Diversity is Our Strength — Canada is the Real “Land of Opportunity”

Every day, and recently more than ever, we’re inundated with daunting headlines and dire keystrokes, which pump fear and deflation through our screens. Especially for our friends south of our border, times feel bleak. Don’t worry — over the next 8 minutes, I’m going to share some great news. As Canadians, we stand by you with open arms and welcome those seeking refuge within our borders. As our Prime Minister tweeted, “diversity is our strength.”

If you’re thinking about relocating, a new job might be the first thing on your mind — and I get it: job hunting is tough, especially in a new city.

My name is Sam Gharegozlou, and I cofounded Axiom Zen. When AZ opened our doors four years ago, our first hire was Pierre, who had himself recently arrived in Vancouver from his home, France. Four years later he’s still with us, and we’ve grown to 60+ people with offices in three countries — and a ton of experience bringing exceptional folks from all over the world to work with us in Vancouver.

Usually when we talk to people, they’re full of reasons why they don’t think they can make the jump, so I thought I’d share their most common reservations, and my thoughts on each.

“It’s too competitive, and I’m the last pick as an immigrant”…

Maybe this was once true, but no longer. More and more, companies are competing to look farther abroad in hiring external talent; the employment game is simply too competitive. It’s a candidate’s market.

All the regular rules to landing a job with a coveted company still apply: tailor each application, follow up, keep an open mind, and keep trying, no matter how many “no’s” you get. It’s not going to be easy — if a company pays well, gives great benefits, offers work-life balance, and helps you grow your career, they’re going to be uncompromising in their hiring. Landing your dream job takes grit.

“Canada is a small country. They won’t have all the perks I’m used to”…

Exactly the opposite: benefits that are “perks” for Silicon Valley startups are a matter of legal rights in Canada. We all remember when Netflix announced that it would offer unlimited parental leave in 2015 — did you know that the U.S. is the only industrialized nation that does not mandate some form of maternity or paternity leave for new parents?

The Canadian government mandates a minimum of 17 weeks parental leave to an employee, and a benefits component to top that. Employers also must accept the employee back into their job (or the equivalent), with the same rate of pay and employment benefits.

A quintessential part of Vancouver culture is healthy living — as Vancouverites, we’d be pretty ungrateful if we weren’t stringent about our physical health and our impact on the environment, given our gorgeous landscape. We take our mental health and well-being just as seriously. We also have great healthcare coverage, whether you’re employed or not. Under Canada’s publicly funded health care system, residents receive preventative care as well as medical treatments and services. With a few exceptions, all residents qualify for health coverage regardless of medical history, personal income, or standard of living.

I’m sure, by now, you’re aware of the industry battle to provide better work-life balance for employees in the coined ‘war for talent.’ There’s a work culture revolution afoot, and the theme goes something like, “healthy workers produce better results.” Check out what the Huffington Post wrote about work culture in Vancouver tech.

“It’s too hard to get into the country as a foreign worker”…

It isn’t fun, and it’ll probably never be, but I’ll help navigate the confusing parts. The guidelines for immigrating to Canada are many and ever-evolving, with plenty of digital documents available with all the riveting details. What you should know is that Canadians agree that immigration to Canada is beneficial to our economy. This is why we provide a variety of different entry options: For one, if you receive a job offer, your new employer will apply for you. For many nationalities, you may be able to work in Canada on what’s known as a “Working Holiday” visa, a non-restrictive visa that can be secured in as little as 4–6 weeks. There’s also an Express Entry option with a points system, as well as an option for young students and workers to gain international experience. Americans can actually come in quite easily under NAFTA, at least, for now.

It can be tough to digest all the governmental jargon, so here’s my favourite site for updated information. Like any government, the agents of the CIC (recently renamed to IRCC) are sticklers about process, and the smallest of mistakes can cost you years of wasted time trying to immigrate to our land of the “true north, strong and free.”

