Should we stay or should we go to The Great White North?
December 1, 2009 9:30 AM   Subscribe

Are my skills employable in Canada? My wife is considering a Ph.D. program in Toronto, and I don't know if my experience as a paralegal and journalist would allow me to find employment. Help!

My wife is considering getting her doctorate at several schools. She's applied to several here in the US (where we're citizens) and is being encouraged to apply at a specific, and very attractive and exciting program, at the University of Toronto. We're worried that I won't be able to find employment in Canada to pay our bills! Owing to the current state of the economy, I've been laid off from my last two jobs and haven't found work in months. I've worked as a paralegal in various capacities (litigation, Federal court matters, collection, quasi-regulatory financial) and also have a background with web-based journalism. I can assemble and fix computers, so I've considered taking some sort of certification test.

I know Toronto will be expensive, and the stipend my wife would receive probably wouldn't cover our expenses. Should we play it safe and stay in the US? Or is it worth the risk to accept any offer from Toronto and hope I can find a job?
posted by salsamander to Work & Money (11 answers total)
Toronto is probably the leading city in Canada for journalism and law. As in: if you were choosing a Canadian city for those two fields, Toronto would be #1 in each case.

It's a nice city. A bit boring, but clean, safe and fully-appointed with everything you'd ever want to do. The only real problem it has is sprawl. Many people take a two-hour commute from the suburbs to their jobs, which as a big city liver/worker I'd find unmanageable. You can mitigate that by living in a convenient spot, of course.

posted by rokusan at 9:37 AM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

You can probably find a job if you are focused, tenacious, and motivated - this sounds like an opportunity your wife should not pass up.

Toronto is where the most head offices (and project money) in Canada is located, so you could try to find work in a communications department doing gruntwork or even media relations.

You will only know if you can't find work in that field after you have phoned every single head office in Toronto, and have contacted every single creative agency.

Basically, try to imagine what you want to do, and then go out and do it.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:39 AM on December 1, 2009

From your question it almost sounds like you feel more confident about getting a job in whichever US city your wife might end up in. Why is that?

If you're worried about visa issues, I believe study permits allow the spouse to get a work permit, so you'd be covered there.
posted by pravit at 9:43 AM on December 1, 2009

Also, your wife may be able to use her network at the school to get you several informal contacts on which to follow up.

The only barrier I can imagine to litigation related work is that you'd be less in tune with Canadian law. However, with so many companies doing business in the US, you could probably leverage any knowledge of the US regulatory environment (Sarbanes-Oxley, etc) to your advantage.

I'd do it.
posted by Kurichina at 9:51 AM on December 1, 2009

Owing to the current state of the economy, I've been laid off from my last two jobs and haven't found work in months.

This is purely anecdotal, but it seems that the overall employment situation is better in Canada at the moment, especially for professionals. My company (web software industry) was recently hiring, and we received a LOT of applications from very qualified individuals from NYC... all willing to relocate here to Toronto, simply because there isn't enough work south of the border.

Assuming your permits are in order, your chances of finding a job here should be at least equal to your chances at home.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 9:53 AM on December 1, 2009

From your question it almost sounds like you feel more confident about getting a job in whichever US city your wife might end up in. Why is that?

Because paralegal experience in the US seems more likely to be useful in another US paralegal position than in a different country?
posted by redfoxtail at 9:57 AM on December 1, 2009

I'm no expert on work visas and student visas, but I'm currently helping my American wife through the permanent residency process on a "family class" visa, and I cannot stress enough that you need to ensure that your visa situation will allow you to work before you make a decision.

It looks promising: Make sure you fulfill all the requirements on this page, and at the very least print out and read the application form and guide to make sure you'll be fine for the application.

The student visa costs $125, and the work visa another $150, give or take, so if you're really short on cash that might be a significant factor.

You shouldn't have to hire anyone to help you with this, or pay anyone. If there's a service that makes things slightly easier and you want to pay them, feel free, but don't believe anyone that tells you they can speed up the process or make things go faster for a fee. The whole thing is structured to be (relatively) user friendly and not require paid assistance.

There are several good forums for people with questions, etc: I've gotten a lot of good stuff out of Road To Canada, but I think it focuses mainly on family class applications.
posted by Shepherd at 10:19 AM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: As redfoxtail suggests, I am very worried that my US-based paralegal knowledge and experience will be useless in Canada. As it stands, I can't seem to find work in my own country in either journalism or as a paralegal, so the thought of moving to a foreign country and being even more unemployable isn't appealing. It does give me hope to hear the market is better there than in the US. Thanks, everyone!
posted by salsamander at 10:28 AM on December 1, 2009

For what it's worth, I know a number of single people who get by on the U of T stipend. It takes a bit of frugality, but it's possible. Generally (depending on the program), one gets a bit extra from teaching assistantships (it's sort of complicated, but basically they can only count a certain number of hours towards your stipend, and the rest is extra). So, you would need to work, but you might have some leeway in terms of time, or what salary range you could accept.

I would certainly agree with Shepherd that you should ensure you could work on the visa that you get. You could also try contacting the department and see if they can point you to some resources that might have information about coming as a couple. There are a number of info services for international students at U of T, although I cannot seem to find them on the website at the moment. Almost certainly they could help you find out about cost of living and which/how benefits might extend to you as a spouse. They may be able to help you or point you to services that can help you start a job search before you go.
posted by carmen at 11:55 AM on December 1, 2009

This is tangential, but at the university in Canada I work at, we all got notice that there has been a change in Canadian student visas such that using them as a stepping stone to Canadian citizenship is going to become much, much easier.
posted by Rumple at 1:38 PM on December 1, 2009

for what it's worth, i have a friend pursuing her master's at York. She married a Brit last year; a journalist/writer. He wasn't able to work until this fall, and has found the market very very very hard. On a recent visit, the temp job that he recently got working as a receptionist was excellent news.
posted by bellbellbell at 11:59 PM on December 5, 2009

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