This post is continued from Real Life Narratives Post 1. Please read part 1 first.
Person C is my wonderful friend. She is a Procurement Manager and lives in Ontario with her husband and children. There is something she always says that makes me smile – “Canada is per second per second, don’t give yourself headache just live each second at a time”.
How did you get your first job?
For me God was very gracious, I got a job transfer at the same time as I was relocating. It is not a typical case with others but from the experiences of some friends, some also got jobs before they came into Canada, some got placements through various bridging programs, others applied when they got in and got jobs. It’s important though to prepare for the requirement or certifications or exams of one’s chosen field before coming over. The key is to prepare. If you work with an international company with offices Canada, please maximize it, check for internal roles and apply.
I moved here with my husband and two kids in 2016 and we chose Canada because we were looking at bringing up the children in an environment that is safe and where the children would feel accepted. And also to be able to give them the same leverage with their peers. Safety was another consideration and also for us to be more participatory with everything that goes on in their childhood which is the most important aspect of their growing up. we were also looking at somewhere we would be able to build a new life, start again and will give us opportunities. There are lots of opportunities that abound in Canada.
On getting to Canada there were a lot of things we had to adjust to. The weather is very different from where we came from. The work life here, getting absorbed into the environment. I will talk a bit on how I got my first job.
My son got into school and there was this lady of mixed African origin who used to see me around and we got talking. She gave me a lead and she had been here for around 8 years. She worked in a convenience store and told me they were recruiting in her office. In my head I was thinking – a convenience store – a big well-known one, as a salesperson – how do I reconcile that after almost 9 years in the bank? But you know what, something just said ‘just be grateful’. When we came in a lot of people told us about the Canadian experience. I was like, what’s the big deal, what’s this Canadian experience? so i said to myself, if this salesperson job is going to give me the Canadian experience for me to get into the sector that I want or do what I want then of course I will take a shot at it. So I spoke to her and she helped me and I got my first job. Honestly, it was a lot for me to take down but I did and I did the job for a week or two. but while I was doing this the truth was I knew that it wasn’t for me. So I was pushing out resumes, I was taking a lot of tests, I was doing a lot of things on getting home; burning the midnight candle, doing everything I had to do. I got a mail one day about an opportunity in the financial sector which is something I wanted. They pretty much did everything a bank did. I knew it was a good one so I responded. They did all the security checks and I landed the job.
Trust me, I was one of the few black people there on starting. I wondered what I did differently to be one of the few blacks there but you know one thing I did differently was I allowed myself even during the interview process not to see the barriers but to see beyond the person that was sitting right next to me. I did a lot of home work, interview skills preparation, I took a lot of tests just to get myself prepared. The truth is when others are giving 50 percent, we have to give 90 percent because there is an underlying feeling that makes people expect we cannot bring much to the table so we have to offer more. I was in that financial organization for some time and after a while I told myself that now I have this highly sought after Canadian experience. Meanwhile while I was working here, I enrolled in a couple of societies like Immigration societies where you could get free training. I also took online courses. It wasn’t easy but at the end of it you would gain the soft skills. It’s not a big deal where we are coming from but over here it is. What are these soft skills? – Networking, communication, how you relate with your colleagues, respect, value, culture – these are really big over here. I took a lot of these soft skill courses and put them on my resumes. I also took advantage of the free training. With these I feel it’s why I got called for the financial sector job.
Meanwhile I didn’t stop there, after working in the financial sector for 8 months, I began to target getting a government job. So even when others were advising me to get another job I said no because I knew what I wanted. I wanted somewhere I would stay in and retire. The thing is that government jobs take a while. There is a lot of bureaucracy. I applied and was in the pool for 6 months – federal and provincial. I did both and got both. Sometimes the wait is exhausting but trust me, eventually it is worth it. The main thing is do not remain where you are. The thing is to have the Canadian experience. There is dignity in every labour, no job is too small. As a matter of fact, trade jobs like plumbing, electrician etc they earn more than some white collar jobs.
Looking at the work life in Canada, it depends on you and what you are looking for. You can decide to go for a regular 9 to 5 job, go into retail and work shifts, go casual e.g 2 or 3 days in a week so you have time for your kids or schooling, go part time etc so you will tailor your searches to what you want. It is not like Nigeria, here it is what it is, just exactly as advertised. There is no loafing around, you have to be ready to work. There is a work life balance for everyone (both private and government). Know what you want to do and get certifications as well (either paid or free). You have to show you are willing to imbibe yourself into the culture. That is what sells you. They are not interested in how many Masters or Phd degrees you have so their focus is on your soft skills and relationship skills. Even if you have 100 years experience where you are coming from, Canada doesn’t care. You need to figure out what is required to work in the sector you want and go after it. Even if it’s a free course like what I did, please do something. Don’t just sit still.
I love a lot of things about living in Canada. The school system is unmatched. For the children, the education system is well grounded. Back where I come from it’s more like they want to open up the heads of the kids but here it is more like building the foundation to be solid. I also love the accessibility. Where I stay in Canada you can easily move around and your commute is within minutes. There are parks and where to take the kids to in every community. You have everything at your tips. I love the weather, the spring and fall are beautiful. Summer is pretty hot and it could get pretty cold in winter. I live in BC though so even winter isn’t so bad. I love so many things about living in Canada. I am a lot closer to my kids because you don’t have people at your beck and call like back home to do everything for you and your kids.
Sometimes there’s systematic racism. People are cautious but sometimes you feel it. As you gradually grow along the line though you realize that it doesn’t have anything to do with you and those things will always exist. Just remember that you are way better than any profiling or the colour of your skin. It’s not just here in Canada, it’s all over the world.
Adjusting to the new culture wasn’t too easy. I struggled a bit. For the first 3 months I didn’t work because I was waiting for the kids to start school. It takes a while. It’s gradual. Don’t expect it to happen overnight. Anywhere you go you don’t expect things to just happen immediately. Things always get better as time goes on and you better understand how the system runs. You then begin to see reasons why thing are done the way they are and you begin to adapt and adjust.
Mentally, you have to be prepared. If you do not prepare yourself mentally, there is always a shock. People tell you but if you don’t prepare you won’t expect it. There are a lot of resources online that tell you what to expect. There is that period of adjustment where it’s like waiting on the water and things are not stable. As time goes on, you begin to fit in and you blend with the culture. You don’t have to imbibe everything, just take what is good for yourself and your kids. Not all the values here must be accepted.
I hope you find this useful and it helps you take a decision in moving and adjusting to the new life. Thank you.
That’s not all folks – Real Life Narratives Post 3.