Job hunting in the midst of a pandemic
“Will I have to return to my home country, lakhs of rupees in debt and bankrupt in confidence?”
I moved to Canada from Bengaluru in January 2020, leaving behind a familiar life, a tight-knit circle of friends, and the comfort of knowing I was just a 45-minute flight away from home.
I had decided to migrate a year before. Stuck in a toxic work environment in the wrong profession, it seemed like the golden ticket to the life and career I had dreamed of. Coming from a middle-class family, this was a chance I couldn’t afford to squander.
Yet nothing could have prepared me for the knots I could feel from my throat to the pit of my stomach after receiving my passport with its shiny new visa stamp.
When it finally came time to bid goodbye to my old life — an especially tough farewell to my 90-year-old grandmother — I could barely hold back the tears.
I remember waking up on the flight with the most intense feeling of anxiety. I even sent my family emotional text messages — and in that moment of weakness, I wrote one to myself as a reminder. When I landed in Toronto, it would be with an open mind, ready to embrace new beginnings as I began job hunting.
Moving to a foreign country can be like trying to balance on a see-saw, blindfolded. I’m incredibly privileged to be staying with family, who’ve lived through the immigrant experience and can act as my reality check and cheerleaders.
They helped me work on a Canada-approved resume and connected me with everyone they knew, from engineers to bankers, teachers and even seasoned recruiters.
Job hunting in a foreign country with one hand tied behind your back
Everyone assured me that I was fortunate to have PR (Permanent Residency) while job hunting, an advantage over thousands of others who are forced to come as students or pay heavily for work permits. Experience in the start-up space was another plus.
While the compliments sounded reassuring, no amount of experience or knowledge was impressive enough to negate a lack of “Canadian Experience”, that every recruiter I interacted with would come to point out.
It doesn’t matter how progressive the country is, or how interconnected the world economy has become, this little box needs to be ticked.
I landed my first interview at one of the fastest-growing financial companies out of Silicon Valley within a month of arriving, but despite a smooth conversation, my confidence was shattered into a million mosaic pieces when I received the first (of many) generic rejection email.
LinkedIn and Glassdoor tell me I’ve crossed well over 60 applications on this job hunting mission, and twice as many nerve-wracking days worrying about my future.
Little did I know, this was only the beginning of testing times. Somewhere in the distance, murmurs of a new strain of flu began to emerge halfway across the world.
In the weeks that followed, the murmur turned into a deafening scream. As the pandemic hit Canada, the press was filled with advisories to take precautions and practise social distancing.
This health crisis has unleashed a tsunami of emotions and thoughts that, like the TV channels, run on a 24X7 loop.
I wake up hoping my inbox will bring me some good news, but more despair awaits with reports that unemployment claims have crossed two million in Canada. Companies like Air Canada have laid off 50 per cent of their crew, while others suspended thousands of part-time workers.
What happens to my future with the global economy taking a nosedive and so many unemployed people in the market? Will my middle-class parents be able to support my extended unemployment in an expensive country like Canada, or will I have to return to India, thousands of dollars in debt and bankrupt in self-confidence?
Am I silly to worry about job hunting with people facing life-threatening concerns?
For now, I choose to leave this unimaginable weight of fear behind and keep walking in search of a ray of hope.
In my ongoing struggle to find motivation and mental peace during this time, I’ve started practising the powerful tool of positive self-affirmations. Trying new hobbies keeps the mind occupied while sweating it out helps with that endorphin fix.
I’ve tried maintaining a happiness journal to encourage myself to focus on three positive things each day.
To stay afloat professionally, I continue trying to grow my network — virtually for now. I listen to relevant podcasts and have signed up for a few courses on LinkedIn Learning. Anything to stay engaged and come out of this pandemic still relevant and market-ready.
And when the news starts feeling like a concrete blanket, I take a deep breath, switch off and treat myself to a day of self-pampering.
As my mom often reminds me, I may be a late bloomer, but I’m a tough fighter. And through all this uncertainty, the one thing I know is that I’ll rise to the challenge. So if you’re huddled in the same life raft, know that you’re not alone — we’ll get through this together.