How this 26-year-old Chartered Accountant immigrated to Canada and struggled to find a job but eventually made it!
- My name is Sagar Thacker, a Chartered Accountant from India and a Chartered Financial Analyst from CFA Institute, USA.
- Having been brought up in the financial hub of India, Mumbai, I was fortunate to start my journey in the banking industry with Citigroup Inc. after qualifying as a CA.
- I worked for close to 4 years across varied profiles and with people from across the globe....before deciding to immigrate to Canada!
- In August 2019, I immigrated to Canada at the age of 26! I faced several challenges but it all paid off.
- Do you want to know why I made this life-altering decision and how I am managing in Canada? Read my story to know more….
A CA at 21. Pursuing an additional qualification.
Yes, I did become a CA at the age of 21. I was on top of the world.
I never wanted to go into employment...I wanted to set up my own business. However, I neither had any idea nor the capital to start out on my own.
My family and friends felt that I should first work for someone, gain experience, and build some capital. I felt it made sense!
My mom suggested that I pursue an international certification alongside work as it would add value to my existing CA qualification.
I too did not want to rest on my existing laurels and get comfortable...I began preparing for my CFA immediately while working full time at Citi Bank!
Take it from me. It was no easy task managing a hectic work schedule with CFA studies.
Failing In CFA...to moving to Canada!
“Man Proposes. God Disposes.”
While preparing for CFA Level II, I could not get the required study leave due to work pressure at the office.
And I failed that attempt.
My disappointment knew no bounds...but in all honesty, I was tired and exhausted!
First I was studying to be a CA, then I started working, and studying for CFA...I needed a break!
I decided to treat myself to a trip to the USA. A friend of mine also decided to join me.
In those 20 I enjoyed every moment....exploring varied cultures, different cuisines, cities! It was then that I realized that I would really want to live in a new country and gain experience from a different perspective.
And that’s how I decided to immigrate to Canada. Yes, it was that simple!
Decision to move to Canada made. What next? How to go about it?
After I made the decision to move to Canada, I had so many questions in mind :
- “How do I apply for a PR?”
- “Will I get selected?”
- “What if I move to Canada and find no job?”
I spoke to a couple of friends who had immigrated to Canada and all my doubts evaporated!
Soon, I applied for my PR and got it through the Express Entry route primarily on the basis of my IELTS score, work experience and educational credentials.
The entire process generally takes approximately 8-10 months and I was no exception.
I got my PR a few months ago i.e. at the age of 26.
And yes…I DID NOT hire a consultant for the PR application, I did it on my own!
Was it hectic managing the documentation work of the PR application along with work and CFA studies?
Of course, it was.
It was very challenging, to say the least, but I had made up my mind to manage it on my own.
Even if you go through a consultant, you only have to manage the documents, they just guide you!
Timeline of the first few months in Canada
August 2019. My first month in Canada.
- I landed in Toronto when the weather was nice and pleasant! Initially, I stayed outside the city of Toronto with a relative of my close friend (who is now like family to me!).
- After staying with them for a couple of weeks, I moved to Toronto as local commute was more accessible from there!
- Here’s what I did as soon as I came to Canada: First, I got my Social Insurance Number (SIN), opened a bank account at a local bank, and started studying for G1 driving license exam. Secondly, I started applying for jobs and started networking with people.
- I landed in Canada in August 2019 and got my first interview call in August itself. However, I could not get through it as I had no experience in that profile.
- In my first month here...my bank account got hacked! Long story short, the bank helped me and returned my money.
Extra Tip: Don’t put all eggs in one basket – bring a Demand Draft (DD) to have money in the bank account quickly, keep some in a FOREX Card or a NIYO Card and keep some in cash from authorized sources.
Sept'19. My second month in Canada.
- This month was the most difficult for me as I did not get a single interview call...it seemed like nothing was working in my favor.
- I took a break and travelled to Cancun, Mexico for a holiday...here I met with a serious accident and had to spend a lot of money on hospitals and treatment!
Extra Tip: I’d suggest having local Canadian insurance to cover you for the months you have no health coverage!
Having insurance in your home country, in my case, India is not so good since the claim process is tedious. With insurance from a local company, the claim process is easier.
October 2019. My third month in Canada. The third month was better than the first two as I started receiving interview calls.
November 2019. My fourth month in Canada.
- I again started exploring opportunities - networking with people and applying online.
- The people I met with opined that the market was slow due to the upcoming holidays, Christmas...however, I had made up my mind to get my first break at the earliest.
- I was utilizing a lot of my savings...I could feel the pinch of depleting capital. Now I was ready to work part-time to cover my expenditure...but God had better plans for me!
- I started getting interview calls and it kept rolling!
- I got my first offer from a Big 4 Consulting firm after almost 3.5 months in this country...since then, there has been no pause to my growth.
- I got a total of 3 offers in a span of 4 months – a Big 4 Consulting Firm, one of the top 5 Canadian banks and a Non-Profit Organization (NPO).
- I got these opportunities from applying online as well through the networking chain.
Finally, in Dec'19, I started working with a bank in Credit & Disputes and eventually moved to an NPO into Real Estate Underwriting.
And life has been amazing ever since.
Once you are settled in Canada, it is all easy.
