How can I increase my chances of getting a job in Vancouver, BC?
July 1, 2014 12:57 PM   Subscribe

As a U.S. citizen with no family ties to Canada, what proactive steps should I take to make myself more employable in Vancouver, BC?

I'm a commercial real estate professional living in Texas. I am a US citizen. I have 15 years' experience in my field and have taught real estate part-time at a community college for 9 years. I have a Bachelor's degree in Economics and a Master's degree in Real Estate (yes, that's a thing). I have a real estate license in Texas but strictly speaking it isn't required for the kind of work I do since I'm salaried rather than commissioned. That's true for most of the positions I'm looking at. I am married, and my wife is an Engineering Ph.D. student who is wrapping up her dissertation.

In the last few years we have both fallen in love with Vancouver, BC. So, considering that life is short and you might as well live somewhere you love, for the last year or so I have been looking for jobs in Vancouver. I knew this would be an uphill climb due to the fact that I am not Canadian. I try to make clear in my applications that I am serious about relocating (to the point where my resume has both US and BC contact phone numbers). I rarely receive more than an acknowledgement e-mail.

I am currently applying for an open position with my company in Vancouver through our internal applicant process. Still, I am concerned that this will go as far as my other attempts, which is to say, nowhere. So I ask you, hive mind: how can I increase my chances of getting a job in Vancouver, BC?
posted by mrbeebz to Work & Money (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have a visa to work in Canada? Are you in the process of emigrating and obtaining Canadian citizenship?
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:00 PM on July 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

Conversational Mandarin or Cantonese.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 1:07 PM on July 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Conversational Mandarin or Cantonese


Smart. Don't need fluency, just enough to do biz. Mandarin's the more versatile, but Vancouver's got lots of Cantonese.
posted by Quisp Lover at 1:33 PM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Everybody who has ever gone there has fallen in love with Vancouver.

This includes rich people. And they've all gone to Vancouver at one point or another. And they've all fallen in love with it. And they've all bought a nice little condo there.

Because of this, there is a disconnect between the actual productive economy and the cost of living space that could not be sustained in most other places.

So Vancouver is a place where people who made a lot of money somewhere else come to spend it. Basically, if you're going to have to work there, you can't afford to live in Vancouver. If Vancouver were in the middle of a swamp and was supported by the actual economic activity going on there, it would be a fraction of its size.

When I was there, there was no shortage of jobs. You could walk down 4th Avenue west of Granville through Kitsilano, and find dozens of trendy boutiques begging for workers. Those same stores and restaurants always - always - were looking for staff. The takeaway for me was that Vancouver was packed with the kind of people whose profession is launching clever little theme restaurants and trendy boutiques, and that's precisely why they couldn't find workers. Those jobs didn't pay enough to let you live in Vancouver.

Basically, Vancouver works well if you're a twenty-something willing to live in 500 square feet while working 16 hours a day at some media startup, or if you're a retired executive who can live on money you made somewhere else. Between those poles, it's a very tough place.

That's not to say it can't be done, of course. I think your best bet is the position with your current company (although it's not like there's a shortage of real estate professionals in Vancouver either. It's one of very few ways to actually make serious money in Vancouver). I did know a couple when I was there who relocated from Ohio, and the wife managed to keep her existing job and work remotely. It's not impossible, but it's going to be very tough.

And you don't mention whether you've actually addressed your immigration status. As Admiral Haddock suggests, all this is moot if you haven't got a work visa. You can visit Canada readily enough, but you can't work there without the right Visa or, preferably, permanent resident status.
posted by Naberius at 1:45 PM on July 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

Commercial real estate is hot in Vancouver, but it seems to require a very good understanding of local laws, history, and especially, lots of local connections. It seems very unlikely that a firm would hire someone without any local knowledge for that specific job, especially if you don't have much else to offer.

What is your wife hoping to do? She might be more employable-from-a-distance, so perhaps she could get her foot in the door, and you could follow.

Conversational Mandarin, Cantonese or Spanish would be a useful asset.

Have you figured out where you'd land on the Immigration Points Calculator?
posted by barnone at 1:48 PM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Does your wife's supervisor have any contacts at UBC or SFU?
posted by chapps at 2:04 PM on July 1, 2014

I speak an Asian language. I'm from Victoria, but I worked in Vancouver. I don't think it is realistic to think that you will be able to master Mandarin or Cantonese enough to launch a career in Vancouver in commercial real estate.

