Using Recruitement Firms

If you’re moving to a new city it can take a little while to get professional work sorted out. In the meantime, one way to earn money is temporary work through recruitment companies.

Temporary work can be fantastic. It allows you to earn an income without over committing your time as you look for permanent work. Most temp firms offer 7 hour assignments as a minimum, so at least you’re getting a full day’s pay. Also the pay usually starts around $12/hour which is better than retail or minimum wage hospitality.

That being said, in my experience, how useful a recruitment firm is often depends on your relationship with the temp agent.  The better you present yourself in those initial interviews, the more likely the agent will be to remember and recommend you for work. So here are a couple of ways you can optimise the whole recruiter process.

Come Prepared
All of the recruitment interviews I’ve been to required me to bring the same documents (see below). Recruiters typically email you a list of everything you’ll need, but these always come up. I think having them at the interview shows you’re prepared and ready to work, which will help put you at the front of the recruiters mind if a job comes up.

Things to Bring
– 2 pieces of government issued ID (your work permit is a good one to include)
– Bank details
– CV
– Contact details for 2 referees

Use Different Firms
As one recruiter put it, don’t put all your eggs in the one basket. Vancouver is a big place and no one firm has the entire market covered. Most recruiters see themselves as only one component of your job search anyway I.e. they’re there to help but encourage you to talk to other firms and do you own searching (at least for temp work anyway).

Every Test Is The Same
Recruitement firms will want you to do basic computer literacy tests, so they know what your skill set it. Each time, without fail, every single firm I contacted asked me to do the exact same Prove It! online tests. No joke. Sometimes the questions were in a different order, maybe one firm asks you to do the one minute typing test while another asks for the five minute test. But they’re all the exact same. So if you have any problems, or find any sections hard (who uses macros in word documents??), I’d make a note and google it after. At least then your next test result will be better.

Prove It Test
A sample from the Prove It Online Word Test

Prove It Online Test
After a while, you know exactly which style is Table Classic 2

Ask About Full Time Work
As nice as temporary assignments are, at the end of the day most people are looking for stable, full time work in their profession. So don’t be afraid to talk to the recruiter about this in the interview. A good temp recruiter should be asking you anyway, so they can see if see if there are any other opportunities for you with their firm. But it doesn’t hurt for you to do some research yourself, see what the firm specialises in and bring it up in the interview.

The Cream Of The Crop
Finally to get you started, here are a couple of recruitment firms I enjoyed working with:


I found Executrade to be professional, positive, but upfront about how much work they had and what they expected from the next couple of months. I think that’s really important. Because anyone can raise your expectations, but the most common complaint about recruiters is that they don’t deliver.

The staff were pleasant and efficient helping me get through all the paperwork. They didn’t have a lot of work when I spoke to them, but they were honest about it which I respect.

They were organised, efficient and seemed to have a range of different customers.

McNeill Nakamoto
This was one of my favourite firms. They returned my phone calls very quickly, were very helpful and were really good about cross selling my experience to different employers. I’d highly recommend them.


Hot Tip For Airports

Another day, another trip to an airport. As much as I love travelling, I’m ready to be back in Vancouver. It’s time to keep my feet on the ground and enjoy winter in Canada.

Airports and endless escalators
Airports and escalators, the two go hand in hand

Hot tip for hanging out in airports; don’t wonder out of the secure area looking for junior mints. Just because you can leave through one door, doesn’t mean you can come back in.

If you do leave, you’ll have to travel all the way back to start and go through security all over again. Which can take over an hour. Junior mints are great, but not worth the stress.

House Hunting In Vancouver

Number 2 on my top 5 things to do when you land in a city is find accommodation.

Photo Credit: CBC News

Finding accommodation is probably one of the most stressful parts of moving cities. While you can stay in a hostel for as long as you want, it’s more expensive and less convenient than just moving to a shared apartment. Also having a proper address makes other parts of settling into a new city easier (for example getting a bank account).

So you’ve decided you’re going to look for your own place. Where do you start? While there are a lot of things you can’t control in a move, here are a few tips to make finding a pad easier.

Investigate Different Neighbourhoods
One of my favourite things about Vancouver is how different its neighbourhoods can be. They all have their own personality, culture and claims to fame. The question is how can new Vancouverites choose where to live if they don’t know the lay of the land?

