From an interview with Humza Khan, Banking Advisor, RBC Meeting Place.
Humza Khan arrived in Canada from Pakistan in February 2021 to join his wife, who was already living in Toronto. With six years experience in retail banking, dealing with people and building relationships, Humza set his sights on landing a job doing what he loved. He knew very little about Canada, and began his journey with an open mind and willingness to learn. Here, Humza shares his story of how he adapted to life in a new country, reached out to strangers, set goals, and overcame his fears to make them a reality.
Leaving your country, leaving the goals that you’ve set, and everything you’ve been working for all your life is scary. You liquidate your assets and gather your life’s savings, and pack them all in an imaginary bag, along with your hopes and dreams, and set out for a new life in a new country.
I remember walking through the airport and I had no idea where to go. This must have been obvious to a couple of police officers standing there. They asked me how they could help and showed me the way. One of them actually walked with me to see me off. This was my first impression of Canada, and my introduction to Canadians’ helpful nature
Setting your Canada Goals: Start with the basics
When I decided to come to Canada, my initial search was only on how to live life in Canada. I knew it would be a completely different way of life. I just started googling topics like, “how do you live in Canada?” Many people have shared their stories and experiences. I read dozens of articles and watched countless webinars.
When setting goals, we naturally think about the future, having a successful career, raising a family, and contributing to the economy, but those are very long-term goals. It’s important to start with very achievable, short-term goals. You need a roof over your head, you need food on the table, and you need people to talk to during the day.
The first goal to consider would definitely be finding a place to stay. My wife was already here renting a place, so that particular need was taken care of, and I feel very lucky in that regard. If we had made the move together, we would have needed to decide whether to rent a temporary residence, where to rent, and even how to get there from the airport. And once you’ve found your location you have to find food: where are the local shops and markets?
Next you’ll need to get your provincial health card, research which mobile phone company to use, and decide how you’re going to get around. What’s public transit like where you live, and how do you get a driver’s licence? Initially, your goals are how to get through daily life in Canada.
When I first arrived, I would go out for a walk in the neighbourhood just to see what it was like.
Stopping by a convenience store or coffee shop to get a drink, I would say hi to people I passed and they would return the greeting. My anxieties began to fade away and I became accustomed to talking to people who were complete strangers. I asked them what their story was: Were they born and raised here? Were they an immigrant like me? If I found someone who was an immigrant, I used to stand with them for as long as they wanted to talk to me, so that I could learn from their experiences.
On one occasion, I met a guy outside a convenience store and said, “Hey, how are you?” He responded, “I’m having a good day. How about you?” I said “I’m enjoying it, thanks.” And then I decided to tell him that I was new here and he said, “Hey, welcome to Canada.” Those three words, welcome to Canada, clicked for me. I felt welcomed by someone.
Budgeting for the cost of living
In Canada, the cost of living is much higher than in my home country. Bear in mind that your savings, even though they could last a couple of years in your own country, might be depleted in several months in Canada. So that deadline is continuously on your mind. You have X amount of what are now Canadian dollars, and they can go fast. When you have limited funds, it’s important to calculate how long that money will last based on your monthly expenses: rent, food, transit, and a little set aside for entertainment. I researched the cost of living in Canada online to create my budget and plan.
Finding a job in Canada doing what you love
Once you figure out your expenses, get a roof over your head, and have food on the table, it’s time for the second stage: starting your career in Canada. I was a banker in Pakistan, I had my master’s degree in sales and marketing, and six years experience in retail banking. I wanted to get a job at a bank. There are certain aspects of the banking industry that are universal. They may have different names, but the main rules and the main banking laws are very similar across the globe.
Survival jobs and professional goals
I had budgeted my savings to carry me for six months. I knew in six months time I would be struggling with finances. So I gave myself two months to find the job I wanted. I marked the date on the calendar hanging on my door, so that each day, when I woke up, I would look at that day. This was my deadline, my self-set goal. I knew finding a job was going to take time, but that deadline helped me stay focused.
Some people I spoke to who struggled to find their career in Canada suggested I take a job as a driver, or work in a coffee shop, or at a retail store. I realized that at some point I might have to take a survival job, but not before trying to find the job I had trained for, that I had experience in and that I wanted to do.
