
When the first settlers and homesteaders built this nation, there was no way home for most of them. Canada was born and flourished and grew through their dedication and determination. They were not quitters, and you can hardly stand in that long line, if you even think of quitting.
Employment outcomes for internationally trained professionals have been improving, and with initiatives like the Ontario Regulators for Access Consortium (ORAC), you should be able to restart your career even more quickly. So leverage your strengths, use the available resources, work through the system and be successful. There is no substitute for success, and your kids deserve it.
10 rules that can help you:
1. Re-pledge yourself to your goal and ambition every single day.
2. Look at the positive side of everything.
3. Be open to new ideas, concepts and friends.
4. Don't overspend in your first few weeks and months. Be prudent.
5. Don't cling to what you were back home, instead see the new landscape and assess where you best fit in.
6. Compromise but don't demean yourself.
7. Read about successful immigrants. They are enough success stories all around you, one just has to look for them.
8. Be especially careful of crooks who are out there to make a fast buck from the unwary, ignorant or confused individual.
9. Ask and take support - from friends, neighbours, agencies and government programs.
10. Network all the time. You never know who knows whom, or what leads to where. So network, and keep your eyes and ears open all the time.

Pankaj Tripathi
Pankaj Tripathi is a writer, journalist and management professional with more than
15 years of experience in advertising, marketing, academics, personal coaching and business restructuring. He is a motivational speaker working with young people. Pankaj is currently working on his PhD. He can be reached at (416) 508-5519 or by e-mail at p.tripathi@rogers.com.

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