If you’re moving to Vancouver for a specific job or university, then that question is taken care of for you. But if you don’t, the task of choosing a neighbourhood can be kind of overwhelming. There are some formal government websites that describe Vancouver’s big neighbourhoods. These websites can, however, be a bit sterile and manage to make all of the cities areas sound the same.

I also found this, slightly more controversial, map of Vancouver. It did the rounds a couple of years ago and, from the look of the comments, offended as many people as it made laugh. I’d take it with a grain of salt. I suspect its creator didn’t mean for it to be taken literally. But it can be useful for giving you a general impression of Vancouver’s neighbourhoods. Or at least what people say when they’re making fun of them.

I was a bit lazy and only used Craigslist when I was searching for a room in Vancouver. It’s just so convenient. It has all the search options you’d want (area, type of room, min and max etc) and I really like it’s map view (see below). It allows you to see all the different apartments in an area and really compare locations (everyone says their location is super convenient, but it’s not always true). The only complaint I have is you can’t add other locations (like skytrain stops or work) to the map. First world problem I know. Having to open that second tab for Google Maps is so hard.

Craigs List
Craigslist’s Map View

Another website that I’ve heard of is In order to search through adds you have create a profile and since I already have a house I haven’t made one. Forcing people to create profiles might, however, improve the quality of the adds so Easyroommate could be a very good site to use.


Start Early, But Not Too Early
Timing your house hunt can be a bit of a contradiction. On the one hand you want to start looking as soon as possible. The earlier you start, the better your chances right? Most rooms in Vancouver, however, seem to be on monthly rent cycles. So people only put adds up 4 weeks before they need you to move in. So if you’re too early it’s unlikely you’ll hear back from many people. It would be a risky move for them.

I found that people started replying to my emails once I was 2 weeks away from landing in Vancouver. And the closer it got to my flight, the more interested people seemed. Nonetheless, there’s still a lot of risk for a landlord to take on someone before they meet them. One way around this is to give them a local friend’s contact number who can be a referee. My friend was able to call a couple of land lords and I think built a lot of confidence. It also gives your friend a chance to go quiz the landlord and see if the apartment sounds good by local standards.

Check What They Mean By ‘Ground Floor’
A friend warned me that, in Vancouver, when people describe a room as ‘ground floor’ what they often mean is windowless basement. I never looked into any ground floor rooms myself, but I do remember finding some ground floor room in Kitsilano with slightly odd descriptions.

Ground Floor?
Ground Floor? – Photo Credit: TheTinyLife

Things Sometimes Fall Through
Whether you’re looking to rent a room or subletting a room youself, anyone whose gone through the process knows that nothing’s really settled until money has been paid. Up until then, things can and do fall through. Before moving to Vancouver my boyfriend and I agreed to move into a Yaletown apartment with 2 other people. We had a couple of skype chats with the landlord who seemed really nice, we organised a Western Union transfer and I felt good that accommodation had been sorted. Then 4 days before we flew out we got an email saying that the deal was off. The owner’s situation had changed and the room was no longer available. She didn’t take any of the money, but we still had to pay Western Union’s fees and didn’t have anywhere to stay.

It all worked out for the best in the end. I really love our apartment in the West End. We have a great housemate and rent is cheaper than Yaletown. But it was still a really stressful things to go through just before we flew out. While you can’t prepare for this sort of thing, I’d recommend getting as much confirmation as you possible can before you land. And be nice to people if you end up turning down offers. You never know when you might need to call them back!

Surviving Long Haul Flights

The past month has been a bit hectic for me. I’ve found myself spending a lot of time on planes; 46 long hours to be exact. I’m more than a little bit tired.

When fashion magazines interview super models they always ask for travel tips.
“Oh Miranda, with your jet setting life style how do you look after your skin?”
Well Miranda is travelling first class and, in my limited experience, that makes a huge difference.

Photo Credit: DailyMail – I’ve never looked that refreshed travelling

For me nothing can make a long haul flight ‘fun’. What could make not sleeping, showering or eating real food for 24 hours fun? There are, however, a few things you can do to make experience more bearable. And believe me when I say that I’ve been putting this advice to good use.

1. Pack Spare Clothes
It’s the first piece of travel advice my mother gave my and it’s served me well. Always have spare socks, underwear, a T-shirt and your toothbrush in your hand luggage. Because you never know when you’ll be separated from you bags.

