Everyday I deal with newcomers who remind me of my first days in Canada.
October 19, 2017

I came to Canada in 1998. I was 33. My English was good, so I didn’t go to class. But I took Immigration Services Society classes on job finding techniques in Canada. I had no idea what a resume was; it was so different from the principles of finding work in my home country. I also took basic computer / internet ( which was a novelty even in Canada on those days) courses along with them.

I had an engineering and library degree but wanted to work in the libraries, though looking for both at first. Everybody was asking for Canadian experience! When I was applying for my own professions,  I was “over-qualified”  for entry-level positions yet didn’t have the “Canadian experience” to work as a librarian or an engineer.

I had 3-4 resumes: one for working as a kitchen helper, one for working as a clerk in a bookstore/ video-shop  (yes, there were video-rental shops at the time!), another one for engineering, and one for a librarian. I worked in survival jobs: kitchen helper, dishwasher, Subway and coffee shops for two years to put bread on the table and support my wife going to school.

Meanwhile, I didn’t quit looking for work in the libraries, either applying in person or sending my resume to all public and academic libraries. I remember applying as many as 50 times a week.

I became a member of BC Library Association to network and find out about jobs that were not in daily newspapers (the "hidden job market"). I took 2 courses in Langara College just to upgrade my resume though I had already passed them in my school days in Iran.

Finally, I saw no choice other than  applying to UBC Library School to get a library degree for the second time. I was preparing to start school in September when finally came the good news: my first interview! I got a phone interview with Kitimat Library, but no success: I had no Canadian experience.

I got a temporary three-months position three days a week in Nanaimo Library on Vancouver Island  to replace a maternity leave. My daily routine in order to work from 9-5: wake up at 5 am, hire a taxi to bus terminal, catch the ferry to Nanaimo, public transit to the library, to be there just before 9 am. The same in the evening. So many times I would miss the ferry in the last minutes and had to spend the night  in the Island. I spent one-third of my earning just on the commute. I did this for three months. It was very tiring but it was fruitful: now I had Canadian experience.

At the end of the contract I got two new offers: Surrey Public Library and Port Moody Library at the same time. The latter one had rejected me just a few months ago because of lack of experience. Thanks to Nanaimo, this time I had Canadian references and experience.

I emphasized in my interviews my eagerness as a newcomer and promised to deliver more and work twice as hard to prove myself. My enthusiasm was contagious and seemed to charm them. I started as an on-call, then part time, and then finally full-time. I am still working both full-time in Surrey and as on-call/Sundays in Port Moody for the past 18 years.

I am grateful to all those who helped me and encouraged me: teachers in Immigration Services classes, co-workers in Nanaimo/Surrey/Port Moody who supported me on my early days who let me learn from my mistakes and improve my skills. Surrey Library that offered me the first real job. It is a great place to work: friendly co-workers, supportive managers, lots of opportunities to grow and a life-time of learning. I love my job: I am a  book addict. My job gives me the opportunity to share this joy with my patrons. Every day I deal with newcomers who remind me of my first days in Canada: both the hard and good days.This gives me the motivation to assist them more compassionately because I was once in their shoes myself.

Do not lose hope, remember looking for work itself is a full time job, get a  survival job to earn some money to have some ease of mind but do not get stuck in it: Focus / study/ network for positions in your main career.

Shared by Saied Forouzi in support of Surrey NEW.