By Bamidele Salako
Being my birthday, April 17 always held a special significance. Over three decades after I was born, it became the commemorative date of a major life decision – moving to Canada – thus adding a new layer of significance.
So, on this date one also celebrates one’s Canniversary🇨🇦😀
Three years ago, my wife and I gave up who we were for who we could become, said emotional farewells to family & friends, and set out for this beautiful country with mixed feelings of anticipation and apprehension.
For us, the future was not uncertain. We trusted that tomorrow was in God’s hands and therefore, secure. So, we resolved to focus on the things within our control. But being humans, there was always going to be some level of apprehension about what the future held.
Moving to Canada has been a pleasant and rewarding experience. Thank God!
Seeing as supporting the seamless transition of fellow immigrants, particularly immigrant professionals, to Canada has become something of an invigorating engagement, I thought I’d share some important lessons that might benefit anyone who’s broaching a move to Canada.
1.) First thing to note is that immigrating to Canada is not for everyone. Be sure it’s what you want and not something you’re being peer-pressured to do.
If you’re professionally fulfilled and financially settled in Nigeria or elsewhere, do think it through before upping and leaving behind all you’ve accomplished to start life from scratch here.
If you’re not someone who’s wired to handle big changes, you might struggle in Canada as the initial stages of settling can be challenging and overwhelming.
Relocating to a new country where you don’t have a job waiting for you is no cakewalk. Finding meaningful employment can take a while, and this could take a toll on your confidence, mental health and even your marriage.
I have seen immigrants’ marriages fail here because one partner couldn’t handle the pressure of the move and got frustrated by not finding Canada as immediately rewarding as anticipated leading to irresolvable friction and broken homes.
I recently read one such story here: https://www.instagram.com/p/CNh7c44pD_8/?igshid=12txe9dcnsmq0
Don’t be pressured by your partner to move to Canada. Be sure it’s what you want as well. If things don’t work out as planned, and you’re not the kind of person to take responsibility for your actions and handle adversity with courage and maturity, you will wind up blaming your partner for your perceived misfortunes.
I personally would not advise doctors, dentists etc to move to Canada.
Even though there are obvious labour shortages in Canada’s health sector, and the salary prospects are juicy, the re-licensure process is tedious and expensive and you’re not guaranteed a residency even after expended effort and finances.
If you’re a married International Medical Graduate (IMG), and your spouse works in a non-regulated occupation (which means he or she faces minimal barriers to initial employment since they work in professions that do not require them to be licensed to practice in Canada) then you could consider a Canadian move.
Their income would be able to support your family until you become licensed as a physician and can earn the big bucks$$$
If you’re an IMG who’s single, then it might make sense to explore the UK first where it is comparatively easier to start practicing as a doctor. In fact, as a UK-licensed physician, you’ll be able to secure a high-paying position in Canada from the UK.
A friend’s friend working as a physician in the UK recently landed a $500,000 CAD job in Canada. Meanwhile, there are experienced IMGs here in Canada who are driving Ubers and are unable to practice.
Don’t just be excited about the prospects of a Canadian move while being completely oblivious of the imminent challenges/barriers that accompany.
Do your research! Talk to other immigrants with similar professional backgrounds who are already here in Canada to be sure that this is the right country for you.
2.) Quality preparation and planning before relocating makes a world of difference in immigrants’ employment and settlement outcomes in Canada.
If you’re the kind of person who loves to be spoon-fed information and will not take the initiative to search for, and arm yourself with, the right information and insights you need to make important life decisions, transitioning to Canada could wind up being a rough experience for you.
Now, independently searching for information can be overwhelming, but Canada has graciously invested heavily in an array of free pre-arrival programs and supports to help individuals who received approval to come to Canada to prepare for the move.
Some people keep working in their current jobs until a day before travelling to Canada, and do not take out time to adequately prepare and educate themselves on the nuances of the Canadian job market, workplace culture, and other useful knowledge that would make settling a little less cumbersome.
Pre-arrival services will provide you with information and referrals that are specific to the city you plan to settle in and that are tailored to your specific needs and specific profession.
Here’s the link to two of the best: SOPA (https://arriveprepared.ca/) & Planning for Canada (https://www.planningforcanada.ca/)
3.) Manage your expectations!
Set high expectations for yourself because, yes, Canada is a land of opportunity, and there’s no limit to what you can achieve here if you put in the work. But understand that the benefits of relocating to a new country are often more long-term than immediate.
You might not immediately find initial employment that is commensurate to the role you gave up to move to Canada. If you were a C-Suite executive back home, it might take longer to rise to the same level here.
It’s a new environment where employers do not know the stuff you’re made of and you also do not have access to the kind of extensive professional and social networks you had in your own country.
But understand that a step back is not always a setback.
Relocating is a gradual process of rebuilding.
Focus on your objectives, but be willing to do what you need to do in the moment to get to where you want to go in the future.
Unrealistic expectations will frustrate you if things do not work according to plan within the unrealistic timelines you may have set for yourself.
