From an interview with Dafe Oraka – Manager, Enterprise Decision Support, RBC.
Dafe Oraka was a successful investment banker in Nigeria. He had built his network and was doing very well. There was no urgent need to leave, but looking into the future, he asked himself, “Where can I give my kids the best life opportunities in terms of their overall development?” So, he uprooted his life to start all over again in Canada. He researched, made connections, and with every connection he saw new opportunities.
Opportunity knocked. In 2013, I was on vacation in New York and decided to just hop over across the border and see what was north of the U.S. At the time, my wife and I were considering relocating out of Nigeria. We had considered the UK as an option, because we both studied there. We also looked at the U.S., but Canada left a big impression on us. It was a really beautiful country: the people were very nice. It was warm (because I came in the summer). Nonetheless, we eventually decided – just based on our experience visiting Canada – and the opportunities we had learned about for new immigrants, and how quickly we could integrate, that Canada was the best option.
If I had to pick one word to describe what drove my decisions, it would be opportunity
My most important goal was to give my family better life opportunities. If I narrow that down, I would say it was more about my kids having the best opportunities for education, health, and just for overall, all-around development, and wellbeing. We decided to start the process in 2015. It took about two years, going through the permanent residency qualification process. Eventually, we got it approved. My family then moved ahead of me – I have a wife and two kids – they moved here in 2017. I was still going back and forth because I had work back home in Nigeria. Basically, just trying to have them settled before I decided to move.
I had no urgent need to move for economic reasons. I would say I was doing pretty well back in Nigeria. I worked in investment banking, a lucrative profession, if you are in the right place at the right time. So, I was going to uproot my life. Basically, go and start again. It’s a big deal. Especially when you’ve built a network where you are, and you’re doing well in your career. But it was really about saying, “you know what? It’s no longer just about me.”
In October of 2018, I came to Canada to do an employment bridging program with ACCES Employment. That opened my mind to the opportunities in the Canadian job market, and how I could navigate it. That was sort of a final tipping point for me, so I decided to come over and join my family. I returned to Nigeria to wrap up my business affairs and was back here in January, 2019, to settle, to be with my family, and basically start my job search.
There are many job opportunities for newcomers in Canada.
Be patient: you’ll find the one that’s right for you.
I did quite a lot of research. Through ACCES speed mentoring sessions, organized coffee chats, and speaker series, I got a lot of information about the different ways I could integrate into the Canadian job markets quickly. I also made a lot of connections. With all those connections, I saw even more opportunities.
It became clear to me that there’s actually a way to break in, which was one of my biggest fears: How do I come here as an internationally-trained professional who is already established in a field with significant progress in terms of the level of responsibility? How do I come here and start over, because I don’t know anyone here? It was all about opportunity.
Opportunities like people introducing you to someone, or mentioning your name to a person they know or suggesting a conference that’s coming up where you could meet certain people. And, these are people that I didn’t know before I moved to Canada. In Canada, there is just this strong willingness, I would say, to help. Like, I’m not sure where Canadians get that. I find it very impressive. People giving back, paying forward, just trying to help.
Opportunity is defined by being in the right place at the right time
By making the right connections, you put yourself in the right place for the opportunity. The connections I had made started reaching out with more opportunities but I was out of the country. I was getting emails from connections in Canada, but I couldn’t say exactly when I would be back.
I realized that I couldn’t let these contacts and relationships go cold. If I did and later reached out to them, they wouldn’t take me seriously, right? I had connected with them as someone who was in Canada. I had to get back here quickly.
Read more about how to network like a pro in Canada.
Life and opportunities are about relationships
As soon as I got back, I started responding to those invitations, going for those coffee chats, meeting all those people. One of my connections, who became a mentor, said something to me that did a lot for my confidence. He said, “Look, I know that if you find the right role, you will get the job.” Within three to four months, I found a job – the job. This was the first role that was the closest to my experience that I had the opportunity to apply for.
When I got the call, it was for the job I’m in now – I couldn’t believe it. And, I mean, I felt a good vibe in the interview. But still, when my manager, the hiring manager said, “Congratulations,” I actually asked him to say it again! I thought to myself: So this thing that I thought would be difficult to impossible, it’s happening now. I work at RBC in a role where I can actually use my skills.
Three tips to finding your job opportunity in Canada
- Don’t plan to settle. A lot of newcomers arrive and feel they have to settle for a lesser job. They say it’s difficult and it’s hard, and “I need the money, so I’m just going to settle.” Don’t do that. We all have different circumstances in terms of the decisions that bring us to Canada, but make sure you do your research and make connections. Reach out to people to get information about what’s out there, so that you can have a clear strategy around your job search, or whatever you decide to do career wise.
- Make the right connections. Connect with professionals in your field. There are lots of professionals who may have gone through their own immigrant experience and want to help, to pay it forward and give back. And, just people in general in Canada, and this goes as far back as people who were born here, grew up here, spent maybe 50 years of their life here, but they can also connect with their parents’ or grandparents’ immigrant story. There are a lot of people who are actually willing to help. Reach out to them.
- Be open. As I’ve said, there are many opportunities here; you just need to find them. It may take a while, but if you do the right things and are open to relearning – leaving things that you knew before, and starting out fresh in your mind you can achieve your goals.
I believe I’m here to make an impact. I’m driven by the need to know that I added value to a human connection or to a business or to a cause — whatever that may be. I’m not here just to live for myself.
And I realize that because I’ve also missed out on many opportunities in life. I realize that I’m being prepared to see these opportunities as important.
Read more about how to start your job search in Canada.
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Remember, it’s important to support one another and be mindful of other people’s circumstances. Understand that everyone has their own challenges; they might be dealing with kids at home, health concerns, loneliness, job insecurity or financial concerns of their own. Remember to be kind and patient.
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This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.