Starting a new job.. in a new country.. in the middle of a pandemic!

Picture by Mikey Harris,

After clearing a series of interviews on Microsoft Teams, I got to hear the 3 golden words “You are hired” !

I got my break in the Canadian Financial Services industry! Wohoooo! One of the happiest days of my life. I told myself “It was all worth the effort” and waited patiently for clock to strike 9:30 pm (which is when I talk to my parents in India) on a pleasant May evening.

1 week ahead: I am ready to go to my office in downtown Toronto. It’s not to start my work from my workplace but just to get my system configured (basically get to business – but from home). As I entered the historic Canada Life building, I felt a sense of pride, excitement and hope. Hope that one day we will return to work and I get to experience the corporate life in this new country. After done with the IT setups, I was given a mini tour of the office building by the very welcoming IT guy who quickly became my first friend in the office.

2nd day of office and so on..: My teammates were very welcoming and excited to have me onboard. I fed their curious minds with my story of moving from India to Canada in the peak winters (Feb’2020) all by myself, desiring to start a new life in the great white north. As I was getting a hang of my day to day responsibilities, and getting introduced to the broader team and stakeholders, I found myself trying to find my place in a very diverse crowd. That’s the beauty of Canada, people from all across the world in one place! I have imbibed to be respectful to these differences.

After 3 months or so..: The lockdown restrictions eased a bit. Touristy places in the city reopened and you could travel within the province but with restrictions. I wondered if our offices would open? Me and my team members would discuss case counts, vaccination status, fall colors, the U.S. elections and returning back to office, in our weekly catch up calls, which my boss introduced as a means to stay connected (well virtually!). Returning back to normalcy seemed unlikely anytime soon. The pandemic helped companies devise a new way to save cost – let employees work from home! In line with the trend, our company gave us incentives to invest in work from home office space. No complains!

Winter is coming..and so is another wave..another lockdown..: Every newcomer in Canada is told about how cruel the winters can be. This was my first full winter season (i.e. Nov/Dec to April/May) and I was ready to embrace it with my winter gears (the must have – Winter coat and not just a regular coat/jacket, beanie, gloves and winter boots). By this time, I managed to make a few friends outside of work and had started to invest in these relationships. Being more of an introvert, I was content with just a couple of friends with whom I can spend quality time which won’t necessarily include too much talking! Post work I would indulge myself in table tennis game, reading some non-fiction self help kinda book in the park, playing frisbee, running and taking long walks discovering hidden gems in the city. When restricted indoors due to cold weather, I would make paintings or try my hand at ukulele. The paintings were acrylic abstract art on raw stretched canvas (follow @soulonmycanvas in case you are on Instagram) and ukulele was a gift from my friend who encouraged me to discover my creative side. Both of em kept me going..

Till date in Sep’ 2021: By now almost everyone has accepted the new norm of working from home most of the week. We all have experienced the flexibility as well as need for social connection. The virtual meetings are less exciting and lacks body language cues but it does keep us protected and less exposed to the virus. The lockdown gave me chance to make the best use of technology whether at work or out of work, time to explore the city and outskirts, have fresh home cooked meals, and finally rekindled my artistic inclination. I look forward to normalcy but at this moment I am content and grateful for all that I have, all that I am and all that is.

Solo in Toronto…

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, a bit about my background: Single girl from India, moved to Toronto/TO as a Permanent Resident in February this year. Nobody knew my name except for a couple of acquaintances. Finance professional with over eight years of work experience. I quit my lucrative job at a global bank and looked out for opportunities in my industry in the Great White North! Currently working with the largest and oldest Canadian Insurance company and living in downtown/DT, TO. Content and Confident 😊!

This article covers 3 indispensable topics to muse on when you are new in the 6ix!

1- Know the city! Its lovely: It is imperative that you get to know the city of TO, more so when you are a first-time visitor and aspire to settle down. TO is a safe city overall and most of DT core is walkable. Consider avoiding sketchy neighborhood’s (Jane and Finch, Queen and Sherbourne etc.) when walking alone in the dark. During the winter months, I used the “Path” (World’s largest Underground shopping complex/pedestrian walkway where you might get lost if it’s your first time 😉) to commute within DT core covering the financial and entertainment hub. During the Spring and Summer, you should take long walks or bike around the city. Spending time outdoors is encouraged by the authorities. During my first few months, every day I would venture out to explore new spots and discover the unique vibe of each of those spots. Head down to the water front, pick up fresh cherries/orange juice at Longo’s store near you, go deep woods to the Evergreen Brickworks or get lost in the High Park, walk around Kensington Market, eat your way through the Greek town, Little Italy, St. Lawrence market, soak into some art at the Royal Ontario Museum, visit Graffiti Alley or take a daylong trip to the Islands. These will help you gain insight into the local culture, food and lingo, making you feel more settled. Not to forget, you get more ideas for making interesting conversations while you find your feet. 

From left to right: Bike stands across the city; Royal Ontario Museum; Harbourfront; Fall Foliage at High Park

2- Job hunting: Networking! Networking! Networking! I can’t emphasize enough on networking when you are trying to find your grounds. It takes a while to make yourself known and build your professional network. It is expected from you to reach out to experienced professionals in your field over a coffee chat. So, come forward all prepared with your blurb and elevator pitch. For people like me who are more of an introverted personality, you might feel discomforting to meet complete strangers. But once you step out of your comfort zone, you would start enjoying it. Not everyone would have a job to offer, but everyone has an experience to share. The more you interact the more you learn about people and the industry, progressing towards building your professional network. It is always a win win!

On the right: “The Path” connecting more than 70 buildings via 30 kms of tunnels, walkways & shopping areas. Most of the coffee chats happen here!

3- House hunting: I had booked my air bnb two months before my landing date. It was a private room in an apartment by the lakeshore. I wanted to reminisce about my first few weeks in this totally new city, soon to be called my home. You must have already guessed that I have high levels of wishful thinking! 😊 Once I could secure a permanent job, I moved to a leased apartment in my own name. I actively looked for leased apartment on sites like-,, and finally got a condo (apartment/flat) through a broker. Yes, you do not need to pay brokerage if you are the tenant. Deciding on where to stay in TO, depends on your preferences, budget, and Lifestyle. Rent will absorb a major chunk of your income, so budget and choose accordingly. I decided to stay in DT, for the ease of commuting, networking, and enjoying the city life. I can proudly call Canada my new home!

From left to right: My first air Airbnb at lakeshore (Feb’20); Second Airbnb near Lawrence market (Mar’20); First house on short term lease at Carlton and College (April-May’20); Long term lease condo at Wellesley and Yonge (June’20-present)

Moving to a new country alone can be daunting and stressful. But it’s a chance to stand out on your own and build the life you have always wanted for yourself. Have faith, Plan well, Be patient, Enjoy the Journey and remember that success begins in your mind.