But with my years of working directly with said agents, I wouldn’t be helpful if I didn’t share some insider tips on what to be diligent about when applying to immigrate to Canada for work, would I? Heed my advice: Pay meticulous attention to required documents. Be religious about your calendar, and don’t count on any sympathy from the IRCC on missing deadlines. Spellcheck, proofread, repeat. Keep your résumé as relevant to the requirements as possible. Carefully plan your finances; ensure they’re sufficient for arrival into the country. Sign your passport — seriously. And lastly, seek help. Many people ask whether they need an immigration lawyer — a lot of companies sponsor your application, and as part of this they will consult their own lawyers. But, if they don’t have this benefit, there are plenty of blogs with real stories online. It’s up to personal preference, but I advise listening to the experience of others; there’s a lot to learn.

“Vancouver is too expensive to live in. The salaries don’t match the cost of living”…

This is the ever-debated, always deflating topic of the surging cost of living in Vancouver that locals are all too familiar with. Let’s be sensible for a moment. The most desirable cities are going to be the most costly: it’s what continues to drive their economies. But we’re still here, and you might be wondering why, so here are some stats that might surprise you. Let’s compare to the notorious mecca of tech, San Fransisco:

  1. The Vancouver and San Francisco housing markets have become parallel in many ways. While the rate of renters to owners in San Francisco is 62%-35%, that rate is divided almost evenly among Vancouverites. Why, you ask? Because owning property in San Francisco calls for prices that beat those in Vancouver by roughly 70–100% per square meter.
  2. Rental rates per month in San Francisco are often a startling 3–4 times what they are in Vancouver!
  3. However, it’s the average income that has led to confusion, and caused a tug-of-war among sides about which city has a more unaffordable cost of living. Monthly salaries in San Francisco as a whole, on average, are 100% higher than in Vancouver. But you’re not looking for average, and the best companies pay quite a bit better than the city’s norm.

As much as Vancouver has been called the Silicon Valley of the North, we haven’t yet been able to compete with Silicon Valley’s salaries. But, since our rent is only a quarter as much and since we value work-life balance innately, we can do more with what we have. It’s all relative.

“There’s not enough to do or see in Vancouver”…

When it comes to lifestyle and culture, we share plenty of common interests with our sun-kissed friends in California. Vancouver is rich with eclecticism, with a variety of lifestyles and the neighbourhoods to match. There’s the suburban North Shore, a popular area for families with children (if you want reputable private schools and a bubble of safety and quiet, this is the area for you). It’s also bolstered by our beautiful mountains, hosts to our snow-sporting needs and hiking desires. Drive 1.5 hours along the breath0taking Sea to Sky highway, and you’re in Whistler.

If you head down to the Lonsdale Quay, a dockside market and favourite for residents and tourists alike, you’ll be delighted to find a variety of local merchants selling novelty candy, fresh cut flowers, and artisan cheeses (find this also on Granville Island, on a larger scale). Hop on the 15-minute seabus (it’s really just a ferry, but seabus sounds more fun, doesn’t it?) and you’ve landed in historic Gastown, laden with cobble-stoned streets and exposed-brick businesses boasting the trendiest in boutique fashion, cocktail culture, and innovative cuisine.

If you love the arts and everything local, East Vancouver is the area for you. Commercial Drive has been a bohemian haven for years, and Mount Pleasant and the East Village are a blossoming fusion of artisan crafts and the tragically hip — see what I did there? Think lots of craft beer, handmade goods, quality consignment clothing, and tasty but affordable dining experiences. Whatever you’re into, chances are you’ll find it in Vancouver. Don’t call us boring.

So, I’ve given you some serious bites to chew on. If you’re still craving, there are a few more notable things we can offer up here in beautiful Vancouver. We have great attitudes toward multiculturalism and diversity. Every day in Vancouver, we get to breathe in the clean air of our breathtaking landscape. We’re big on peace and safety: we’re the 8th most peaceful country in the world. We’re ranked in the top percentile for education, but don’t take my word for it, read about why here. And if you want that Hollywood allure, many of your favourite movies and shows have been filmed here: The X Files, Supernatural, Deadpool, 50 Shades of Grey, Jumanji, and with many more in production.

Of course, the very best part of Vancouver is the opportunity to work with Axiom Zen. We support diversity of thought and welcome individuals of all backgrounds and identities. Check out our open positions — we’re always hiring.

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