An amazing and detailed relocation story by Oyin Ajibola, filled with practical learnings for new immigrants
Reminiscing about my journey to Canada and how far I have come, I’m grateful for the steps in the right direction and the lessons learnt from my mistakes.
I landed in Canada May 1, 2018 and started my dream job as a Communications Specialist with one of Canada’s largest DC Pension Plans in August 2018.
While many consider this a success story, there was a lot of work that went on behind the scene long before I got the job. In this article, I’ll explain some of the things I believe were influential in helping me get this job and some of the things I wished I had done or done differently during my job hunt.
Things I did prior to landing
Long before I got my Passport Request, I began doings things to facilitate getting a good professional job in Canada. Here are some of the things I did:
- Set up weekly job alert on Indeed for job titles that match my NOC in provinces that I was interested in. While I was not actively looking for a job at this point, setting up a job alert helped me to determine the commonly required skills and qualifications that I was then lacking. The common mistake I see lots of people making is assuming that they had all any employer would require. My experience shows that the job requirements can be completely different from country to country. So don’t assume that you many years of ‘relevant’ experience are enough to get you a job in Canada. You just may realise that those years of experience are not as relevant as you had thought. For instance, graphics design and coding skills were usually not required for Marketing and Communications professionals in my home country but these were required skills by most Canadian employers.
- Developed required skills and certifications from the perspective of the employer. I analysed the various vacancies for skills and certifications that were consistently required for the kind of job I wanted and began working on developing some of those skills and certifications that I lacked.
- Get certified. Although I was already a member of key professional organizations in Nigeria, I knew this would not fly with Canadian employers. So I began to research key professional certifications required by Canadian employers to see which ones were more relevant to the job titles I was looking to pursue in Canada. International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) was one professional organization that I kept seeing consistently in many of the job vacancies, so i researched this organization. During my research, I realised that their world conference for 2018 would be held in Montreal, QC. Although going to this conference would eat deep into my personal savings, I decided that I was going to attend since I would be in Canada already by then. I took advantage of their early bird registration to reduce the cost and viola, I became a member of IABC from Nigeria and began my certification process.
- Reached out to other Canadian communications professionals on LinkedIn. I particularly chose those who appeared to be immigrants and held roles that appealed to me. I sent them a connection request with a well-crafted message stating why I wanted to be their connection on LinkedIn and what I hoped to gain from the connection. Majority of them responded and answered many of the questions I had.
- Started applying for jobs to get feedback on my resume and skills. While it would have been nice to get a job in Canada from Nigeria, it was valuable getting feedback from employers following a rejection. I was able to quickly learn what I was doing wrong to improve my resume and job search skills.
Things I did after landing
- Attended a Canadian job search etiquette training. I attended a training on Canadian job search etiquette organized by the Open Door Society. This one month training was very valuable in helping me understand how to put my resume together, crafting resume based on each job vacancy requirements as opposed to using one generic resume for all the jobs I was applying for, understand how to prepare for interviews and how to follow up after an interview. If you get an opportunity to attend of such training through a settlement organization, please take advantage of it. You’ll be surprised by what you can learn.
- Did a career tour of two organizations to understand their values and ask questions about what they seek in an applicant. Through my settlement advisor, I was able to get a career tour of two organizations that often have open roles for the job I was applying for. This offered a great networking opportunity, as I was introduced to employees who had similar roles in the companies and I was able to have a constructive discussion with them about their roles.
- Applied for hundreds or maybe thousands of jobs. The number here is not literal but I did apply for almost all the open vacancy in the role I was looking for and even related roles with the possibility of transferring skills. This can be arduous, especially if you have to tailor your resume and cover letter to every single vacancy, no matter how similar they are. Like they say, you never know which of the hooks you throw into the river will catch a fish.
- Created a portfolio. I never really had a formal portfolio in Nigeria, even though I had articles from my job scattered everywhere. But I realised that this was important for Canadian employers, especially for content creation roles. There are lots of free electronic portfolio builders available online. I often found myself editing my portfolio based on the latest job I had applied for, so that it is relevant and there were times when I had to create a separate portfolio for an employer because of their requirement.
- Used the free online training resources available to brush up on some required skills. I knew there was no running away from brushing up on my graphics design skill using the professional tools required by most employers. Thankfully, with my library card, I was able to access many online courses to develop my graphics design skills and other relevant skills. I even had to purchase the Adobe license to be able to practice what I was learning. It was worth it because within a few days, I was confident of my skills to the point of putting intermediate level proficiency for those applications on my resume.
- Attended various networking events. I wished I had attended more networking events but I’m glad that I was able to attend the 2018 IABC World Conference in Montreal. Not only was it a great networking opportunity, it was also a good eye-opener to the entirety of the Marketing and Communications profession in North America. It may be difficult to attend as many networking events as you would love to while still trying to settle down, especially if you don’t have a car to move but try to pick out a few really good ones, even if it means paying for them and network as much as possible. Oh, and learn how to tactfully redirect a conversation when it is getting to personal because Canadians are very good at asking personal questions.
- Joined the local chapter of IABC. My job was never advertised in any job board. It was only advertised through the local chapter of IABC. I can only imagine how many jobs don’t get on the public job boards and you never get to see because you are not in the mailing list of a local professional organization. This does not have to be IABC. It is any professional organization that is relevant to your occupation in Canada. If I was not a member of the local chapter, I would not have even known of the job opening in the first place.
Things I should have done or done differently
- Volunteering: I realised too late how important volunteering is, especially if your volunteer role is in the role in which you are job hunting. Not only would you look ‘good’ to employers, you would also make valuable connections and gain Canadian experience. Although I applied for a few volunteer roles before getting a job but I never heard back. If the same is happening to you, reach out to your community association, they are usually looking for volunteers within the community and often have open roles in various occupations. Today I serve as a volunteer on the Board of my community association and also on the Board of a popular women empowerment non-profit organization.
- Seek out mentorship: over 50% of job openings in Canada are filled via referral and most people like the idea of having a protegee that they can help to thrive. Many non-profit run a mentorship program that you can take advantage of. Even though I have my dream job, I am still seeking out mentors that I can run ideas by to help me grow.
- Join my local community association: As a Board member in a community association, I now see the many networking opportunities that are available as an active member of a community association. Many community association are run by top executives in their respective organizations. All you need to get a dream job is a word from the right person. Besides, this also helps with integration into Canada as you can quickly get to know everything that’s happening around you, which you otherwise would not have known.
- Job shadowing: similar to volunteering, except that you will actually be working with someone who’s doing exactly what you would like to do on the job to determine if there are additional skills you need to learn and if the job would be right for you. I think it would have been interesting to job-shadow my current boss.
- Attend more networking events: The important of networking can not be over-emphasized. I try to attend more networking events these days, just to meet people and broaden my network.
- Get the word out: This was the part that was really difficult for me to do. I feel like i’m soliciting when I tell strangers that I’m job-hunting and need them to keep an eye open for opportunities on my behalf. But it’s part of their culture here and as long as you are polite when asking, no one will take offense or even see you as soliciting.
I am not where I want to be yet but I am glad that I am not where I used to be. I recently got a grant from IABC to get my certification, which I am very grateful and working on earning my Communications Management Profession (CMP) certification. I have been constantly learning new skills on the job and achieved massive personal and professional development. Despite the hard work that went into getting my dream job, it has been well worth it!
Cheers to growth!