Surrey woman wins Canadian immigrant contest aimed to inspire others to find success

Published: August 1, 2014

Vandana Khetarpal moved to Surrey from India in March. Within two months she landed a job in her profession. Her success story won her $1,000 in a Canadian immigrant contest. Submitted photo.


When Vandana Khetarpal was first planning to move her family from India to Surrey, she mainly heard immigrant horror stories where experienced professionals were forced to pick up “basic jobs.”

“People had always been telling (us) it’s very difficult to get into your own profession,” the former Olympia College business professor told Vancouver Desi. “It’s very easy to capture a negative perspective.

“If 10 people are saying the same negative thing — it’s easy to get in that trap.”

So instead, she stayed positive and did her research before moving to Canada with her husband and two children in March — and by April 30 she was happily working as a part time business professor at Fraser Valley Community College.

She even entered her inspiring success story into a new immigrant contest called What’s Your Secret, organized by online immigrant magazine Prepare For Canada, and won the $1,000 prize.

“People [often] talk about immigrants who failed,” said contest organizer and Prepare for Canada managing partner, Nick Noorani. “There are strugglers, I understand that.

“But it’s important to realize that the glass is also half full.”

So he helped launch the What’s Your Secret contest a few months ago, as a way to “turn the spotlight” on immigrants who have found success.

“It’s important for immigrants to see role models,” said Noorani. “Let’s ask them what’s worked for them.”

Khetarpal chalks up her success to good old fashioned research and positivity.

“I kept that positivity inside,” she said, adding that she also found that regular meditation helped.

She also researched before arriving in Canada, “otherwise if you come here and then you’re starting to do your research then … you have that added pressure,” she said.

Not only did she research immigrant organizations like Skill Connect and Prepare for Canada, but she also looked at job postings, so she could prepare herself for what employers are looking for.

“If you’ve done these things before it’s [helpful],” she said.

So by the time Khetarpal landed in B.C., she was able to help her husband find a volunteer position where he could gain the necessary job skills, which eventually led to a position, while she sorted her kids out with local schools and connected with the immigrant organizations she had researched. Here she learned how to upgrade her skills and update her resume before she carried out the job hunt. And within two months, she started teaching at the community college.

“I’m really liking it — teaching is something which I’m passionate about,” she said.

To enter the What’s Your Secret contest, enter your immigration success story at The story with the most votes wins the $1,000 cash prize.

Nick Noorani’s Seven Success Secrets for Canadian Immigrants

1. Learn the language:

“Without the language they don’t care how smart you are — you’re not going to get a job,” said Noorani.

But it’s not enough to just attend an ESL class — you must practise.

“A lot of immigrants go to language schools, learn ESL, but they come out and start speaking their language the moment they exit the class — that’s not going to help you,” said Noorani, adding that he ‘prescribes’ eight hours of English per day for 90 days.

2. Stay positive

3. Embrace Canada

“Understand what Canada is all about — the people, the history,” said Noorani.

4. Have a Plan B

5. Move out of “ethnic silos”

6. Take risks

7. Get Canadian experience through volunteering, mentorships, and networking.

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