Newcomer story: Echo Duan

lady smiling“I’m the type of person who thinks of the worst possible scenario. What if I don’t get a job in three months? What if our money runs out? I worry about these things and plan for them. In my mind, I should be prepared for whatever happens. And when they do happen, we will be ready” Echo said.

What actually happened was the opposite. Echo hit the ground running upon arriving in Winnipeg in April last year. She immediately started volunteering. In fact, she held two volunteer jobs: one at an agency that provides English conversation practice and another at a family support centre where she worked as an office assistant. Her first paid job followed shortly. She was hired as an employment services advisor at an employment service agency. Currently, Echo works for Settlement Online Pre-Arrival (SOPA) as a Job Search Strategies Facilitator where her HR experience, particularly her knowledge about employers’ perspective, makes her a valuable ally for new Manitobans working to get their careers on track.

Preparation, preparation, preparation

A holder of a Bachelor of Laws degree from Jiangsu University, Echo found that she was more interested in developing people than practising law. Her first job as a corporate executive secretary led to an opportunity for a Human Resources post which allowed her to discover her passion for unleashing others’ potentials to reach their business and personal goals. Before she left, she was a Talent and Development Manager for Wrigley Confectionery in China where she was successful in building a talent pipeline and delivering leadership learning solutions for the organization.

Despite her flourishing career, Echo and her husband decided to emigrate. The young couple loved to travel and learn about different cultures. Immigrating under the Federal Skilled Worker category, they could have chosen to live anywhere in the country. But after studying and comparing several places, they thought that Winnipeg was the perfect city for them. After living in big, bustling cities in China, the couple saw Winnipeg’s small town feel as a welcome change.

“I was so inspired by the other learners I met during the chats. I could see their progress every time I meet them online. From knowing very little English, they improved with every session. It was very encouraging”

Aside from researching about Canadian cities, Echo started preparing for their journey to Winnipeg six months before their move. She began researching about the climate, cost of living, and the job market. She also attended Canadian Immigrant Integration Program (CIIP) information sessions. During one of her online researches, she discovered English Online’s (EO) Live and Learn program and decided to register. She started joining Coffee Chats and drop-in workshops where she said she learned settlement information such as buying a home and about the public transportation system. Echo appreciated that during the Coffee Chats, she was able to connect with other Manitobans even before leaving her home country. “I was so inspired by the other learners I met during the chats. I could see their progress every time I meet them online. From knowing very little English, they improved with every session. It was very encouraging,” Echo said.

While studying with EO, Echo also took SOPA courses. These courses provided pre-employment guidance – from job search strategies to Canadian workplace integration. This is where she gained an understanding of the Canadian job market, learned about the “hidden market”, familiarized herself with Canadian workplace culture, and started to get her Canadian-style resume ready. Echo also started to build connections with the Human Resources Management Association of Manitoba and started looking for work even before she left with the help of SOPA. Little did she know that soon enough, she will be working for the program when she arrives in Winnipeg. She is actually the first SOPA graduate in Manitoba to work for the program. Now, it’s her turn to share all that she had learned with pre-arrivals to Manitoba.

Stay positive, persevere

Echo’s preparation entailed a lot of hard work, but evidently it paid off. Aside from having a job she enjoys, Echo and her husband are loving their life in Winnipeg. “It is everything we expected. We love the diversity and we’re enjoying Winnipeg’s multiculturalism. You see what’s written on those plate numbers? ‘Friendly Manitoba?’ I’m finding that to be true,” Echo said.

Aside from good preparation, Echo advises newcomers to:

  • Improve their language skills – this is one of the major areas for improvement especially if you come from a non-English speaking country. Having the right communication tools is the key to a successful career and integration.
  • Always stay positive – build enough emotional support for yourself. You will need it.
  • Persevere – when applying for jobs, keep trying. According to Echo, it is normal for 10 high quality resumes to yield one interview. But keep at it and your perseverance will pay off.
  • Be patient – if you have enough resources and you can afford to wait, don’t settle for a job you don’t want. Be patient and continue applying for jobs that will utilize your knowledge, skills and interests.
  • Network – it is the best way to find and get a job in Manitoba.

Nine months and counting

Asked about her future plans, Echo said that she just wants to enjoy her current role and better help her clients in their job transition in Winnipeg. She is also at the final stage of achieving her Chartered Professional in Human Resources (CPHR) designation, another title to be added to her name (Echo is also a member of the Human Resource Management Association of Manitoba). She has achieved all of these and she hasn’t even reached her first year in Winnipeg yet. We can only expect greater things to come from this lady who is not only a planner but a go-getter.

Want to know more about SOPA? You can contact Echo Duan at 1-204-944-0133 ext. 229 or go to their website: Settlement Online Pre-Arrival (SOPA).