"Should I apply for a student or a Canada PR visa? Which is a better option?"
My view is that coming through the PR route makes more sense.
After coming here, you will have more clarity on which course to pursue. You will also get most of the benefits that a Canadian citizen may get.
The fee structure applicable to a PR holder is equivalent to that of a citizen here rather than an international student... which saves a lot of costs.
“I am not eligible for a PR, but may qualify for a Student Visa. Should I apply for Student Visa then?”
Now, this is subjective. In my opinion, it depends on 'why you want to immigrate'.
If you just want to experience living abroad with no long-term plans, then coming through the student visa route may not be apt because it will give you limited to no time to explore the country!
It is even more difficult without a strong source of income.
“How did I manage challenges as a newcomer in Canada?"
Initially, most of the newcomers go through challenges.
I had a positive mindset that I will be able to overcome any challenges that the new country has to offer. However, it is easily said than done.
There were times when I was dejected, especially during the first two months when I just got one call for an interview and then almost no calls. I had no one to vent out my feelings to at this time.
Books became my closest friends.
For people who feel dejected, I’d suggest reading a book named - ‘The Magic of Thinking Big’ by David Schwartz. It tells you how to develop and maintain a positive mindset in any situation that life has to offer.
Associating with positive and helpful people is a very important aspect of feeling a part of the community here.
“How to start your Job Search in Canada as an immigrant?”
I started my journey with one of the top 5 banks on a contract basis and then recently joined a Non-Profit Organization.
All in all, the 3 offers I got in a span of 4-5 months was a good start, in my opinion as well as in the view of a few seasoned professionals in the market.
I realized in my early days that Networking is the key in the western world along with online applications. I started doing that diligently.
Approaching unknown people was not easy for me as it is for others. LinkedIn and Networking events are some of the best sources for knowing and meeting new people.
Strategies to follow as a new immigrant when job searching in Canada.
Avoid odd jobs initially
- When you move to Canada have enough money for at least 6 months to cover the basic cost of living for you and your family.
- Start a relevant job search immediately as soon as you land...but again keep a check as to how long you can stay without a job!
- Ideally, it should take 1-3 months but if extends too long take up whatever job that comes your way as that will give you 'Canadian Experience' and some income!
- However a warning...have a timeline for how long you want to continue in your temporary job or irrelevant job profile! I have come across people who initially took up 'odd jobs' to make some income...and then lost track of their main focus for a reasonable time frame! They just got comfortable!
Be Open to Contract Opportunities
- Most of the newcomers in Canada...get their first break on a contract basis.
- The majority of them come through recruitment consulting agencies in Canada. Most of these services are free.
- Grab any opportunity that is suitable for your credentials and experience.
- Some of the agencies to look out for: IFG, Randstad, Robert Half, Aston Carter, Manpower and Quantum Management Services.
- Do a ‘Boolean search' approach on LinkedIn to identify people who have profiles that you are targeting. This is a good way to optimize your job search process.
- Send a personalized invite to the person you want to connect with. Playing around the bush does not help...Be clear of why you wish to connect to them, keeping in mind what’s in it for the other person as well.
- Write posts (keep it professional, don't be critical or nasty!) about what is happening in your professional life. This will improve your virtual visibility and also helps others to learn from you!
Attend Networking Events
- Eventbrite is a great website to get details on upcoming events. Many events will also be free!
- Coffee Chats: Develop a rapport first, either virtually, on-call or face-to-face and then request for a coffee chat. Do not impose upon them or appear desperate. Be kind, remember they are helping you out of courtesy!
- Directly targeting people with a job referral in mind, is not correct!
- Follow-up: Do not restrict a connection to a virtual or a coffee chat. Being in regular touch with like-minded and helpful people is the key to getting settled in Canada, not just professionally but personally as well.
“Tips to crack an interview in Canada”
- Interviews in India are based on the technical aspects of a role...whereas in Canada, it is based on behavioral and situational aspects. Technical knowledge is super important too but here soft skills are not ignored!
- Research the role well before you head to the interview. Knowing your interviewer has its own advantage.
- Dressing professionally and being confident in the interview is important.
- Be on time for the interview. In case you are expecting to be late for any reason (which is an ideal scenario should not happen), be transparent enough to inform the interviewer.
“How do I write a good resume and cover letter?”
- Cover Letter has a lot of importance in Canada! The intent of a cover letter is to convey a message as to...why you are the right fit for the role you have applied for!
- In my opinion, it adds value if applying to Start-ups, FinTechs and Small and Medium Size organizations...as they may want to know why you want to join them!
- Research the organization, browse through the financials and recent press releases, focus on your key skills and relate to how it can be leveraged into the role you are applying for. Creating a story helps to pass on the message in an impactful manner.
- In your resume focus more on Job skills, education credentials, achievements and accolades rather than just your day-to-day responsibilities.
- Highlight your skill-set using numbers if possible – for example, you can mention something like how you achieved cost optimization of 5% in a span of 12 months, etc.
- Preferably restrict the length of your resume to 1-page max 2-pager!
Patience, Perseverance and Consistency is the key. The right mindset is at the crux of all outcomes.
Also very thankful to my parents who stood by me and my friends and well-wishers who supported me.
Now It's Your Turn....
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