From an interview with Harshit Rawal
When Harshit decided to move to Canada to build a career in banking, he wanted to properly prepare. Quitting his job a few months before the move enabled him to reach out to other newcomers attending the same college program, arrange accommodation, and develop a plan to make the most of his Canadian college experience. He immersed himself in the college community, becoming a student ambassador, attending events, and growing his LinkedIn profile. By the time he graduated, he had a job offer in hand. Here, Harshit describes how he successfully navigated his move to Canada, built a friendship network, developed ties in the professional community, and landed his dream job.
I was born and raised in Mumbai, India, and always wanted to work as a financial advisor. Multiple generations of my family worked in the banking industry in India so I wanted to follow suit. But I wanted to take it a step further and work in a country that had one of the best banking systems in the world. Canada is definitely one such place, so my decision to move here was straightforward. I also wanted to move to a country that has a colder climate: I actually love the cold.
After earning my Masters in finance in India, I felt it was important to gain banking experience in India before moving to Canada. I worked for different multinational organizations in India to build my work experience and get to know the work culture of a bank. I chose to come to Canada as an international student, to study financial planning and wealth management at Lambton College in Sarnia. Once I got accepted and my study permit was approved, I dedicated myself to preparing. I quit my job in India about three months before my arrival at Toronto Pearson Airport in August 2019.
Build a network before moving to Canada
During those few months leading up to my departure, I completed the necessary paperwork and researched Canadian cities, transit, and accommodation options. My primary concern was finding good accommodation because I knew choosing the right place to live was instrumental to a great experience. I set up groups through Whatsapp and Facebook to connect with other people arriving in Canada from India to attend the same study program.
Before leaving for Canada, I already had a network of friends travelling from India to Sarnia. We booked our flights to arrive in Toronto within a couple days of each other. We also arranged our temporary accommodation in advance, and rented an apartment together for the first couple weeks. Since we all arrived around the same time, the cost was shared equally and nobody was left paying a larger share due to roommates showing up many days later.
I was very excited about meeting new people and learning a new culture. And even though I had a network of friends already, I did experience some culture shock. I was surprised by how early Canadians go to bed. In India, we come home from work around 8 p.m. and don’t eat dinner until quite late, heading to bed around 1 a.m. In Sarnia, it was lights out at 9 p.m. Adjusting to the food was challenging as well, especially since I’m vegetarian. But I learned to cook my own meals.
A reference letter boosts job search efforts
I found that my college program offered a practical education that helped me get job-ready so I could hit the ground running when I graduated. In the final few months of school, I wanted to land a co-op position at a bank. I believe my strategy helped set me apart from other students.
I viewed my professors as my employers, which meant they could vouch for my strong work ethic over the past two years. I asked for general reference letters to offer proof that I was a good student, engaged, and motivated. I wanted to be able to submit it any time I applied for a job. I first used it to obtain a co-op position.
I walked into one of the biggest branches of a national bank in Sarnia with my resume, cover letter, and reference letter, mentally prepared to do a job interview that very day. Although there wasn’t a job opening at the time, I asked to speak to the manager and was interviewed on-the-spot. The reference letter definitely made a difference. The manager created a co-op position just for me.
Get involved in the school community
It helped that I was very active in the college community for the two years I was there. I was a student ambassador for the college because I knew that position exposed me to many professional connections. I worked hard to earn the position, and was quickly promoted to international student ambassador. As a result, I attended many events and got to know local business and banking professionals. At the same time, I was active on LinkedIn posting content and growing my network.
It was through these combined efforts that I met the RBC branch manager who eventually hired me. We kept in touch throughout my studies, and as soon as I graduated, I was offered a position as an advisor at RBC. I’m celebrating my two-year work anniversary in June.
Networking opens doors
I’ve been in Canada for more than three years now and continue to participate in local events. I attend young professional events and those hosted by the Sarnia Chamber of Commerce. I’ve been able to speak on behalf of newcomers and am part of the city’s efforts to attract more newcomers. In my role at RBC, I help many newcomers open bank accounts. I love to help them, help them, answer their questions, and provide guidance—I’ve walked in their shoes.
My two biggest pieces of advice to newcomers is, first, to make networking a priority. Building connections through LinkedIn and by attending events can open many doors. And, second, I recommend wise financial management. For example, I see newcomers arrive and, right away, want to buy a car. This can lead into unnecessary debt that can be hard to climb out of. So, I remind them to hold off on those big expenses if they are able.
I’m grateful for the life I’ve built in Sarnia where I’ve already bought my first house. I like the quiet of this city; I can drive to work in 10 minutes with no traffic! The people here are really nice. It’s amazing how everyone smiles and says ‘hello’ as you pass them on the street. Initially, I wondered, why do they do that? People aren’t like that where I come from. But now I realize it’s just the way people are here; they treat one another with courtesy and kindness.