November 7, 2014 1 Comment Thoughts and Feelings Working in Alberta

Why I left School in Vancouver to work in Alberta

There was a day when all I ever thought about was working in an investment bank or law firm one day- go to a prestigious university at a young age, come out, slap on a tie and suit, and cruise down the city streets in a nice car to my office- common city boy dream- and make my family proud. Unfortunately a series of misfortunes such as family issues, depression, and issues with my personal and love life, together with the poor job market back home, drove me to leave, after going into my 4th year of my university degree at UBC. One day I threw all my stuff into my car and drove off to Alberta, and a year and half later I’m still here for some reason, after being 21 years old and onto a new truck, my second BMW, 20-30lb. of muscle more, my apprenticeship, and my Class 1 license.

And by the time I’ve been thinking of leaving, financially and mentally it would had made little sense. I’m questioned a lot regarding my decision to make my stay in Alberta a permanent one, and below are some:

– saturation of the fields for university grads and poor job prospect outlook; financially too risky to take a loan to finish my degree; an oilsands trade is safer and can make more money more easily with more comfort that you’ll have a job. Within the same time it’d take me to finish my degree, if I spent my efforts in the oilfield/trade I would be making $100k+ without incurring debt, though yes it won’t be comfortable as a 9-5 office job, and I can go back anytime in case I change my mind.

Back home it was the norm to spend 4-5 years of school time and money, come out and fight hundreds of other graduates for a 30-40k/year job, and make maybe 60-70 years later. Spending another year and half to finish would cost me approximately 30000$, not factoring in lost income. Spending that same time here potentially I could be making $100k+/year with the correct arrangement, without spending $30k. The hours I work will be longer and life may not be as pleasant, but the payload much larger.

– can make lots of money in a short time period; useful for trading/investing, as this industry is unique to offer high wages with minimal (financial) investment

White-collar roles in Calgary, though competitive, if one is lucky to land the right arrangement he/she can still make upwards of $100k. However, this typically takes years of experience, depending on the arrangement- much longer than a skilled person in the oil patch. However, one concern I have is that if perhaps a decade later the oil patch traders person would be making only a little bit more than the office person in more comfortable Calgary in an office, who would have caught up by then. Then again it is impossible to gauge how things will look in say, 10 years.

– A smart person can buy a house very quickly on his/her own, versus taking years and years elsewhere; good opportunity to build equity quicker. Just avoid the bars, restaurants, strippers, and casino

The very thought of being able to get my own house in my lower 20s is very appealing, while this is when students would just be struggling out of school.

– unique housing market; high rent prices driven by high migration rates, yet low mortgage payments with current interest rates and prices because the housing hasn’t caught up with say, Vancouver prices; very easy to cover your mortgage payment with tenants, and profit in some cases, though yes the industry is cyclical here so it is a risky move.

There is a common “mortgage and rent it out” mentality here, and for good reason. However, the cylical nature of the industry is of concern- what would happen during the hard times? But then again, the more risk one takes, the greater the potential return.

– hated student life and many people from Vancouver; wanted a new start. Seemed like the land of entitled kids with loaded parents or lost youth who just want to work at Starbucks. At first glance it seems strange to be bitter because of others, but when you’re struggling and most around you are living the high life, it gets painful quick. This obviously was not a major factor, but it eliminated the ‘stay with the people you like’ reason to stay.

Being a student- broke in debt, living on packaged noodles, riding the bus in the rain, and not being able to enjoy things I wanted was a major determinant in not going back to being a student again. “You are a student, you shouldn’t be or have ___” was one of the most dreaded things to hear. If I want something, I intend to get it by any means possible. I do not care what other students or young guys want to do. Even if I have to be in another province to make it happen. If I didn’t have a choice, then it’d be a different story. But, I do.

There is a common culture back home to work in a coffee shop, ride the bus, and call it a day.  Or, everyone around you came from wealthy backgrounds and they could freely eat out, shop, and drive nice cars their parents bought them. I did not have that arrangement, and it was very painful overtime to have it rubbed in my face all the time. I didn’t get along with many of them too well because financially I could not keep up with their lavish lifestyles. So what was the alternative if that was what I wanted? Leave and find work that will get myself that. I also didn’t want to work in a coffee shop for near min. wage and ride the bus- I just was not that type of person.

– wanted to experience life on my own; family was too controlling and never got to pick a life of my own; too much fighting with family

It’s typical for most Chinese (my descent) to live a life dictated by their families- serve their dreams and become what they ideally wanted you to be.  Even pick a career and school they like, not one you like, and aim for so in the matter they opt, not you. One of the greatest achievements was to pick a life and path of my own, not what my family intended. And besides, the end goal is very similar anyways. I want to be a successful investor and career man one day with nice houses and cars. I just am taking a different approach that I think is best.

Poor job market

Fight with hundreds of others lining up to take that $15/hour job you applied for, and even after university, that is just all you might get.

And in summary, I’m just happier, and I make and have more money.