4.) Timetables and seasons are different for each of us. Don’t be pressured by the fact that your peers in Canada are doing and accomplishing things faster than you.
Some find their dream jobs two weeks after arrival, others take six months or more to find their dream jobs.
Don’t draw false equivalences between your circumstances and those of others. Find out what worked for others and adapt the lessons to your situation. But truth is, what worked for others may not work for you.
Also, the failures of others do not mean you will fail. There are factors that you might be unaware of that have led to their peculiar situations. Take the lessons and focus on your own goals.
Unhealthy comparison will get you in trouble. Let the successes of your peers inspire you to take positive actions and not pressure you into living a life you can’t afford just to put up appearances and keep up with the Joneses. You will bear the brunt alone.
5.) Be open-minded and flexible.
Moving to Canada will require you to unlearn, learn and relearn. The culture is different. The work culture is different. Cultural adaptation is key.
You already opened the Pandora’s box by giving up your old life to start a new one in Canada, why not go all the way?
Focus on developing behavioural skills. The attitudes and habits that got you to where you were in your home country might not be sufficient to get you to where you want to go in Canada.
This doesn’t mean you give up your identity. It just means you evolve and your worldview evolves.
6.) Have a solid support system.
Like I mentioned before, moving to Canada or any other country for that matter can be a challenging and overwhelming experience.
We Nigerians are wont to think of ourselves as strong and capable of going it alone without outside help.
“Black don’t crack,” we say. No, Black cracks! You will need all the help you can get from a solid support system.
Remember, at the beginning, you won’t have a job, probably no family here, no housemaids to help with the chores and run errands, no gateman to wash your cars, no nannies to help with the kids, no driver to chauffeur you around, no regular parties and social functions like back home.
Add all of these to the biting cold, long winters and a gruelling job search, you will need all the help you can get to mentally adapt and manage these big changes.
Leverage solid religious communities like Calgary Life Church for Christians moving to Calgary, Alberta. Join virtual meet-ups, and take your mental health seriously by accessing free mental health resources provided by the Canadian government like Togetherall (https://togetherall.com/en-ca/) & BounceBack (https://bounceback.cmha.ca)
You need community around you that will keep you going when you’re down and continue to reaffirm you. You will also have the opportunity to support others which will help you to better handle your own challenges.
Surround yourself with positive and optimistic people who are also empathetic and supportive – people who can both pamper and push you.
7.) Focus on the things you can control.
As a newcomer to Canada, don’t obsess over things that are out of your control – unfair government policies, racism, discrimination, the discounting of immigrants’ international experience by Canadian employers.
These are things you may be able to change at scale further down the line.
But at the beginning of your life in Canada, acknowledge that these systemic hurdles and barriers do exist, and be real about what you need to do to successfully navigate the system and circumvent the hurdles to your advantage. Focus on doing those things.
Don’t get into a complaining habit. This will only set you back and limit you.
8.) Finding a job is a full time job.
It can be a gruelling experience getting a job here, but tremendously rewarding once you find one that matches your skills, education and experience.
It is a common saying here that searching for a job is a full time job. It will take everything you’ve got.
Use pre-arrival services to prepare yourself for the Canadian job market before landing.
You will have to learn how to write Canadian-style resumes. And you’ll have to learn how to customise your resume for every new job application. In Canada, you cannot use a generic resume for multiple job applications. Your resume will be bypassed. And resumes are usually just two-pages long.
“Spray and pray” is not an effective job search strategy in Canada – where you spray your resumes randomly to different employers and then pray that you win the lottery😀 It works for some but not for most.
You must develop skills for patiently and strategically connecting with industry peers and mentors who will in turn connect you with opportunities in your field.
9.) Getting a job is just one half of the work equation; keeping the job and advancing in your career is the other half.
Don’t rely solely on your technical nous for job retention or career advancement. It doesn’t work that way in Canada.
You must develop great behavioural, communication, and relationship-building skills, too!
Once you get a job, next thing is to get a mentor or career sponsor at your workplace or in your industry – a backer in a senior industry organisational role – who will support your career development, put up your name for professional development opportunities and promotions, and defend you when you make mistakes at work.
Trust me, this can be the difference between you keeping your job and losing it, and this can influence how far you go in your career in Canada.
All said, Canada is a land of possibilities. It is after all now the best country in the world to live in! Not a perfect country – there’s no such country in the world!
But more than any other country I have lived in or visited (Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia, USA, UK etc), I have never had more people say directly to me or in conversations that I overheard just how lucky and blessed we are to live in this country.
Millions of immigrants are doing exceptionally well here and achieving dreams that their own countries could not afford them. There are more immigrant-owned businesses in Canada than Canadian-owned ones.
So while there are undoubted challenges, there are also numerous successes. It helps to be well acquainted with both sides of the story before deciding to move.
I wish you all the best!
Time to boogie down to “Adé Orí Òkin” by Kwam 1
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