Prior to moving to Alberta, Canada, Chinwendu Okereke- Azike had built a successful career as a banker in Nigeria. She had eight years’ experience under her belt – developing innovative and ground-breaking customer service solutions for her employers. Even though she was confident in her skills and extensive experience, Chinwendu knew that approaching and navigating the Canadian job market would present a unique set of challenges that she needed to be equipped for. Her excitement knew no bounds once she found out from a WhatsApp group for Canada-bound immigrants that there was a program called SOPA (Settlement Online Pre-Arrival) that offers informational support and preparatory courses for internationally educated professionals for life and work in Canada. Having learned the importance of networking in our Job Search Strategies course, Chinwendu credits SOPA for helping her land a job in just three months after arriving in Canada.
Chinwendu, can you tell us about your background?
I worked in the banking sector in Nigeria for eight years where I performed core customer service functions across multiple units and departments in top financial institutions.
How did you find out about SOPA?
I learned about SOPA from a WhatsApp group created for individuals who were either in the process of relocating or had migrated to Canada. Members of the group who had benefitted immensely from SOPA services advised that I register for the program as it would help my family with settling in our new country and prepare me for my Canadian job search. I am glad I took that advice because the program gave me the much-needed tools to settle and integrate properly in Canada.
Did you start applying for jobs while overseas and how long did it take you to find employment?
Yes, I started to apply for jobs before arriving. I had some online job interviews with Canadian employers while I was still in Nigeria but most of the recruiters wanted to meet with me in person. So, the interviewers requested that I inform them once I arrived in Canada so that a meeting could be arranged. I secured a government job within the first three months in Canada.
Are you working in the same field?
My current job entails customer service which is the core of my professional experience, and I am enjoying it!
What strategies did you use to find a job in your field?
Networking is highly imperative. I remember telling everyone I knew that I was job hunting. I was afterwards introduced by one of those contacts to someone in their own network who told me about my current job, and I got the job! Also, as learned in the Job Search Strategies course, I always tailored my resume to any job I applied for. It is also important to be consistent and persistent when job hunting. Never give up because the jobs are there.
How did SOPA change your approach to seeking employment in Canada?
Back home, I used just one resume for all job applications and networking was not necessary when job hunting. SOPA taught me to do differently here and it paid off!
Describe any challenges you faced in your job search process and the steps you took to overcome them.
I remember going to a recruitment agency and I was told they could not offer me any help because I didn’t have Canadian work experience and references. This was when I decided to intensify my networking. I was able to get several job referrals from my network – one of which eventually led me to my current job.
Do you have any tips you would like to share with other newcomers in terms of finding employment in Canada?
You can network your way to success in Canada! Tell everyone and anyone about your job hunt; you never know who will refer you to your job. Even though it seems daunting, keep applying because your job is out there.
This interview was conducted by Mirjana Borjan, Cultural Communication Facilitator for SOPA) program in Alberta. Mirjana has experience working in post-secondary education, assessing the career needs and goals of, and recommending services to, clients with diverse cultural backgrounds. Her background in business administration and professional expertise in human resources enable her to help clients understand employer needs and expectations and what newcomers need to know to obtain and maintain employment.