Navigating COVID-19 as a New Immigrant to Canada

New to Canada? Here’s how to combat the COVID crisis.

These are uncertain times for us all. The ongoing corona virus pandemic has made daily life challenging as many of us are struggling to adjust with this new normal. While it is important for us to continue to maintain social distancing in order to flatten the curve, this has inadvertently affected our emotional well being and social life, and for most of us our jobs and finances are at stake as well. The difficulty of this situation amplifies if, like me, you also are a new immigrant to Canada and were struggling to find a foothold in the first place.

Speaking from personal experience, having immigrated to Canada last year I started to feel like my life was getting back on a track of normalcy only in early 2020. After working hard to get my permanent resident status, making the big move to a foreign land, and figuring out life and living in Canada, I finally landed the job of my dreams in December 2019. Come mid-March and the onset of the pandemic hit, I felt like someone erased the blackboard where I was chalking out my life’s equation since the past many years. If like me, you too are a new immigrant to Canada and all this uncertainty has left you feeling sad and dejected, I urge you to read on.

Remember, you are not alone; remember, we are not alone. Canada is the land of opportunity and dreams; so many migrants before us are living proof of that. The world will heal and recover, we just need to stay optimistic and focused towards our end goals. Here’s what you can do in the mean time:

new immigrant to Canada

The Hunt Must Go On

Whether you’re new to Canada and looking for first job in the country or you’re someone who has been temporarily laid off and looking for employment opportunities, remember the job hunt has to go on! Yes, I know, fewer organizations are hiring nowadays, and there are budget cuts and lay offs happening left, right and center, but don’t let that deter you.

There are so many essential services such as grocery stores and pharmacies that are looking to hire. If working alone makes you more comfortable, warehouse jobs are another option to consider. And since so many businesses are carrying out their operations from their home offices, there are work from home opportunities available as well. As many provinces are heading towards re-opening businesses, we may see a gradual increase in job listings in the days to come. Remember to keep applying, even if the deafening silence out there tells you otherwise. It always helps for HR to have your resume on file for future opportunities, even if they don’t get back to you for the job you had in mind.

Build Your Resume

Don’t let all this precious free time go to waste, there are so many other things you can do besides baking banana bread and ‘Netflix and Chill’. Try looking up for professional development courses online that can add weight to your resume. There are plenty of hard and soft skill development courses available on the web.

Online learning platform Coursera has made some of their popular courses available for free during the pandemic. The course certificates are a great value addition to your LinkedIn profile and your resume. Another great website to look up online courses is Lynda learning from LinkedIn group, but I believe most of their courses are paid. I also recently discovered Shaw Academy that has a limited number of popular online tutorials. (Fido customers receive three months of free online classes with Shaw Academy via the Xtras section on the My Fido app.)

Harvard University is offering free online courses to support education during the ongoing pandemic and you can check it out here.

(Virtual) Networking is Key

Networking is the key to landing a job in Canada. If I had a dollar for every time someone said that to me…! Nevertheless, I am going to reiterate the importance of networking in a foreign country, not only with the purpose of landing a job but also with the intention on building a social circle.

Though in-person networking events may be a thing of the past, at least for some time now, networking is still very much possible. I swear by Meet Up’s virtual networking events, they have everything from book clubs to meditation classes that you can attend virtually from the safety of your home. Check Meet Up out here or download their app. Shapr is another professional networking app that’s surging in popularity. It easy to use and connects to you to other like-minded professionals as per your field of interest. It’s basically Tinder for professionals.

Another great professional networking resource is the Arrive website and app. After filling your profile out, Arrive matches you with a weekly ambassador and two weekly connections for you to network with via chat. Apart from that the site also has plenty of resources for new immigrants and those looking to immigrate as well.

Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn here. I’d be more than happy to help you make connections in my network, answer any professional queries or make endorsements.

new immigrant to Canada

Apply for Financial Benefits

Let’s address the elephant in the room here – the financial impact COVID19 has had on all of us. Especially so for the new migrant with limited savings in a foreign currency who’s value in all probability is less than the dollar. I can completely empathize here, because so many of us are unemployed at the moment and don’t have the privilege of being in a profession that allows us to work from home.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) has made life a little bit more comfortable, allowing us to pay our rent on time, buy our essential groceries and that occasional wine bottle from LCBO. It is easy to apply for CERB either via the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or Service Canada, and allows you to receive $2000 every month for upto four months. For more information on the eligibility and how to apply check out the link here. If you have immigrated to Canada with your child(ren), you may be eligible for the Canada Child Benefit and you can read more about that here.

Migrated to Canada in 2019? Remember the deadline to file your taxes is the 1st of June, 2020. Check out the free virtual tax clinics run by CRA here and find a volunteer who can help.

Volunteer – Now More Than Ever

Volunteering in your field is a great way to understand the Canadian culture and to show future employers how passionate you are about your work. In-person volunteering opportunities may be limited, but a lot of organizations are on the look out for participants to help out with home office positions. Charity Village is a great site to look for volunteering opportunities which you can filter based on location, job title and home office roles. Think LinkedIn but for volunteers.

Are you an internationally trained healthcare professional working on obtaining your license or looking for an alternative career? The Ministry of Health in Ontario is calling for help from internationally trained healthcare professionals during the COVID19 crisis. This is such a great opportunity to improve your credentials and also give back to society. You can apply here.

Slow Down and Smell the Roses

Take this time to slow down and reconnect with yourself. This pandemic has been immensely stressful for all of us, without the unnecessary pressure of being productive. It’s perfectly all right if you wake up one morning and don’t feel like being resourceful, and all you want to do is binge watch your favourite show, eat cookies, and drink wine at noon. Been there, done that! Remember we are never going to get this time of leisure and self reflection back again.

Do things that make you happy – it could be a hobby, getting some exercise, learning a new skill or discovering your love for TikTok videos. Remember, in the process of trying to safeguard our physical health, let’s not forget our mental health.

Stay Connected

This global pandemic has united the world as one. We are in this together, even though we are all fighting an individual battle. In these times of self isolation, being asked to stay away from our friends and family can be a great challenge. It is even more difficult if you are an immigrant with your entire social circle in a different country operating on a different time zone. However, technology has made it easier to stay connected now more than ever. Pick up that phone and call your friends back home. Make sure you FaceTime your family everyday. Have virtual game nights on Zoom, or book reading clubs, or learn a new recipe or whatever else helps keep you socially connected.

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