Fang Liu loves Halifax, but her struggle to find employment just might lead her elsewhere. Fang is an analytical chemist with specialized skills in demand in the pharmaceutical industry, and often in medicine and academia.
Fang and her husband, Fan Wu, also a chemist, had been working in separate cities in China as they were unable to find jobs in the same place. After friends moved to North America, they decided to do the same. “We wanted a new chance and to learn new things,” she explains, adding that her parents and three siblings remain in China.
They lived in South Carolina for three years while Fan Wu worked on his post-doctorate degree. They then moved to Kingston, Ontario, where he continued his studies at Queen’s University. Meanwhile they had their first son – John, now 13 — and Fang stayed home to care for him.
Friends in Kingston had moved to Halifax and encouraged them to follow. “They told us the lobster is cheaper here,” says Fang with a laugh. “I love seafood and I love the ocean.” The family arrived in Halifax in 2002 and had their second son – Jasper, now 10 – and Fang worked on her Master’s at Dalhousie University. She found it to be a great environment with impressive people and lots of ideas. She explains that her work is very particular – she uses automated instruments and analyzes biological samples for their compounds.
Although her husband has work, after finishing her degree, Fang worked for only two months in her supervisor’s laboratory. Her frustration is evident. “I want to have a job that uses my skills and knowledge.” The family bought a house two years ago and feels settled. They especially love summer when the boys can enjoy outdoor activities. “People are so nice, even on the road.”
Fang heard of Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia when she arrived in Halifax, and has participated in several programs. She studied English, Communication for Work and Business and took Pre-Employment Workshops. She took a class that focused on pronunciation, something she continues to work on. “This is so important; you have to pronounce correctly.” Fang says she liked her classes and learned a lot — how to make small talk, how to make presentations. Because she is shy, she was not comfortable at first. “I felt ashamed, but in class you have to speak up.”
Fang continues to work on her English, often looking up words in the dictionary and borrowing library books with CDs attached. She may take online classes so that she continues to practice. At home she also speaks Mandarin in an attempt to pass the language along to her sons.
Fang tries to stay positive about her job search but she’s only had one interview and often people don’t even respond. Because it’s important to have local work experience, finding that first job is crucial. “This is a great place, but eventually we’ll move.”
Update! Since Fang’s interview she has moved to Toronto. Thanks and best of luck Fang!