Vancouver Island

Move on, Nothing to See Here…


Yesterday I was catching up with a bit of reading on the British Expats site.  This is a great website, with a lot of links to good blogs about moving to and living in Canada, and every one of them gets a reaction from me.  Yesterday, it was the turn of “10 Years And A Change Of Heart”, written by a couple who had moved in their 40s to the west coast of Vancouver Island, looking for the idyllic lifestyle of the holiday retreat.  Guess what they found?  First, there is no employment in idyllic rural retreats, unless you are a fisherman, writer or connected to the tourist industry.  Second, there is no-one to make friends with.  Third, there is nothing to do.  I guess everyone dreams of the quiet life.  We all imagine living on the land, going to back to basics, and sometimes we find ourselves in a place where we really imagine it can work, but usually we are on our holidays and reality is a little warped.  The lesson I took from this blog was, Be Careful What You Wish For.

Before emigrating to your dream retreat, consider the following:  What are you going to do for money?  What are you going to do for company?  What are you going to do for entertainment?  When I told my husband about the blog, he was speechless.  Then he said “Nothing to do? In Vancouver?”  No, not Vancouver.  Vancouver Island.  A space as large as the UK with the population of Cardiff.  A place where families travel every summer to their cabins, where they spend blissful months living the basic, uncomplicated life before returning to the bustle of real life.  One of the things we love about living here in Vancouver is that, if you want to get away from it all, you can.  A quick ferry ride to an island or a slow drive into the interior, and here are towns with a population of 1,000, where you can live for 20 years and still be the outsider, where the best excitement all year is when the local constable shot the cougar that had dragged a deer carcass under the next-door neighbour’s deck (this happened to a friend of mine, the day she moved to her new house with her new baby and her 2 year-old son, from the sophistication of Vancouver to the Wild West in one day).

Some days, like yesterday, when I have dropped off the youngest child at her Musical Theatre class and I am making a quick dash to the Art & Craft store for a gift card for the friend of the middle child, who must be dropped off at her party before I go to a jewellry party at my friend’s house, stopping to collect a friend of the eldest child who is coming to sleepover, but I can’t do any of these things because I am stuck in Saturday shopping traffic, nose to tail around the Mall, and I’m already late to collect the youngest… these are the times I wonder whether we are really any better off than if we lived in England.  But yesterday morning we were at the peak of Mount Seymour, playing in a pure white snowdrift and planning our next skiing trip, and this morning we were downtown, walking the seawall from Science World to Yaletown for coffee and pizza and seal-spotting.  The eldest and her friend took themselves off into the chaos of Chinatown to see the New Year Parade, to buy steamed pineapple buns and lemon triangle cake from the street vendors.  To get there, the two 14-year olds walked through the poorest area of Vancouver, and I did not feel a moment of worry for their safety.

We do not find ourselves outsiders, because in this multicultural melting pot, pretty much everyone is an outsider and we all enjoy our differences.  As Vancouver feels more and more like home, and the UK becomes a distant memory, we sometimes take our life here for granted and find ourselves grumbling.  The comforting thing is that we are grumbling about real life issues, because we are living life to the full.

Where do you dream of moving to, and is it a realistic dream?


Island Living – is it for you?

The ferry to Vancouver Island

The Island Life For Me is a new post from Frank and Sue Gerryts, at Relocation2BC, about the pros and cons of life on The Island (Vancouver Island), or one of the many little ones scattered all around these parts.

10 Things You Need To Know About Jobhunting

I first posted about job hunting some time ago, and a request for job hunting tips reminded me that this is a hot topic that needs updating regularly.  So, although I am not currently looking for a job, here are some ideas from one who survived the job search and is now one of the managers who might just be deciding your future!

Tip 1:  When we moved here, I budgeted for 3 months out of work.  It took 6 months.  Everyone I have spoken to since has said “It always takes 6 months to land a job here.” Why?  I don’t know.

