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What About a Survival Job?


Most new comers come to Canada with all the zeal and expectations when they arrived to get a good and stable job, be able to have their own home, to buy a new car and provide a comfortable life for their family. Though I also have high expectations when it comes to getting a better-paying job, a part of me was also prepared with the possibility of not getting the job that is inline with what I used to do when I was still in the Philippines.

Whenever, I talk to new immigrants who will tell me that they cant seem to find a job in their field because they are given the excuse that they have no Canadian experience, I always go back to how my husband and I started, we were on the same boat when we just came to Canada. For 2 months, all our days and nights were spent in front of the computer, looking for job opportunities.

We both started with a survival job. My husband and I took this route before we got back to the track that we wanted to really take wit regards to our career. I actually got a job in my line of expertise in one of the government offices in Winnipeg, that was my very first job. Unfortunately, I had to give it up after a few weeks, because I cannot get a day care for my then 4-year old son and a year old daughter. My husband on the other hand, whose into IT was often asked about his Canadian experience and various certifications whenever he tries to get a job in his field, he then decided to accept the job of a warehouse assembler in Canadas largest retail company.

Even though he wasn’t quite sure about what this would entail, we had come to the conclusion that his job would require him to complete various tasks, which was good because at least he wouldn’t get bored during his shift. He told me that he was particularly looking forward to using some good stairway ladders to reach items that had been stored out of reach. He said that this is what he thought about when he accepted the warehouse assembler job. I remember wishing that he would take the relevant safety precautions if he had to do this though, as I wouldn’t want him hurting himself. At least he was excited by this prospect anyway.

For a family whos just starting a life in Canada, having one bread- winner in the family is not enough, especially if there are lots of things that you want to accomplish for your family This is the reason why after 2 months from giving up a full time job in a government office, I decided to work as a part-time storefront staff in Canadas most popular quick service restaurant chain known for its coffee and doughnuts. Since I am only working part-time and we want to save money needed for the down payment for our first home, my husband also took a part-time job in a small janitorial services company. I’d heard some smaller companies ask their staff to bring their own cleaning supplies, but fortunately for us, they provided him with janitorial products that allowed him to do his job so we could concentrate on saving money.

With the way my husband and I started I will really say that taking a survival job is also a good option for new immigrants, bringing your education and professional experience from your home country will not guarantee that you will land to the job that you want as soon as you arrived in Canada. With the increasing number of educated immigrants from different regions competition is really tough. In addition to this, we cannot also disregard the fact that there is also discrimination and complexities around recognizing a foreign degree.

If you will ask me, there is no doubt that a survival job is a solution to new comers who need to earn a living to settle their monthly bills while waiting for an opportunity to get your career back on track. Also, a survival job will provide you with the Canadian experience that some employers require, moreover, if English is not your first language, it will be a good venue for you to practice your English.

Here in Canada, there are various jobs that a new immigrant can start doing while waiting for a good career opportunity for them, some of these typical survival jobs are:

  • Storefront staff in Coffee Shops Tim Horton, Starbucks Coffee and Robins Donuts is among the largest chain of coffee shops in Canada that is always in need of people.
  • Crew in Fast-Food Restaurants Fast-food chain are always hiring people, among the popular restaurants in Canada are McDonalds, Burger King, Wendys, Booster Juice, Chicken Delight, Pizza Pizza and many others.
  • Cashier/Store Clerk in Retail Stores Drugstores and groceries are employers that will not normally require a Canadian experience. Among the largest retailers in Canada are Metro, Shoppers Drug Mart, Safeway, Canadian Tire, Sobeys, Rona, Hudsons Bay and of course Loblaw Companies Ltd. banner stores (Real Canadian Superstore, No Frills, Wholesale Club, Extra Foods, Provigo, Zehrs, Save Easy and others.) Aside from drugstores and groceries, mall boutiques and stores are also frequently hiring.
  • Store Merchandiser or Warehouse Assembler Most of these groceries are also always in need of part-time merchandisers who usually works in the evening or warehouse order assembler which gives decent pay but involves hard work.
  • Staff in a Janitorial/Home Cleaning Services Companies this kind of job involves cleaning offices, building and other business establishments or even houses. There are a number of big and small businesses that provides this service. There are cleaning services companies who pay their employee by the hour while some pay their staff depending on the size of the area that needs to be cleaned and the frequency of days that they clean.

Starting with a survival job doesn’t mean that you need to build a career on it, instead, use it to your advantage, and use it as a stepping-stone for the success of your career. As for me and my husband, the survival job that we had has been instrumental in getting the job that we have right now, at present, we are both employed by Canadas largest retail company as a Warehouse Supervisor and as an Office Manager, respectively. My experience as a storefront crew inspired me to persevere even more to get the job that I want and helped me learn about the culture in Canada and more importantly it improved my self-confidence. As for my husband, he did not pursue his IT career (though he does it for friends & family sometimes). Of course, I wholeheartedly support him in any decisions that he wants to make regarding his career. And I love the fact that he still puts his skills to good use, as if he ever does change his mind, he has the knowledge and experience to pursue it. At one point, he was talking about getting his Microsoft Certification by sitting the microsoft 70-483 exam and I think he was even revising for it at one point, but he didn’t continue. It’s a shame really, as this could’ve opened even more doors for him. But as I said, I’m supporting him in whatever he wants to do. Just like me his first job in Canada helped him learn about Canada’s culture through his interaction with his colleagues at work and it also made him realize that he can also excel in other fields, he used his experience as a warehouse assembler in climbing up the ladder until he reached the place where he is right now.


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