Ironically on my very first trip there was a problem with the plane and I went one way while my luggage went another. It took over 36 hours for the airline to get it back to me. In the meantime, clean underwear and a toothbrush made my time in Athens much more enjoyable.

Photo Credit: UBC – No matter what, spare underwear is a must!

2. Wear Comfortable Clothes
Ever see people in the airport wearing their track pants and slippers? Ever wonder if it’s ok to be basically wearing your pyjamas in public? The answer is yes, if you’re on a long haul flight.

Fourteen hours on a plane (followed by the inevitable second 10 hour flight if you’re travelling anywhere from Australia to anywhere) is a long time, so it’s important to be comfortable. No skinny jeans, awkward shoes or constrictive tops. I also find layers work well, that way you can take them off or put them on depending on how cold your plane is (they’re always a little cold).

3. Dress (Or Prepare) For Where You’re Going
Look up the temperature of your destination and dress accordingly. Or at least bring appropriate clothes in your carry on. Just because it’s hot in Bangkok when you leave, doesn’t stop it from snowing in Japan when you land. Trust me, the cardigan I was wearing just didn’t cut it.

4. Bring An Eye Mask And Ear Plugs
At home I’m a fairly heavy sleeper, but struggle to sleep on planes. There’s the inevitable snorer, the baby that wakes up or the guy behind you who uses your arm rest as his smelly foot rest. It all conspires against getting any sleep.

An eye mask and ear plugs won’t guarantee you a proper night’s sleep. But it will help you get some rest, instead of spending the whole night greasing off the snorer two rows in front of you.

Eye Mask
Photo Credit: Wideworldtravelstore

Cheap Flights
These last points are particularly relevant if you’re travelling internationally on a super cheap airline. The kind where the only complimentary thing on board is water; food, drinks, headsets and blankets are all extra. Anyone who has flown Jetstar will know what I mean.

5. Bring Your Own Food
If there’s one thing I find particularly cheap about budget airlines, it’s the way they charge for food. Because it’s always such bad food. I like Maggi noodles as much as the next girl, but not for $5.

Photo Credit: Keepingitkleen

One way around this is bringing your own food. I once took a whole meal in tupperware containers onto a Jetstar flight. I’m talking about leftovers, salad and apple pie for dessert. I even had a tin of baked beans as a snack. Why I was allowed to bring all that on a flight, I do not know (particularly the baked beans!). But even if you’re just buying food in the airport, it’s bound to be better than overpriced instant noodles.

6. Bring Your Own Pillow And Blanket
This point mainly applies to travelling in South East Asia. At some point every traveller contemplates buying a pillow or blanket at a bus stop. We often say no, because what would we do with a cheap, flat pillow back home?

If you’re flying home on a budget airline, however, do it. Buy the blanket and the pillow. While the little old lady’s price might seem ridiculous in local currency, Jetstar will always charge you more.

Flat Pillow
Photo Credit: Lastquilt

First Week In Vancouver (5 Things To Do When You Land)

Buenos Aires
New Places, New Faces: Buenos Aires

So you’ve made the decision: it’s time for a change and you’re going to move. You’ve had your farewell, survived the 24 hours of travelling and have finally landed in your new home. What happens next?

You’ve gone from having an entire life organised around you, to knowing no one and probably being constantly lost in your new city’s streets. When you finally get to your new home, what do you need to do to set up a new life? Where do you even begin?

If you’re planning on staying in a city for a while and want to build a new life, there are a few things you can do to make the transition easier. This post is based on my experience of setting up a life in Canada; these are all the things I did in my first week. I found that, once you have these things sorted, it takes a lot of the pressure off and you can enjoy the your new city at your own pace.

So here are my top five things I’d recommend doing during your first week in a new city:

1. Phone Number
It’s official, technology has won and I can’t live without a mobile phone. It’s the very first thing I’d recommend doing when you move to a new country.

Funny and kind of true

And no, it’s not because I can’t live without Snapchat (though I do love that app). But having a mobile phone makes all of the other ‘setting up life’ tasks simpler. Calling about apartments, finding out when the ICBC closes or comparing the price of difference bed sets is infinitely easier with your own phone. Yes, you can use pay phones or skype on the hostel wifi. But let’s be honest, skype can be patchy at the best of times and now that it’s not the 80’s pay phones are a little hard to find.  Having your own mobile number also lets people call you back, which is particularly important when you’re looking for an apartment or a job.