Tip 2:  A Canadian resume is like a British CV, but there are subtle differences.  I eventually landed a job going with a Functional layout, rather than the traditional Chronological, but if you don’t want me to get all technical, just research on all the great web resources and get the resume right.  It is best to get someone to read through both your resume and covering letter (each application needs a fresh covering letter and resume targetted to the specific position and, most importantly, addressed to the right person and company); spelling and grammar mistakes make a big dent in the first impression.

Tip 3:  I didn’t bother getting my qualifications converted before we moved here because it’s very expensive and I’m a generalist, but after 5 months unemployed, I was prepared to pay!  I translated my qualifications on my resume, to give prospective employers some idea of the levels (GCSEs = High School Diploma etc).  If you are a specialist, it pays to get the conversion documents before you start applying for jobs.

Tip 4:  You will need an internet connection from the start.  I used all the main search sites (workopolis, monster, vancouverjobshop), and checked all the recruiting pages of the companies or local government agencies I wanted to work at.  The Provincial and National sites are great (bcjobs, Government jobs, workbc), and a lot of companies use Craigslist, although you must beware of the many scams posted there.

Tip 5:  The job search landscape seems different to me – it’s a highly unionized workforce, but personal recommendation is the way to go.  Networking and forcing introductions pays dividends.  The job hunt process is more personal too – follow up applications with a phone call, follow interviews immediately with a thank you email or card – things that felt pushy in the UK but are expected here.  Now that I am doing the recruiting, I push good prospects to send me their resume and I network to spot the next great addition to my flock.  I heard on the CBC News today that 80% of jobs in British Columbia are “hidden”.  That is, they are never posted, but are filled through networking, personal recommendations or head hunts.  A common tactic is to contact the company you want to work for and request an informational interview with someone in your chosen area (use the company website to find the right name).  Gather information about what qualifications they are seeking and how best to present yourself.  At best, they will like you and offer you a job.  At worst, they will refuse to see you (politely, because we are Canadian).

Tip 6:  The traditional view is that you will take a career and salary step down when you emigrate.  You should expect this.  Even with outstanding written and spoken English and great qualifications, even in the multicultural melting pot of Vancouver, employers are cautious of the unfamiliar.  I couldn’t see how I could be unfamiliar – we were all speaking the same language, and using the same skills after all.  That was until I started sending my first emails at work, and receiving puzzled requests for translation – many of our quaint old phrases haven’t made it across the pond, but you can win over anyone with a carefully placed “Blimey.”

Tip 7:  I joined a couple of agencies to get some temping work, and was very disappointed.  Perhaps my timing was wrong but I eventually got picked up by a local college for the general clerical pool.  A far cry from the HR Manager position I was looking for, but 6 months is a long time for someone who has never been out of work in her life.  My husband was recently laid off when the company he worked for went out of business.  They paid for a career consultant to work with the employees, but with little success.

Tip 8: It depends what you are looking for, but like house hunting, it can help to drive around the area within a decent commuting field, looking for suitable companies, and for Hiring Now signs.  This really works if you are interested in retail or looking for part time work close to home.

Tip 9:  Work BC was recently overhauled and revamped.  This is part of the Provincial Government’s scheme to focus on employment for all, and replaces many of the specialized job search services with more general offerings.  The website has an interactive map of office locations as well as many online services.

Tip 10:  Consider the growth areas.  If you have not entirely set your heart on Vancouver, you might find that your particular skill set is in demand somewhere else in BC.  Kelowna is a growing city with some great opportunities, and in a beautiful part of BC near to the Okanagan with its wonderful climate, vineyards and fruit orchards.  Further into the interior, the weather grows increasingly extreme, but that’s where the logging and oil are, plus a big demand for all essential services like teachers and medical staff.  Vancouver Island is also an option; Nanaimo is pushing itself as a growing city and there are opportunities there.

Bonus Tip:  Do as much work as you can before you arrive, arranging introductions  and networking through Linked In or GMail.  Join professional associations to get into discussion forums and arrange some social or professional development events when you arrive – it makes you feel like you are being proactive and gets you into the work environment quickly.