Why Settling in the Right City Remains the Smartest Job Strategy For Immigrants

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Why is settling in the right city the smartest job strategy for immigrants to Canada?

Canada continues to welcome a record number of newcomers and international students, most of whom are in search of jobs and affordable accommodation

And the key question facing all new arrivals is, "Where should I live?"

Canada plans to welcome 485,000 permanent residents in 2024 and 500,000 in 2025.

The government plans to limit the number of temporary residents entering the country to five percent of the overall population over the next three years. Currently, it is 6.2 percent (2.5 million students, foreign workers, and asylum seekers).

It has also imposed a two-year cap on new international students and restricted eligibility for work permits for post-graduates and their spouses.  

Yet, despite the new rules, competition for jobs AND housing continues. And the two go hand-in-hand. 


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Many key sectors of the economy are desperately looking for workers.

Finding workers a challenge for the economy

And even though the March 2024 unemployment rate sits at 6.1 percent (the highest level in more than two years), the participation rate was unchanged at 65.3 percent), finding workers remains difficult for many sectors of the economy.

For example,  the construction industry faces a shortage of skilled workers across the trades, licensed professions and a range of business-related specialist roles.


According to BuildForce Canada, recruitment and retention will remain key for contractors due to the ongoing skilled labour shortage and the impending retirement of hundreds of thousands of industry veterans — 259,100 by 2030. That’s just one example.

Choosing the right location is the best strategy

So, what’s the best place and strategy for newcomers to look for a job (and settle)?

Linda Ryan is a provincial program project manager for the British Columbia Construction Association.

A career and certified performance coach, Ryan specializes in helping newcomers plan for and achieve employment success.

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When it comes to looking for a career, Ryan provides tips and two practical suggestions, emphasizing “location, location, location.”

“If I had a dollar every time I was asked about the best place to live and find work in Canada, I'd be rich! I mean where do you start...well, I start with considerations, move on to challenges and then provide clients with two practical suggestions.”

Her first consideration is that the primary destinations for immigrants are “our three largest Canadian cities: Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.“

As Ryan says, on the surface, this makes sense.  

“The more people, the more infrastructure, the more infrastructure, the more businesses, the more businesses, the more jobs. Right?

“Not necessarily.”

Facing the challenge of picking a city

Ryan points out that “the largest (and typically the most expensive) cities, as landing locations for newcomers, come with pros and cons.”

 Here’s her list of cons:

  • Stiff job competition: “Very, very, stiff … with Canadian educated and experienced candidates for the roles you are interested in.”
  • Unaffordable cost of living: “If Canadians are relocating from these cities because they can no longer afford to live here long-term or raise families, where does that leave you as a newcomer who's counting the pennies (or cents) every time you buy groceries?”
  • Extremes in regional climate: “Head to Toronto for hot summers and cold, snowy, longer winters. Head to Vancouver for mild seasons, warm summers, light snow (on the mountains) and LOTS of rain on lower elevations in winter. Who cares? Well, you'll care, after a year or two, when the novelty wears off and the weather is impacting the kind of lifestyle you dreamt of.”
Rain is part of the Vancouver experience
  • Isolation: “One of the loneliest times of my life was in a city with a multi-million population (after I had a baby)! Picture this: husband at college trying to manage a career change (a journey a lot of newcomers face); no daytime friends (because all the Canadian friends I've made are at work) and no second set of helping hands (because I've no parents in the country). Agh! Getting to know your neighbours ("eh!"), building a social network, and integrating as a new Canadian is especially important if you have or plan to have a family. And it's often harder than you think in cities.”
  • Quality of life: “With the relatively higher cost of living in cities, many newcomers find themselves ditching their home-country professions and Canadian career plans to accept low-paid ‘survival jobs’ just to pay the bills. This negatively impacts newcomers' long-term career goals and the time and energy required to create a balanced, happy life. Which, let's face it, is what most newcomers come to Canada for.”


Key tips for newcomers to Canada

So, how does Ryan guide newcomers to avoid the pitfalls of choosing the wrong location? She offers these two key tips:

  • “Broaden your destination options and therefore job search to consider other smaller cities, communities, or new suburbs.”
  • “Discuss and/or decide the top 10 must-haves for your lifestyle here in Canada. This will help you focus or confirm your destination. Be brutally honest about the life you want to create. Especially if you are coming to Canada as a couple. You might even find you have different dreams and expectations. That's ok. If you talk about it and find common ground that's what matters. Once complete, keep going back to your list when considering locations. It should be your compass for decision-making.”


Use the newcomer's secret weapon

Her final piece of advice? 

Always be ready to move on.

 “If all else fails, remember that you're an immigrant. You're uniquely equipped to pick up, pack up and move on if your first landing location isn't working out for you. 

“That's your secret weapon; so, don't be afraid to use it.”

 The BCCA-Integrating Newcomers program is a free, pre-arrival, Canada-wide service, focused on helping high-skilled newcomers explore and build successful construction careers. Services include one-on-one career guidance, tailored resume, cover letter, LinkedIn advice, and an in-depth skills and education assessment to help newcomers focus on the best career, credentials and connections activities. The Integrating Newcomers team not only has multi-industry experience but are also immigrants who have built successful careers in Canada.

If you have a question, please email us at rentals@prepareforcanada.com

Steve Tustin is the Editor for Rentals for Newcomers and a contributing editor for Prepare for Canada. He is also the former managing editor of Storeys.com and a former senior editor at the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star.

*Rentals for Newcomers used no AI-generated content in the writing of this story, and all sources are cited and credited where possible.

© Rentals for Newcomers 2024


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