Features / The Story of Us: How immigration Created Canada

Canadianize yourself: Immigrant reinvents herself after 400 applications, no interviews

It’s been a struggle for Shirley Edwards.

She’s a highly-qualified teacher from the Carlisle in northern England, who came to Canada in 2005.

Edwards, 50, has two grown children back in the U.K. and a 12-year-old son who lives with her in Calgary. Although she gained entry to Canada as the wife of a police officer who was headhunted in England, she thought that, with vast experience and two undergraduate degrees, she would find a job in Canada easily.

She was wrong.

After six years, she had applied for 400 jobs that suited her experience and qualifications and had been invited to exactly zero interviews.

“I gave myself three months, and, if I hadn’t found something in three months, I would have to go back to the U. K.,” said Edwards, who was by then single and working what she called “a survival job” in a retail store.

With help from the Calgary Region Immigrant Employment Council, a non-profit that specializes in helping skilled newcomers find the right role, Edwards learned a lot.

She started networking and volunteering, and made her resume “more Canadian,” changing small things like her British email address. Eventually, it worked.

Now, she’s using her skills at the Bredin Centre for Learning, which helps immigrants find jobs.

And on March 26, she and her son took their oaths to become Canadian citizens. The next day was their sixth anniversary of arriving in Canada.

“People need to accept that they well not be working in the place they expect,” Edwards said.