I realized that to achieve his goal, I would have to meet people in the banking industry. I asked my wife if she knew anyone in banking and it turned out that, in her social circle, only one person was a banker. When I spoke to her friend, I asked her how long it took her to get into a bank, and she told me it took her two years. I asked her what she did for those two years, and surprisingly, she said, “I wasted my time.” Her advice was, “If you have the experience, you should study. Get the certifications you need.” That connected the dots for me, because I was ready to learn.
Education is the key
There are a lot of organizations in Canada that offer courses to help you settle in and upgrade your skills. I began attending online sessions with several of them. In the first session with ACCES Employment, there were 18 newcomers who were all sharing similar stories: “I’m afraid. I’m scared. I can’t get an interview. Nobody responds to my emails. Nobody replies to my messages.” I realized then that there’s nothing wrong with me. Other people were experiencing the exact same things. Going through those sessions, connecting with different people, hearing their stories, and having continuous conversations helps build your confidence. You feel more comfortable with small talk.
The facilitator of the session was very optimistic, and his approach was very positive. He said, “Just because people aren’t responding doesn’t mean they don’t want to talk to you. They may be very busy. You have to move on.” That positivity gave me strength. I started looking into banking courses in Canada and registered for Investment Funds in Canada, a fundamental requirement course. I completed the course in eight days, and passed the exam on the ninth day. One month had gone by, so I had one month left to land a job in banking.
Networking, connections, and landing a job
I had already been connecting with people on LinkedIn, and started reaching out to bankers. I came across this excellent person who was a branch manager at RBC Meeting Place. He was very kind. I sent him a message on LinkedIn and said, “Hi, I’m Humza and I’m from Pakistan. I have six years of experience in banking and I am interested in pursuing my career with the bank.” He took five days to respond, but he responded, “Hi, I’m sorry I wasn’t able to get back to you. Things are busy here.”
As a newcomer, I had no idea what busy means. Now, as a Canadian, I know how busy life can get.
I sent him my resume and he gave me a few tips on how to edit it for the Canadian job market. I took his suggestions, he reviewed it again and said, “Now it looks good.” My confidence was growing. A week after passing my IFC, a senior manager at RBC was conducting a session. My goal was to work for RBC and I was not going to budge from what I wanted to achieve.
Before the session ended, I sent the facilitator a message saying that I was attending her session and that I appreciated how relatable it was for a newcomer. I told her I had completed my IFC and mentioned how determined I was to work at the bank. She responded and said, “You have good confidence. Show me your CV.” She was also very kind. She asked me how my journey was going and informed me about upcoming recruitment sessions where I could network and potentially find a job. Through those recruitment sessions, I got in touch with a recruiter from RBC and was invited to interview.
I had completed the settling in phase, had done my networking, and was now getting closer to actualizing what I had been working toward––and I had three weeks left. I interviewed with RBC and two other banks and received offers from all. By the end of my two month deadline, I had accepted the offer from RBC.
Humza’s top five tips for newcomers
1. Do your research
Learn as much as you can before leaving home. Understand the cost of living, create a budget, and set a timeline for your job search.
2. Know where you want to be and find ways to get there
It’s important to set goals and have a clear picture of what you want to do. Then you can build a plan. It may take one year, two years, or three years, but you’ll get there.
3. Overcome your fears
Your feelings are natural. But don’t allow your fears to prevent you from achieving your goals. You may try and fail and try and fail, but one day you’ll try and you’ll succeed.
4. Keep an open mind for learning
You can’t reach anywhere without learning. You’ll learn new things. You’ll learn new ways, and you’ll learn to appreciate a lot of things along the way.
5. Take time out to relax
Your situation may be stressful, so make it a part of your routine to take time out to relax. Twill help keep things normal as you prepare your life in Canada.
Six months into my career at RBC, there was an opportunity for me to work for RBC Meeting Place. It’s not like a normal bank branch. Its focus is on helping newcomers settle in. Beyond everyday banking. I was so excited for the opportunity to reciprocate and help newcomers, like people had helped me.
I knew this is where I wanted to be.
I’m in my 15th month in Canada. My professional goal is to have a successful career, and I’m already on that path. I’m already there. The more people I meet, the more appreciation I get, and the more chances I get. My personal goal is to have a Canadian life now. A Canadian life is a family life. You work during the day to enjoy the high quality of life. I feel that, if I can enjoy those things, then I’ve successfully settled in Canada.