I have chosen to share my experiences as an Immigrant HR Professional and a Learning and Development Consultant to the Government of Canada.
On God’s instruction, I moved my wife and two beautiful children between the ages of 2 and 4 years old out of Nigeria and landed in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada on the 14th of October 2016 as a Permanent Resident. I should state that relocating my wife and kids and leaving the comfort of my fatherland, my flourishing management consulting business, a growing brand mileage as a Motivational Speaker and Consultant was one of the toughest decisions I had had to make in my life, but still, because “God said it”, I still had to obey.
However, prior to our arrival, as a Strategist, I had done a couple of research on the HR field in Canada. Since I had invested all my career years in the same field, I thought it unwise to begin to chase another field. But what I did not prepare for was the stiffness and rigid competition in scaling through HR in Canada, first as a person of color and secondly as a man, yes, man! 85-90% of HR professionals in Canada are women.
Part of the result of my research was the HR professional body called CPHR – Chartered Professionals in Human Resources. To have an edge, I decided to become a member, and sent them an email, presented a portfolio of the things I had done in Nigeria, and they approved me for Associate Membership. I was not satisfied with that membership status and wanted to become a professional member, so 4 months after we landed, I sat for the NKE professional exam to qualify me as a professional member, and by God’s grace, I passed the exam on my first attempt.
I thought passing the exams was going to give me huge mileage, but again, it did not occur to me that many people never made their exams nor attempted to seat for it, so during interviews, some of my interviewers were not comfortable with me.
I applied for several roles in HR because of my dexterity and experiences spanning different facets of HR, but I kept getting a no. Someone once advised that I tone my resume down a little bit so my interviewers will not feel threatened by the weight of it. I actually did that, but during interviews, my depth in HR always found expressions. As a matter of fact, I once went for an interview where the HR Director shook my hands firmly and said “thank you for lecturing us today, you are a thoroughbred professional”. I drove home rejoicing, believing that I already got the job, yet the interview feedback came with an apology and a no.
You may be wondering why I did not get those jobs despite doing well in the interviews. Well, part of the reasons was because Canadian Employers are often big on “Canadian Experience”, but how do I get the almighty Canadian Experience if no one offers me a job?
As God would have it, I soon took up a volunteer position which later changed to a permanent position as an Employment Instructor at Regina Open Door Society, an agency that helps in the settlement of Immigrants. And that was the beginning of my rise in HR in Canada. I would share briefly below a few factors that helped me.
1. Clear-cut Goals: Prior to leaving Nigeria, I was resolute that I was going to pursue HR. I have realized that many immigrants have no plans before arriving here, and as a result, they do whatever comes their way in a bid to keeping body and soul together and pay bills. They call it “hustle”. I knew my life was beyond just keeping body and soul together. The hustler mindset is the reason why many graduates and lots with Masters’s Degree are working as storekeepers or cashiers in Walmart etc. Now, there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG, in picking up such jobs when you are trying to balance your life. Such jobs are called “survival jobs” for a purpose – they are only good for survival! The problem I often have is with people who are trying to build a career from a survival job.
If a survival job is what you have got, for now, throw you are all into it, BUT, make sure your eyes are still fixed to your goals. Set a deadline or a goal on when to exit and transit. No disrespect to those who have also chosen to make a career out of such jobs.
2. Doubled up efforts – Let us be realistic, HR is tough here in Canada. Whenever I have an opportunity of attending interviews, I study and research for it as though I was going to sit for an exam. I am a person of color competing for roles that are 98% filled with whites. I used to say to myself, if a white will prepare for the interview for 5hours, I must practice and prepare for 10 hours. This mindset was a driving force for me. Being black is already a disadvantage for me, but I must then be able to prove to them to consider my intellectual prowess far and above the color of my skin.
3. Unwavering faith in the Lord – Yes, I am a Believer. I believed everything the Lord said to me before leaving Nigeria. I held on to His words as my lifeline. When someone told me to begin to look for an entry-level role, I said NO! I know who I am and confident in God’s plans for me. My unwavering faith in the Lord is also the reason why I take the many rejections I had with a pinch of salt, knowing that my God will cause all things to work together for good for me. This faith in God also birthed in me a fighting spirit that gave me the gusto to keep pushing on despite and in spite of all odds.
Today, I serve as a Senior Learning and Development Consultant to the Government of Saskatchewan, a position no black as ever held and for which I am the youngest to ever hold it. Suffice to add that I took on that role barely a year and a half after my arrival in Canada. If you’d believe, all things are possible!