From an interview with Prateek Singh Bawa.
Prateek Singh Bawa hadn’t really considered moving to Canada or anywhere else for that matter. After completing his Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Delhi, India, his plan was to gain some industry experience before starting an MBA. He worked for global companies in the FinTech and Software sectors, eventually specializing in strategic partnerships. In 2018, Prateek went to see a movie one evening with a friend and the topic of how Canada was inviting people to immigrate came up. Prateek’s research began. He found out as much as he could about Canada and began his journey through the process of application, along with self-reflection, and preparation. Eleven months later, he was in Toronto. Prateek shares his story of learning, making plans, revising them, and always believing in himself. He also shares his experience, coaching and mentoring newcomers as an Arrive ambassador.
I am a big believer in understanding and knowing first before getting into something, no matter what it is. I like to plan and do my research. So, when I decided to come to Canada, I started reading articles, to find out what was happening, what newcomers in Canada were saying, how the immigration process worked, and if I had the prerequisites. Then I tried to connect all the dots to see if I was actually capable of doing this.
I explored different immigration options, and Express Entry aligned well with my work experience, skills and my timeline. I took the English language exam, did my degree evaluation and things started to fall into place. I applied in October 2018 and landed in Toronto in September 2019.
Your checklist should include understanding Canadian culture
- Find employment
- Find accomodation
- Open a bank account
- Understand Canadian culture
- Build your network
The top three items on most newcomer checklists are clearly very important housekeeping items: you’ll need to get a job, find a good place to live, and open your bank account. It’s also important to know about Canadian culture. I understood from my research that a hiring manager would probably consider cultural fit before hiring me. I explored how I could leverage my network to know more about the culture in Canada.
I began networking while I was still in India. Because I worked for a Cloud technology company, I was able to reach out to some U.S. and Canadian clients and ask them questions; I even got a couple of interviews. That’s how I started connecting with a lot of people and building my Canadian network.
The more people you talk to, the more you’ll know about Canada
Utilize your time before coming to Canada to find out as much as you can about how things work here. Speak to newcomers – people like me. Speak to people who are working in the kinds of jobs that you aspire to be in, so you can understand their career progression. Find out what they have done to succeed and what challenges they faced. If there is a certification that you have to update or course you should take, then you can plan well ahead for it. It’s crucial that you take ownership and responsibility for your success. Be proactive. That way, when you land in Canada you’ll have a head start.
Even though most people are working remotely due to COVID-19, people are still connecting using technology. I can go to LinkedIn to search for my prospective employer, where I would want to work, and seek out individuals who are working in a specific role. If I ask them for a coffee chat or informational session, the worst that can happen is they will say, “No, I’m too busy.” If they give you fifteen minutes of their time, you have that fifteen minutes of wisdom to add to your own.
Newcomers helping newcomers
When I came to Canada I spoke to many successful newcomers and newcomer organizations, like ACCES Employment, TRIEC (where I found my mentor), and Arrive.These organizations are focussed on helping newcomers make a smooth transition to life in Canada. As an Arrive ambassador I have been coaching and mentoring newcomers. Over the past year I think I’ve spoken to almost a hundred people from different countries – some in the planning stages of their journey and others who are already in Canada.
Most of these conversations would be around “How can I find employment?”, while others wondered “Did I make the right decision to come to Canada?” Of course, people wanted to talk about how to deal with the hurdles that come with COVID-19 restrictions. Some sessions involved people looking for ways to keep motivated and stay positive – just wanting to talk to somebody and have that positive feeling. I was always open to having those conversations with newcomers.
I realized that thousands of lives were being impacted by COVID-19, especially newcomers who were on the verge of coming to Canada or maybe had just arrived in Canada. So it’s very important for people like us to step up for new arrivals. I used my own experience, but I could also share resources: articles, guides, webinars, or redirect people to where they could get some advice from experts. I know how to open a bank account, but a bank advisor would be able to do a better job explaining it.
Helping other newcomers has also helped me to create my personal brand. I want to be a thought leader who inspires and encourages people, so mentoring and coaching people will help me in future leadership roles. And this is helping me in my current job. I’m able to speak to people, I know different languages, people like me. It is helping me everywhere.
So many people I have spoken to have come back to me on LinkedIn, and even calls saying, “Thanks for this positivity, thanks for talking to us. We were just looking for someone to talk to. Thanks for your guidance, We got a job, thank you for the reference.”
I want to make this world or this society a better place to live in. I have seen so much in my life – lots of ups and downs. I have been able to grow in my career, both professionally and personally, and while I’ve achieved some of this on my own, I have also been helped by others along the way, and I want to pay that forward.
Canada is a big place: Keep an open mind and be flexible
When I was first researching Canada, back in Delhi, the top cities that came up were Toronto and Vancouver. They are major hubs. Most newcomers want to be in these cities because there are lots of jobs. But there is also lots of competition and the cost of living is very high in these cities.
When I arrived in Toronto, I got an entry level job in sales. I literally had to knock on doors of businesses to get sales. When COVID-19 hit, this outside sales job became an inside telesales job: it was not the job I wanted to do. I am an extrovert, and because I couldn’t meet people in person it had a negative impact on my performance – and there was pressure to meet targets. I decided to reset and apply for different jobs.
My goal as a newcomer was to buy a car, buy a house, bring my parents here and settle in for a better life. I didn’t have money from India, so buying a house in Toronto seemed impossible to me, given how expensive the market it is for real estate. I decided to look outside of Toronto for options in neighboring cities like Kitchener or London. These areas still have everything Ontario offers but the cost of living is comparatively cheaper.
Change of plans: Moving to Saskatoon
I started researching different companies and organizations, including one based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I checked their website, saw the career page, connected with the recruiter on LinkedIn – and boom – I got the job! I am now in a company where I can see my career path to my ideal job. Saskatoon is home to great technology companies (the technology sector is booming in the Prairies) and it’s a place where I can buy a house in a couple of years.
Saskatoon is a small city, but you get everything that you need in a city with less traffic. I can walk or cycle to work. Whenever I’m walking on the streets people will say hi. Even people who don’t know you. Everyone seems to have time, and if you have time in your life, you are mentally strong.
Life 2.0 takes time. Be patient
Coming to a new country is one of the most difficult steps that anyone can take. You have nothing. You leave your parents, your job, your family, your money behind. It is essentially life 2.0. So there are a few things which I think are really important to set you up for success. Yes, you have to do LinkedIn networking and all those things. But in addition to that, you have to be mentally prepared.
There is one mantra that I live by: Good things take time. To me, that is the universal truth. There are certain things that will happen only when they are supposed to happen. You may have to change something, you may have to start over, but you need to trust yourself, your abilities, and know that you can do this. Come with a plan and stick to it. If that doesn’t work, then have a plan B.