It is well-known that an overwhelming number of new immigrants choose the region of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) as their new home. There are many reasons for this but the main ones are the popularity of the area and the presence of relatives and friends. I am one of those immigrants and over two years ago I started my job search for a position in a local geophysical company. This proved to be quite a demanding task and not necessarily a productive one.
I had been a fourth year student at the University of Mining and Geology “St. Ivan Rilski” in Sofia, Bulgaria. I was enrolled in a five year degree course, “Applied Geophysics”, and its successful completion would have given me the equivalent of a Canadian B.Sc. in Geophysics. I was the President of the University Geophysical Society, a student member of the SEG and a member of the Bulgarian Geophysical Society. The Laboratory for Solar- Terrestrial influences at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences had invited me as an intern. I was going to graduate in the summer of 2001 but decided instead to immigrate to Canada; a decision based on a long-term outlook.
The moment I set foot in Mississauga, I went to the local bookstore and bought a number of job hunting books. At the local library I tried to find relevant information about geophysical companies in the region. Using my PC and the Internet, I had access to a vast and sometimes confusing source of job listings. At this point I thought I had all the tools I needed. I decided to look for a field job after realizing my lack of degree and experience prevented me from aiming elsewhere. I enjoy the great outdoors, so this was fine with me. Much to my surprise, in a region populated by nearly 10 million people, there were fewer than a dozen geophysical companies. Only half of those had any job openings at that time. Actually they were mostly utility companies, locating companies, some remote sensing companies and software companies. There was nowhere I could really apply my freshly acquired skills and knowledge and it almost looked like no one wanted me. Nevertheless I applied for almost every single one of those available openings and it took me a while before I realized I needed a new approach.
This was when I decided to become an Associate Member of the CSEG (still unemployed and quickly running out of money). My expectation was that the CSEG, being a professional association, might provide certain employment ideas and, hopefully, postings. The process of applying for membership was straightforward and soon I was holding in my hands the first issue of the Recorder. Flipping through the magazine I got to the last pages where I was hoping to find some “Help Wanted” ads. No luck. I went back and checked all the ads. Even worse – only one company in Mississauga was an advertiser. I started realizing that the geophysical companies in Canada are, with some exceptions, located in Southern Alberta. I was in the wrong part of the country.
Going to interviews at some employment agencies only improved my driving skills through the GTA. It soon became obvious that my lack of experience and North American education could not be compensated at all by any other skills. All the interviewers were very understanding but I didn’t get to hear back from any of them. I guess those agencies specialize somewhat in certain industries and geophysical exploration is not one of them.
The hits from the on-line job search engines kept coming from Alberta and Texas with some from Northern Ontario and from any other place imaginable. I am currently subscribed to a few of these job search engines but the results are not yet encouraging. In my endeavours I was even able to find a speciality weekly, “The Northern Miner”, with mining news from Northern Ontario. It had a good job openings section and lots of advertisers offering geophysical services. But again – all of those hundreds of miles away.
Life was starting to look grim and I had almost run out of money and hope. I was also applying for some other jobs, such as in Land Surveying, Geotechnical and Computers. I must have sent about 80 resumes. I believe all of these were tailored to the finest standards of resume writing and carefully spell-checked. It truly became my full-time job to write and send resumes. I got about a 10% response. I was trying to avoid the last resort – a fast-food place job. After all this was supposed to be the “land of milk and honey”, right?
Late in January 2001 I got a call from a surveying company in Mississauga. The interview went well, as I was able to demonstrate knowledge in their field and genuine interest. That surveying methods, especially GPS, are often employed in the geophysical prospecting was one of my arguments in the interview. I got the job and worked as a Survey Assistant for close to 2 years. I almost made a Party Chief there. I enjoyed my work to the extent of considering studying to be an Ontario Land Surveyor. I now consider this experience invaluable.
In the meanwhile I had already decided that I had to pursue a university degree in Canada as this was the only way for me to secure a real job in exploration geophysics. I was looking for a university that would give me as much credit as possible for my studies in Bulgaria. The number of universities that offer a program in geophysics across Canada is fairly small and all but one of these insisted that I start from the beginning with my studies. That’s why in Fall 2002 I decided to relocate to Edmonton. I have to get ready for school one more time, starting in January 2003.
If I were to do all this again, knowing what I know now, I would have probably done things differently. Scanning the job market beforehand is one of them. There is no single recipe that works best or that is foolproof. Proper planning, preparation and personal determination is the mix of qualities that every new immigrant will have to apply in his or her job search. Time will show whether I am on the right track or not.
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About the Author(s)
Ivaylo Nedev is currently an undergraduate (transfer) student at the University of Alberta, studying for a B.Sc. with specialization in Geophysics. From 1995 to 2000 he was an undergraduate student at the University of Mining and Geology “St. Ivan Rilski” in Sofia, Bulgaria, in the Applied Geophysics program. In 1999 he had a summer job working on a remote sensing project at the Laboratory for the Solar-Terrestrial influences at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. From 2000 to 2002 he worked for JD Barnes Land Surveying Ltd, Mississauga as a surveying assistant and acting party chief. He is a student member of the CSEG and SEG.