From an interview with Clarinda Andres, Business Account Management, RBC
Newcomers come to Canada for many different reasons: out of need, out of desperation, out of a desire to broaden career horizons or to make a better life. Clarinda’s journey began as an adventure in life. In 2011, she came to Canada from the Philippines, where she ran a successful business for five years. Her goal was to experience new cultures while exploring all the possibilities and opportunities Canada had to offer. Her decision to start a new life in Canada was an informed one, based on managed risk. Leaving everything behind was difficult, but Clarinda had a pretty good idea of how things would work out at home and, instead, decided to take the chance and face the challenges to make a new life for herself and her kids. Here’s her story.
When I decided to move to Canada, I knew everything would be brand new. It really was an adventure, and I knew that if I didn’t like it, I could always go home. But I wanted to try it out and give my kids more opportunities down the road. Everybody back home was asking, “Why are you going? Why are you leaving everything behind? If it’s not broken, why fix it?” I told them it might not be broken; I just want to decorate it a little bit more.
Managing risk against opportunity coming to Canada
There are risks involved in every decision we make. Especially when that decision is to leave your home and everything behind and commit to starting over in a new country, it’s very important that you consider everything that is valuable to you, and remember that every person’s situation is different.
What I hold important to me may be different from another person. That’s why you need to look into yourself; ask yourself why you want to move and understand what you want to achieve. Put that at the forefront and research all of the challenges that you will face. Weigh those challenges against the opportunities, and then you can make your decision. At the same time, you have to have the courage to take that leap because nothing is guaranteed.
We had brought enough money to cover a few months, assuming that we would not find work right away. We stayed with my husband’s aunt and calculated on being there for three months, and then we would go out on our own. I really wanted to see how it would pan out, to see if we could make it starting from scratch.
There were months when we were just looking for jobs, but there’s lots of support for newcomers in Canada. I was really amazed that I could drop my kids at school, and it was free. There are programs to assist with childcare, and for first-time home buyers, there are tax credits, there are free and discounted programs out there for newcomers, and of course, universal health care.
“The Canadian economy supports people starting out.”
It lifts you up in the sense that you know the government and community organizations will help you with the basics. And then as you enter into the job market and start earning, that allotment goes to somebody else who needs it.
Career-wise, there are many opportunities in Canada, and for me, it all depends on you how far you want to go. In some countries, you are destined to be a teacher or lawyer, an accountant, or a shop owner. However, here in Canada, it’s so diverse, and there are so many other ways that you can go and so many ways you can grow personally and professionally. You can invent a career here.
Even when you retire, there are still many things you can do. Maybe I will teach English as a second language to newcomers. I don’t see the limits. And remember, if you need help, just ask for it.
“The opportunities are here. You can actually dream something and find the ways to make it happen.”
It’s not easy. My first three jobs were part-time, seasonal, and commission-based. I was trying to find out which area or which industry I should go into. I took this time to discover my environment and myself – to learn where I could actually start over. I knew I had the skills, but here in Canada, the difference is you need to zero in on something first. You need to identify what field you would like to apply to a specific job. I tried marketing, I tried pure selling, and I tried customer service.
It was a learning experience, but it was also painful. It was like a mix of eating something sweet and sour. I was a very established business professional back home, and I had never really experienced seasonal or part-time work. I really did start from the bottom. I was doing shopper intercepts at large retail stores, introducing customers to new products. I was also a seasonal check-in agent at Pearson International Airport. It was wintertime, and I was checking in all of the people who fly south for the winter. They call them snowbirds!
These were all great experiences in the sense that I got to talk to Canadians and see how they lived their lives. I thought maybe one day I’ll go south for the winter too.
Helping newcomers with a brand new way of banking
I joined Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) in 2015 as a banking advisor intern and then moved up to become a digital banking advisor. A couple of years later, one of the managers who hired me asked me if I wanted to be a part of an alternative form of banking: RBC Newcomer Meeting Place. It was brand new!
Everyone involved was doing this for the first time. We were all highly skilled and trained to give financial advice. But to be in the community and to help newcomers in their settlement, that was totally new. That’s not what bankers typically do. RBC wanted to help clients thrive, and communities prosper. It was challenging, but it was a wonderful opportunity and a real privilege because I got to help out.
I heard so many newcomer stories of their different journeys and struggles. They came from the heart, and I understood what they were going through because I didn’t get that much support, starting out. I did it on my own. But now, I could help so it wouldn’t be quite so hard for them.
I asked my manager why he picked me. “Well,” he said, “You’re young, you’re entrepreneurial, you have a strong work ethic, and you’re ready to learn and jump into new things.”
Clarinda’s tips for life, career, and finance in Canada
If you can embrace everything that’s new and different in Canada – you’re going to really enjoy it here. So just open up, learn, and embrace the different cultures, the different ways of doing things, the four seasons. You need to embrace the change and learn from it and grow. The payoff is that when you embrace life in Canada, you get to enjoy living in Canada and being Canadian.
Be prepared to find opportunities in Canada by doing your homework. It would be best if you researched because it’s totally different from wherever you came from. Give yourself six months to find a job. Whatever opportunity is available here, it’s really up to you where you want to go and how you want to progress in your career here and along the way. If you have already found a job, don’t stop there. You’ve got to dream further and never stop growing, never stop developing. Opportunity is here. You’ll find it.
Be realistic when it comes to managing your personal finances in Canada. You’ll need time to go through the settling in process, but you’re going to get there. Take into consideration your situation, your expectations, and if you have family or friends here to offer support. Staying with family when you arrive will save you money on rent.
Learning how to prepare a budget for the first few months is very important. Calculate how much you’ll need for rent, food, clothing, transportation – and looking for a job – and then balance that against how much money you are bringing with you. Tighten your belt for a bit while you’re settling in until you find that more stable job and your income is more predictable. Then you can really budget your money.
“Speak to a bank advisor and say, Hi. I’m a newcomer. I need to set up my account, and I need advice on how to establish myself financially. What are the available benefits for me as a newcomer?”
The first thing you should do when you arrive is open a bank account. That’s how you establish yourself. And when you find a job, you’ll have a chequing account to deposit your salary and pay your bills. Whatever money you bring in, we would normally advise you to put it in a savings account.
And, if you’re coming with kids, I would suggest looking into the Registered Educational Savings Plan (RESP), which is a savings account for parents who want to save for their child’s education after high school.
Once you’ve found a job and become more established, then, of course, it is very important to start saving for retirement. Canada’s Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) allows you to save money for retirement and get tax credits for doing so.
Whether I’m opening an account for a personal or business client, if the person in front of me is a newcomer, then there’s so much more to talk about. I would definitely give guidance in terms of finding work: Where to start, where to get training, and maybe refer them to community partners for free courses.
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My growth and learning in Canada has been exponential
Moving here with my kids has definitely been a win-win situation. I have no regrets. My advice to newcomers is to be prepared for change. It may be challenging, it may be hard for you, but you are resilient. Open your mind to learning and embracing everything new. It’s the only way to really enjoy the opportunity that has been given to you.