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Tom Duffy and Almu Guiles began working in Vancouver as engineers in early 2013. In this guest blog, they reveal how to get ahead of the pack when looking for work in a competitive market. As for lifestyle in Vancouver, they give us the lowdown on searching for accommodation and getting around town.

We moved to Vancouver together a year ago. We wanted to see what engineering opportunities Vancouver had to offer, so first we came here on a holiday and, if things went according to plan, we would proceed with the working holiday visa. This gave us the opportunity to familiarize ourselves with Vancouver and decide whether we really liked this new city.

Our decision to move to Vancouver wasn’t taken lightly. Two vital parts of our research included contacting Ruairi Spillane (from Moving2Canada) who offered us endless advice and guidance about the dos and don’ts about how to establish ourselves and begin working in Vancouver. Secondly, we visited a Canadian Expo in Glasgow. This was vital as it was our first opportunity to meet representatives from Canadian companies. We found that they were very welcoming as both of us were engineers and, more importantly, we had around five years’ experience.

At this stage it was important to put ourselves across really well and get the representatives’ contact details. Most of these representatives are very well positioned in their companies and know all the projects their company is working on.

Furthermore, if opportunities in your field are few and far between, don’t be dismayed — they can still help you. Ask them what companies they would recommend for you to contact and which provinces they are working in. Most of these people are focusing on specific geographical areas, but don’t be disheartened if they tell you one city has more work than another. We were told that Calgary had more work than Vancouver (which is true), but working in Vancouver is possible, it’s just you have to work harder to make it happen.

We then asked ourselves what lifestyle we are we looking for and carried out research as to whether or not you will get this lifestyle in Vancouver.

When we arrived in Vancouver we found it difficult to get a place to stay. We stayed in a hostel for two weeks before we could find a nice apartment, which we found to be very expensive.

Here are some tips:

Looking for apartments

  • Vancouver is only one of a number of cities in the lower mainland, so when looking for a place to stay we took a good look at the Vancouver neighbourhoods guide on, which shows the different areas that people are living in and will give you a good idea where you will fit in.
  • Leases begin on either the 1st or the 15th of each month, with very few exceptions. Most apartments are put up for rent nearer the end of the month, so you are best off coming here around the 20th of the month and then searching for accommodation.
  • If you like an apartment, make sure to put a deposit down. People here keep changing their minds and you may get a phone call telling you the apartment has been taken. And do not worry about long leases, as there are a few apartments with month-by-month payments.
  • A lot of the large engineering companies are located downtown. It isn’t cheap and the apartments are a lot smaller than the rest of Vancouver, but you do have the benefit of being closer to these companies and meeting for interview. You are also in the ideal location for socialising.

Working in Vancouver

Working in Vancouver

  • Change the European mindset for finding jobs in Canada and be more open minded. Adapt to the resume format in Canada (or ‘CV’).
  • Learn how to do networking in Canada! This will be new to most people from Europe, but you need to make contacts and learn how to sell yourself. For that, the best way is to determine your best selling points and then finish the conversation by give them your business card. It is quite typical for professionals to ask ‘have you got a business card?’ You can buy 100 cards for about $20 in any office suppliers.
  • Typical ways of networking include websites such as MeetUp, InterNations or an Irish meet up called VIBE. It’s where a number of people with a common interest meet up and try to create contacts with other professionals within their fields. Once you have made contact, don’t wait — send your resume to them straight away while the person has you in their mind and they will also take you more seriously. If it’s the case that they don’t reply, don’t be afraid to follow up with another email or ask to meet for a coffee/lunch. Nobody is going to say no to meeting you for a coffee or even a lunch, so persist if you want to be working in Vancouver.
  • As an engineer, it is important to register with the Engineering Institution here in BC. This will help you to get the P.Eng, which is similar to becoming chartered in Ireland and in the UK. You can find out more details on how you can apply for this here, and the benefits of getting your P.Eng.

Getting to and from your job

  • Public Transport is very good in Vancouver. You can get a bus from nearly anywhere in the city to downtown. They have also a good light rail network — tickets prices start at $2.20 and they last for 90 minutes. They can be used on the train, bus and SeaBus, which you can get from Waterfront to North Vancouver. You can also purchase a monthly pass, which reduces the cost of travelling on public transport significantly.
  • You can also take advantage of a rental car that is available throughout the city called car2go. They are cheaper than getting a taxi, but if you are arriving from abroad with a foreign licence, you will have to get written confirmation that you have driven elsewhere previously.

One final piece of advice. If you find yourself looking for work for two weeks and haven’t received any reply, don’t worry — HR departments are slow to process applications here, so keep on top of them and let them know that you are really keen for the position. Also, we were told it take a minimum of eight weeks to find a job. We thought this can’t be true, but budget for at least eight weeks and then when you get a position you will possibly have to work a month in hand so you are really talking about not having any income for three months.

At the beginning it was quite daunting and at the time we were thinking ‘is this all worth it?’, but now that we are working in Vancouver and have met some amazing people, we have realized it was well worth the hard work we put in at the very beginning. Best of luck to all you job hunters out there — we were there before!

– Tom (Civil Engineer) and Almu (Structural Engineer)

Want more help getting settled in Vancouver?

Visit our immigration section for options, including the British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program. For guidance to help you get settled as you arrive in Vancouver, read these guides:

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