Quite honestly, your best bet is to see if your wife can get a job in Vancouver using her engineering degree. I don't know who hires PhD's in engineering (what field), but if she gets a job it might be a track to permanent residency.

With your qualifications and experience, you could try one of the big commercial real estate firms. Cushman & Wakefield is trying to expand in BC, competing against Collier's, and Cushman prides themselves on their research unit.

You could also try working for a management consultancy. Ference & Weicker comes to mind, as they hire contractors, and people who work with them typically go up the ladder to bigger, national consultancies.

Corporate Recruiters is also a good place to check out. Very good people who at the very least can spend 20 minutes with you helping set you on the right track.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:15 PM on July 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

What chapps said: what does your wife plan to do? In my experience, research (post-doc and national institutes) and engineering jobs are the easiest to get relocated for because they are looking for specific talents. If may be her who gets you in the door, rather than the other way around.
posted by whatzit at 2:16 PM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, beat all the information you can out of your current colleagues. Finding a job on the internal job postings is in many cases already too late. Start identifying people through LinkedIn or your corporate directory, to find those who do what you are interested in, where you want to do it. Call them up and learn about what they're doing, their expertise, and whether they have any positions opening up in the near future.
posted by whatzit at 2:20 PM on July 1, 2014

Thank you all for the input and questions so far.

I should have been clearer that my work specialty has been corporate real estate. The in-company job I am applying for involves managing tenant-side transactions throughout Canada for a large firm; the job just happens to work out of our Vancouver office. This is very similar to my current job. In my line of work experience working within large companies and being adaptable to real estate conventions in different areas is more important than local business contacts (as opposed to a commercial broker).

Sadly I speak no Mandarin or Cantonese and agree with KokuRyu that I'm unlikely to learn enough to make a difference.

I appreciate the comments from Naberius. I am aware of both Vancouver's popularity and the cost of living. I also know my quality of life would be different in many ways (some positive, some negative, hopefully net positive which is the point of this exercise). I have worked on several projects in the Vancouver area on my current account and so am familiar with the greater Vancouver area in a non-touristy way.

I do not have a Canadian work visa. My mindset up to now was that if offered employment I would either go through the normal visa process or work (at first) under a TN visa while applying for something more permanent. I scored 81 out of 67 points needed on the immigration points calculator linked to by barnone. I understand it's possible to get a visa without a job offer but it strikes me as an expensive / time-consuming process without a guaranteed outcome. But if that's the hurdle I need to jump over to make me employable in my field, then I know that's the next step I need to take.

My wife's most likely employment would be in an engineering job, either in product development or installation / maintenance of scientific equipment in the field. Based on her PhD experience she isn't likely to go for a pure research job. If my next few attempts at employment don't succeed, it's fair to say that she would be the best person to lead the way to BC.
posted by mrbeebz at 2:41 PM on July 1, 2014

CIC is notoriously slow (plus, at least once they have unilaterally cancelled thousands of applications in process to clear the years-long backlog). There is also a bit of controversy at the moment with temporary foreign workers visa (not the visa you were going for but there is spillover). From a Canadian HR perspective, why hire someone dependent on a visa they may or may not get in a timely manner versus someone with the flexibility to work immediately? I would get status in Canada first and mention the status in your cover letter.
posted by saucysault at 4:04 PM on July 1, 2014

I moved to Vancouver from England, and although Naberius is right is a lot of what they say, that is a depressingly skewed picture. I LOVE living here, it truly is wonderful.
Yes, it's expensive, but no more so than London.
Yes, property in Vancouver is expensive, but I just bought a townhouse 25 minutes outside Vancouver and I LOVE it out there too. We went to the beach yesterday for Canada day.... a beach that was 10 minutes from my house.
Believe me, you won't regret moving to Vancouver.

However.... you WILL need a Visa of some sort. Really, truly. The Visa process is so long, arduous and complicated (it changes all the time) that no company is going to take you on if you can't legally work here. You may be lucky and get sponsored of course, but those stories are few and far between.

I have several good friends here who are immigrants from Ireland and the USA. The girl from the States was even married to a Canadian and it took years for her to get her PR card. It's not an easy process, believe me, but it's totally worth it if you can make it happen!

Good luck though!!! I really mean that.
posted by JenThePro at 8:32 AM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

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