In order to get a mobile number as quickly as possible, make sure you unlock your phone before you arrive. I had a friend spend over 4 hours arguing with Telstra trying to unlock her phone the day before she flew to the US. This is not something you want to have to do over a bad skype connection.

2. Accommodation
Once you have a mobile number, it’s time to find a place to sleep. 

Finding accommodation in a new city is a big task, (worthy of a blog post in and of itself, which I’ll be writing soon!) so I’d recommend getting started ASAP. If possible, do as much as you can before you leave. Interviews can be done over skype and inspections can be organised for the day after you land (give yourself the first day off, it’s always surprising how awful jetlag is). At the very least get familiar with the website you intend to use to find a place (such as Craigslist or Easyroommate), so you can hit the ground running.

3. SIN Number
If you’re planning on working in Canada you’ll need a Social Insurance Number. It’s just like a tax file number for Australians and gives you to access government services. You can apply for work in Canada without a SIN, but in my experience it’s not difficult to get and means you can start a job straight away (instead of waiting for paperwork or background checks or anything else that might keep you from that important first pay cheque).

There are two ways you can get a SIN. You can either apply in person at a Service Canada centre or apply via mail if you’re living 100km or more away from the nearest centre. If you do it via post it will take a couple of weeks for your SIN to reach you. If you do it in person, it takes maybe 40 minutes and you get your SIN straight away (they still post the card to you, but you only need the number to start working). So even if you’re only staying in say Vancouver for a few weeks before moving up to Whistler, I’d still recommend getting your SIN number before you go. You’ll need specific proof of ID depending on the visa you’re using to stay in the Canada, so it’s worth checking out the Service Canada website before going.

4. Drivers License
In the eyes of a lot of organisations, having a local drivers license is proof that you’re a real ‘resident’ and entitles you to benefits that locals enjoy.

YYoga, for example, offers new members a month of unlimited yoga for $40 (roughly $100 discount), but it’s only for BC residents. Something your driver license proves you are, even if you’ve only been living in the city for a few weeks.

There are a lot of international regulations about transferring a drivers license and a lot will depend on whether or not your home country and new country have a reciprocal agreement in place. In the case of Australia and Canada, there is a reciprocal agreement and if you have proof of 2 years driving experience and your Australian license in hand, you can get a Canadian drivers license without doing any driving tests. I think this is pretty generous, given we drive on opposite sides of the road. But hey, if they’re happy with it so am I!

The tricky part turned out to the proving two years driving experience. Before leaving home I got a copy of my drivers history from the RTA. But when I got to Vancouver ICBC wouldn’t accept it because it was an unproven copy of a document; turns out they only accept license histories that are faxed directly to them. The RTA at home was happy to do this, but if I’d know earlier I could have saved myself the $25 I spent before leaving.

If you can’t prove two years driving experience you can still get a BC license, you just have to go through some kind of graduated license program. The ICBC website is pretty easy to use and worth reading before you arrive.

5. Bank Account
Once you have your drivers license, you’ll be able to set up a local bank account. Like the SIN number you can get a job without one, but it just creates more work later on and could prevent you from getting paid. Once you have a local account, you can also figure out the cheapest way to transfer money over from your home bank account.  Nothing is more annoying than knowing that the Commonwealth bank is both paying me a lame exchange rate and charging a % fee for withdrawing my money overseas.

When I was setting up my bank account, my bank required two pieces of identification and recommended that one of them be government issued. I’m not sure if I could have gotten away with just Australian government issued ID, but by waiting until I got my SIN number everything was straightforward and I left the bank with all my accounts sorted.

Vancouver Seawall
Once you find finish these five things, it’s time to put your feet up and finally relax

Why Make The Move?

Highway, USA
Road trippin, USA

As a blog about moving and travelling overseas I guess I should start at the beginning; why make the move? People say that nothing in life is free and this applies to travel too. Travelling inevitably costs something. Whether you’re budget backpacking around Europe or taking a luxury cruise through the pacific, travelling takes up money and time. More than that, the longer the trip the bigger the plunge and the more of your life you have to uproot. A year long trip around the world involves packing up your house, selling anything you can’t put into storage and tying up a million loose ends (there are always more than you expect).

