Back in 2016 Kathy Smart was looking for a job, and then she found a job, and heaven knows she’s not miserable now because she became a manager, then a senior manager, then a director.
Moving on, now that Kathy is a successful mover and shaker in Toronto, let’s catch up and find out what she’s up to now and how life is as a Successful Brit in Toronto.
What made you decide to choose Toronto as a city of choice? Did you plan a permanent move, or wanted to “try it for a while and see how it goes” and it turned out to be longer than planned?
Roughly seven years ago I lived in Vancouver, working on an IEC visa. I absolutely loved it. Vancouver is beautiful, outdoorsy and a great experience but, having moved from London, I found it a tad too chilled for long-term living so after six months chose to head back.
Fast forward to 2016 and the opportunity arose to move internationally with my husband’s company. We looked at options in San Francisco, Sydney and New York, but there was something about Canada (maple syrup, bears, baseball, beavers and checked shirts maybe?) that kept calling us back, so we chose Toronto.
We landed with a three-year visa. Eighteen months later we applied for permanent residency. We love it.
What steps did you take to land your first Toronto job? Did the infamous “Canadian experience” hinder you in any way?
After 12 years of working in different facets of recruitment in the UK I was pretty confident I would secure work quickly. I expected that my knowledge of recruitment processes would give me the edge. I was wrong. My thorough understanding of the London market did not map across AT ALL here.
I was applying to jobs online, taking time to tailor my CV and cover letter for each one, then following up with phone calls and emails. I got zero traction. It was horribly frustrating, humbling and mind-numbingly boring.
After six weeks I decided to hit the networking loop. I checked out Eventbrite and Meetup and attended anything that looked like it even loosely could help me meet people in my field.
It was through networking and meeting people and asking that I finally got interviews, and from there ended up with two job offers. Lack of Canadian experience did indeed affect my application.
It meant I had to take a job two steps down from the one I had in London, but then, once in the role, I was promoted quickly, so 16 months after starting had worked my way back up from Manager, to Senior Manager to Director.
Not a perfect system but manageable once you know how to negotiate it.
– Go to networking events. Meet people, follow up, chase, talk to people about your experience;
– Be prepared to step down and work your way back up.
What’s the best/worst aspects of living in Toronto?
1. Living effectively in a village, but being a 45-minute walk to work in one direction and a 45-minute walk to the beach in the other.
2. There’s a sense of community here without being claustrophobic.
3. Lots of opportunity to get involved, am part of a Dragon Boating club, I volunteer for Lean In Canada and Merit Award.
4. Genuine work/life balance even for senior staff.
5. After-work summer activities like kayaking, biking, baseball.
6. After-work winter activities like ice skating, sledding, snow shoeing.
1. Being so far from home; it’s particularly hard with older parents.
2. There’s no “beer after work culture here” so very hard to make friends with your colleagues.
3. The traffic.
4. Generally, Canadians are very polite, reserved and avoid confrontation … it’s sometimes hard to know where you stand or how your idea is being received.
Do you make an effort to connect with other Brits in the city, or just meet them when chance allows it? Any recommended pubs/eateries/other places for homesick Brits to meet each other and network?
Absolutely! I love working with Canadians Mon-Fri but on the weekends it’s nice to hang out with other Brits, mainly for the sense of humour and the similarity of situation.
I have Canadian friends as well but they’re a little less available on weekends as they have family commitments and well-established friendship groups, which can understandably be difficult to join.
In the first few months of being here, we collected all the waifs and strays together from every event we went to and now have an awesome group made up of Brits/Americans/Irish/Kiwis for games of baseball and the like.
Would heavily recommend joining the Brits in Toronto Facebook group — it’s awesome for finding other Brits, finding cheap furniture (from people moving in and out of the city) and hearing about events.
Open question/comment: feel free to write anything here/advice/tips on a Brit living in, or moving to, Toronto.
[KATHY — YOU LEFT THIS QUESTION BLANK OR COULDN’T BE ARSED TO ANSWER.]
So there you have it. One woman’s dream to arrive in Toronto and make a go it it. The pure epitomy of a Successful Brit in Toronto.
Thanks Kathy … and here’s her LinkedIn profile if you want to endorse her for dragon boating.