2023-02-24T15:17:50-05:00Apr 1, 2022|

How to start from scratch in Canada to get where you belong

From an interview with Jaspreet Kaur, Banking Advisor, RBC Newcomer Meeting Place.

Jaspreet Kaur came to Canada at the age of 19. She knew very little about Canada or how things worked, and had no work experience. She struggled at times, but set out to prove herself. One of the biggest challenges was finding a job. She dropped off resumes at every retail store she could until, finally, she got her first job opportunity. Jaspreet worked in retail, holding a full-time job in addition to a part-time job for years, eventually moving to a management role. She then switched careers to banking and had to start over again. Jaspreet eventually landed a role with RBC, and recently joined the team at RBC Newcomer Meeting Place. This is Jaspreet’s story of how she uses her personal immigration experience to help newcomers reach their goals and make their new home in Canada.


When I started out on my own in Canada, the newcomer resources that exist now were not available. I’ll be very honest, it was a struggle. I didn’t know what to do, or where to go for a Social Insurance Number (SIN), or how to get a Driver’s Licence, or a health card. My uncle helped me speak to a landlord about renting a place, and then I started looking for a job.

I still remember taking the bus, whether it was winter or summer, to local malls, and dropping my resume off at every single store inside. I took that as a challenge and decided that I would prove myself. I actually had blisters on my feet from all the walking, and I still did not get any calls. I don’t blame anybody because I had no experience and had nothing on my resume. But I didn’t give up. I believe that when one door closes, another opens.

From entry level, to management, to a career change

One of my neighbours, who happened to be a manager at a post office, heard about my story and offered to help. I went in the next day for an interview and she said she would give me a chance. That’s how my Canadian employment journey began.

I worked very hard and also took a part-time job at a large office supply retailer. For a good 12 years, I worked seven days a week, almost 13 hours a day with both jobs. My part-time employer wanted me to join full time and there were opportunities to grow in management there. So I switched my part-time and full-time jobs. I worked as a manager for eight years before deciding to change my career to banking.

Back in India, my father was a banker and had always hoped one of his daughters would follow in his footsteps. My mother and sister are both teachers. One day, I walked into a bank and thought about what it would be like to work there. It seemed very similar to retail, in terms of helping clients.

So, I started applying and I got a call from RBC. I was fortunate. I got a telephone interview and they offered me an entry-level position. Although I was at a managerial level in my current job, and would have to take a big pay cut, I said yes. I was fulfilling my father’s dream and starting a new journey with RBC.

Beyond banking at RBC Newcomer Meeting Place

I have worked for RBC for eight years as a banking advisor. My branch was near the Newcomer Meeting Place in Brampton, Ontario, and I volunteered to help them with events. That was my first exposure to the concept. I was mesmerized: the meeting place is so unique. It’s a very welcoming, cozy, little place, where  we help newcomers with banking and much, much more.

We advisors each have a name tag, which says, “ask me anything.” This is the concept in a nutshell. A newcomer may have a question about employment, or how to apply for a Social Insurance Number. They might have a question about daycares or how to pay rent, or how to access transit.  Anything and everything that comes to your mind as a newcomer, you can ask us. We will help you. And, if we don’t have the answer, we will find the answers or connect you with people who do. We have many connections and partnerships with newcomer support services and organizations. We also run workshops, seminars, and training sessions. The more you know as a newcomer, the better.

I enjoy helping people. I need to be in an environment where I’m contributing something to the organization, as well as giving  back to the community. When I was struggling, there were a lot of times when I was standing at the bus stop, up to my knees in snow, and people would offer me a lift. Now it’s my turn to pay it forward. I volunteer a lot of my time, wherever there’s an opportunity. It gives me a very unique sense of happiness and accomplishment to know that I have actually helped newcomers.

Jaspreet’s top five tips for newcomers

1. Check out the Arrive Website

I tell newcomers it’s the go-to tool and has all the information you need. It cover everything from preparing your move from your own home country to landing here, understanding the job market, finding a place to live, and more.

2. Understand Canadian culture 

If you’re coming to Canada you’re probably coming here with the intention of staying here for the rest of your life. You need to understand the country’s history, beliefs, and values before you arrive.

3. Understand the work culture

The Canadian work culture is likely different from what you’re usd to back home. Talk to people who work here. Find out about a company’s culture when you are interview with them

4. Follow Canadian etiquette

A simple please and thank you is important to us Canadians. Remember to hold the door open for somebody behind you. Don’t just let the door close on that person. Be friendly and say hello. These little things are based on a culture of caring about each other.

5. Improve your communication skills

You are the best judge of your own skills. If you think you speak too fast, and you’re searching for a job, you may want to rehearse speaking a bit slower for interviews. Practise your elevator pitch and interview questions at home with friends or family members.

As a newcomer myself, I understand how newcomers feel. You’re leaving the comfort of home, the comfort of employment, and the comfort of income to come to a brand new country.
The first few months or years will be challenging, but that’s a normal part of the process. As long as you have the right mindset, the right skillset, and you’re open to change, you will succeed.

You’ll need to be resilient, agile, and adaptable. With a positive attitude and a goal in mind, things will become easier. Take life one step by time, ask a lot of questions, reach out to your resources, and don’t give up. Many newcomers have gone through this journey. And whether you’ve been here for six months, five years or 20-plus years, one day you will be where most of us are today. We’ve established ourselves, we’re comfortable calling Canada home, and we’re here to help.