When faced with all of these costs it’s fair to ask the question, is it worth it? Maybe you’ve built a perfectly nice life around you but have a nagging desire to road trip across the USA. When economies around the world are struggling, should you be spending money on travelling that you could be investing in things like a house or stocks? How can you justify the expense?

The answer for me is unequivocally yes, it is worth it. While it’s perfectly fine not to drop everything to spend months sleeping in the back of a car on US highways (it’s not for everyone), if you have a dream of seeing something in this beautiful world that just won’t go away, it is going to be worth it. Always.

For me this answer is simple one because I’ve always wanted to travel. More than buying cars or owning expensive clothes, more than anything else I’ve always dreams about travelling the world. I was lucky enough to grow up in a family that valued and encouraged travel. Surrounded by my mother’s beautiful tan boots from Venice and the jewellery she brought back from South Africa, it was just common sense that I would travel the world too. But I see now that not everyone is raised to value travel this way and these questions can hold people back from taking the bucket list trip they’ve always dreamed about. So here are my top three reasons for taking the plunge:

1. The world is a beautiful place
It’s obvious but true; the world is incredibly beautiful and that alone is a good reason to go see it. While things like TV and the internet have opened the world up, actually being there will always be more fulfilling than watching someone else do it. Your own personal memory of a place, whether it’s the colour of a sunset on an Indian highway, the songs of a West End play or the taste of cocktails in a tiny bar in New York, will stay with you for the rest of your life. It’s often these small, silly details that make the strongest memories and TV can’t compete with that.

Goa India
Goa, India

2. Different trips for different times
There are a million different ways to travel and any trip can be tailored to suit the stage of life you’re in. My first trip was backpacking through Europe with my best friend when I was 18. It was amazing. It was also hectic, scattered and full of dirty hostel beds. But it was the best thing I’d ever done and filled me with a sense of freedom I’d never known before. While that trip was focused on doing and seeing as much as humanly possible, later trips were focused on other things like learning a second language (that was the goal, I didn’t really make it) or taking time out to make big decisions (a good cure for a mid-twenties crisis). In short, not every trip has to be the same grungy backpacker experience. You could spend 6 months volunteering in an orphanage in India, rent an apartment in Italy and tour the countryside like a local or even take a cruise to Antarctica. I believe that travelling isn’t just for a certain age group, but  for anyone with a sense of adventure and an interest in learning more about the world.

3. Scary can be good
The bigger the trip, the scarier it can seem. Maybe it’s travelling alone for the first time or maybe travelling with a partner for the first time (nothing like a big trip to test a relationship). Maybe it’s the thought of packing up a life you’ve spent so long building up. There are lots of reasons travelling can be intimidating. Personally, if I ever catch myself wondering if something is a too scary, that’s when I know I need to do it. Of course, I believe in travelling safely so a fear unstable, remote warzones is something you should heed. But I think it’s important to continually challenge yourself and maybe the fact that a trip pushes you out of your comfort zone is the very reason you should do it. Instead of the reason you shouldn’t.

Don't Worry, Drink Happy
Mendoza, Argentina

First Month In Vancouver

Vancouver Seawall

Hello and welcome to the first post on Northern Lights; my own little corner of the internet. I’ve wanted to write a blog for a long time so I’m pretty excited about this site and what I’ll hopefully be doing with it.

I guess the first thing to do is introduce myself. My name is Ana and I’m an Australian who recently make the leap across the pond and moved to Vancouver. I’ve travelled in Canada a couple of times before, but each trip just left me wanting more. Eventually I thought I’m in my late twenties, I only have a few more years of easy visas, it’s time I take the plunge and just move. So a month ago I packed up my life in Oz, filled my suitcase with 23kgs of belongings (which is not much at all!) and hopped on a plane.

While I haven’t been here long I can honestly say I am so glad I came. Vancouver is a vibrant, beautiful city and, with the ski season just around the corner, I haven’t been this excited about winter in a long time!

As you can guess, this blog will mostly be about my move to Vancouver and the travelling I hope to do.  I’d like it to be a resource for anyone wanting to move to overseas but who doesn’t really know where to start. But I’m also hoping to write about on my other passions such as food, cooking, yoga and sustainability in general. Just looking over that list, Vancouver has a lot to offer on each count and I can’t wait to start exploring!

Gastown, Vancouver BC