A tale of determination, successes, ‘non-successes’, learning and growth. I hope this encourages you to keep going and never to give up. Written by Zino Fapohunda.
I arrived Canada on the 1st of February, 2018 as a permanent resident. Since then, I have gotten 4 marketing offers, worked in 3 companies, gotten fired from one, made genuine work friendships, picked up new skills and become an expert in paid marketing.
Relocating to Canada was a huge dream come true. I began the journey in Feb 2018 and by October 2018, I already had my PPR (passport request). I can only say God was, is and will always be faithful to me. To be precise, I submitted my application around September 17, 2018, got my PPR around the last week in October and then my visa before the end of November.
The excitement was like a baby seeing their parents after being in daycare all day. Once I got my visa, I started worrying about getting a job in Canada. I heard and read about how difficult it is and how I may need to get a survival job. Before relocation, I worked as a Digital Marketer in Nigeria for 5 years.
The narrative is typically encouraging you to come here and get a job first and then you grow from there. This is very true. But what they don’t tell you, that is probably the biggest piece of the immigration puzzle, is how difficult it is to adapt and fit in to the work culture here. There is the general relationship part of this, and then there is ‘the way things work’ part of it.
Let me just say here that this is something to you should know as an immigrant digital marketer here. I wish someone told me this. The way digital marketing is done in North America is different from what obtains, at least in the African country I come from.
Before I go off completely, let me talk about how I got my jobs and all I have learnt.
Getting my first marketing job
I got my first job as a Digital Marketing Manager, within four weeks of arrival. I must acknowledge God’s faithfulness in this because I know it wasn’t by my power.
I arrived on a cold Thursday morning, and decided to use the first couple of days to rest, get my SIN, open bank accounts, etc; basically, just settle in. By Monday, I was ready to start job hunting. It didn’t take me up to 2 days to realize that my resume and my skills/experiences wasn’t going to cut it. I was seeing companies requesting for Photoshop and HTML skills for Social Media roles. I was in shock. In Nigeria, that was what the Graphic Designer was for. However, in Canada, they expect you to have basic design and coding skills as a Social Media Manager.
The Digital Marketing job descriptions came with more complicated skills, knowledge and certifications like Google Data Studio, SQL, SEMRush, hands-on experience with Google Ads, FB Ad Manager, etc. To be honest it was only the last two platforms I had heard of. And we had an agency who was handling it, so I had no hands-on experience.
Anyways, it didn’t take me long to realize that they were big on tools, automation and tracking here. All of these, I wasn’t doing in Nigeria. So, what could a local woman do to at least begin this journey? Good question. I started acquiring these tools/skills/certifications, added them to my resume and started applying for jobs.
In the space of 4 weeks of my arrival, I applied to over 300 jobs on indeed, got only about 30 phone calls (preliminary interview), about 10 physical interviews and only one job offer.
I always really prepared for my interviews. I will be sharing some resume and interview tips in my next post.
Getting my second job
After a few months at my first company, I realized I was doing more Social Media Management than I wanted. I really just felt I was too old for that and needed to start doing something a bit more strategic. So, I started looking for Performance Marketing /Paid Marketing roles. In my opinion, these roles are the most sought after roles in the Digital Marketing field in Canada.
In the process of doing this, I realized how little I knew about these things. I definitely had theoretical knowledge, as I had read up a lot, but nothing beats hands-on experience in the marketing world. Anyways, I started trying to get into digital marketing agencies so I can learn, but did not get any.
Fortunately for me, I got hired by a small startup. If I knew what I knew now, I would never have accepted that offer. Beginner startups like that are not exactly looking for someone to train but for a subject-matter expert to give them strategic advise and direction. Another reason I would have turned it down is that it is not easy to be the only marketer in a company. Given that I am a determined person, I went all in and gave my best.
It was in that company I began to learn how real marketing is done. My goal as a performance marketer is to ensure that the company was getting as much revenue as it was spending, at the least. I was supposed to go beyond running ads and building landing pages to actually using all my analytical skills to track performance and return on ad spend. I was supposed to be really keyed into the organization’s goals and provide strategic guidance from a marketing point of view.
As time went by in the company and I started understanding these, I really tried to apply myself and do all these. But you cannot give what you don’t have. This was very different from what I was used to in Nigeria. I needed someone to teach me and show me how things were done here. I didn’t have that; the mentors from other companies were not enough. I would say I started learning when an experienced Paid Marketer was added to the team but I had the opportunity of working with him for only 2 months before I was asked to leave.
The other thing I suffered in this company was I didn’t have a deep personal relationship with people here, because there were very different from what I was used to. I didn’t share the same experiences, love for food, or even love for books with them. My only friend was another Canadian Nigerian intern, who wasn’t even in my team and was more Canadian than Nigerian. Thriving in a place where you have no personal relationships is very difficult. I lost all confidence and couldn’t even find the courage to speak in meetings. I started thinking and believing they were better than me. And that is how everything just became like a nightmare for me.
Getting my current job
Once I was asked to leave, it was a watershed moment for me. I promised myself this was never going to happen again. I had several self-reflection sessions and identified all my learnings, my weaknesses, my strengths. And then I started working on it, whilst job hunting. A good part about Canada is that getting fired doesn’t mean you are doomed. It is a normal thing so companies will re-hire you.
I started my process of applying to several jobs. At this point, I already had two Canadian companies under my belt, so getting interviews was easier. I even got interviewed for more senior roles. Then God sent Kloe, the Marketing Manager, in my current company. With her assistance, I got my job and then we started bringing all of my learnings from my previous company to life.
Who am I now?
I am proud to say I live and breathe Performance and Growth marketing. I have taken a liking to optimizing marketing funnels for conversion and growth. I have deeper knowledge of these concepts and it helps me run successful paid campaigns back to back. I also give back to people who need this. So, if you have any questions around running successful paid marketing campaigns or growing your business, please feel free to reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Linkedin.