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Toronto is drawing young professionals, some of whom are choosing the city over other international destinations such as Paris, Shanghai and Tokyo. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
Toronto is drawing young professionals, some of whom are choosing the city over other international destinations such as Paris, Shanghai and Tokyo. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Toronto a popular destination for U.S. expat professionals Add to ...

Karen Greve Young was born in Washington, attended university in Boston, and has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York and London. But when she and her husband considered where they wanted to live, work and raise their children, they settled on Toronto.

“It had all of my favourite ingredients of Boston, San Francisco, New York, London and D.C. – all the great cities I’ve lived in – in a bizarrely accessible way for a city of its size,” she said.

Those ingredients, Ms. Greve Young explains, include affordability, safety, diversity, a strong public school system, publicly funded health care, career opportunities and culture. “For a lot of people, Toronto is not the first city they move to after business school or after their undergrad, but [they reconsider] after a few years when they are getting ready to both live and work in their city and really optimize both sides of the equation. I think Toronto is the best city for that,” she said.

Ms. Greve Young is among a growing number of Americans looking for international experience in Canada, and specifically Toronto.

A recent study by LinkedIn analyzed where 25,000 of its American members who had four-year degrees and job experience in their home countries chose to work and live internationally. Since Jan. 1, 2010, the third-most popular, long-term destination for American expatriates has been Toronto, behind only London and Sydney. More of those American LinkedIn members have chosen to live and work in Toronto than Paris, Shanghai, Madrid, Tokyo, Beijing, Melbourne and Amsterdam, which round out the top 10, respectively.

Ms. Greve Young adds that when she left the United States for London in 2001, Canada was hardly on the map for Americans looking for career opportunities abroad. Now the vice-president of partnerships for the MaRS Discovery District, she believes Toronto offers opportunities in the technology, finance, business and arts industries that few cities can match.

“I just had my business school reunion at Stanford about three months ago, and a ton of classmates were telling me that they were coming to Toronto on business – whether they were in private equity or venture capital or other fields – and that didn’t used to happen,” she said.

Some recent positive press has aided the city and country’s reputation abroad in recent years. A 2015 study by The Economist named Toronto as the world’s best city to live in, and 2016’s rankings put Vancouver in third spot, followed directly by Toronto and Calgary.

“Lots of publications have written about the appeal of living in [Toronto],” said Julie Dossett, the communications lead for LinkedIn Canada. “This is a very livable city, and I think that is a factor when we look at where people want to work.”

Ms. Dossett adds that job seekers are increasingly looking to work for employers that can provide international experience. “When we look at factors of recruitment and attraction of talent, mobility within the company – including international placements – is absolutely a factor,” she said.

While many Americans are choosing to cross the border to find their next career opportunity, Canadians continue to flock south to cities like New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area, which LinkedIn determined were the top two destinations for Canadian expats. In fact, six of the top 10 destinations for Canadian job seekers are in the United States, including Los Angeles in sixth place, followed by Boston and Seattle in seventh and eighth and Washington in 10th.

“The level of opportunity is just on a different scale here [in the United States],” said Jasmeet Sidhu, who grew up in the Greater Toronto Area, attended the University of Toronto and was honoured as one of Canada’s 100 Most Powerful Women by the Women’s Executive Network before accepting a scholarship to the Columbia School of Journalism in New York in 2011.

Over the past five years, Ms. Sidhu has lived and worked in Los Angeles, New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area, first in video production and then for Facebook before accepting her current position at a Silicon Valley startup called MasterClass.

“We live in a globalized world where borders shouldn’t necessarily be a restriction for where you want to train and where you want to gain work experience,” said Ms. Sidhu, adding that she ultimately intends to return back home. “I’m excited to bring what I’m learning in L.A., San Francisco and New York back to Canada.”

While she said her move won’t be hastened by the outcome of the upcoming American presidential election, many Canadians and even some Americans have expressed uneasiness with the political climate south of the border.

Earlier this summer, Google searches related to moving to Canada reached an all-time high, likely as a result of both the Brexit vote to leave the European Union and Donald Trump’s victory in the primaries, while Canadian immigration lawyers have been inundated with calls and e-mails from foreigners interested in Canadian residency.

Gregory Levey – the chief executive officer of Figure 1, a Toronto-based social networking company for medical professionals – employs 36 people, including four in New York. “Literally all four of our New York employees have at least made offhand remarks about wanting to live in Canada,” he said.

“I had an interview this morning with a senior person at a super-famous tech company in Silicon Valley – like a top-three company, you use their products every day – and he wants to move here,” Mr. Levey added. “We could have got that guy, and a big reason was the political environment. That was pretty eye-opening. It’s not necessarily Trump winning, but it’s the general political environment. I’ve heard that a lot.”

Whether or not the political climate motivates more people to move to Canada, however, international experience is a valuable asset for job seekers on both sides of the border.

“The value of international experience is becoming apparent for both work and life experiences,” said Courtney Villeneuve, the U.S. recruitment officer for the University of Toronto. “People know Toronto and Canada more broadly as a safe place, a welcoming place and a tolerant place, and all of those work in our favour.”

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