Lola’s Story: Creating Fun and Inclusive Spaces for Immigrants in Canada
Like most immigrants, she left a great life with the goal of experiencing better living standards. She accomplished her goal and more. Now, Lola aims to help immigrants in Canada and create fun spaces for them through her @afroedmontonian Instagram page.
Lola Oduwole shares her Canadian immigrant story.
Dreaming of Better Living Standards
When I reflect on my life before Canada, three things come to mind: a community of friends, a familiar culture, and a job in Marketing that I loved doing. You’d then wonder why I hauled my bags across the world from a +30 degrees country to a cold country like Canada? My reason is similar to every immigrant’s – I wanted to experience better living standards. I wanted to live where I could see my taxes work for my overall well-being.
Making the Dream Come True
Canada ranks high as one of the best places to live globally, and the barrier to entry is pretty low. At least, it was in 2018 in the sense that the CRS (Comprehensive Ranking System) scores for the Express Entry system were decent. At the time of our application, the competition had not become so steep, and we got an invitation to apply (ITA) with a score of 456 (I can almost hear the wheels going off in people’s heads).
Overall, I would say Canada checks off most of the future goals on our checklist. It seemed like a great idea to pursue permanent residency.
Japaing to Canada
My family of 2 and I immigrated through the Express Entry route in October 2018. This was when “japaing to Canada” became popular amongst my circle of friends and colleagues. I came to Canada as a skilled immigrant with a master’s education and ample years of work experience in my NOC.
‘Japaing’ is a slang in my local parlance used to describe moving in exodus to a place.
Facing the Reality of Newcomers
As a matter of fact, when I was preparing my documents to immigrate to Canada, I figured getting a job in my field would be a cakewalk. So, I didn’t make preparations to search for employment before landing. However, I took advantage of some of those prearrival courses offered by SOPA (Settlement Online Pre-arrival), an IRCC-funded program to learn about the Canadian workplace and how to integrate faster.
The stark reality post-arrival was the shortage of commensurate opportunities for newcomers. Like the fifty or so percentage of newcomers who end up in the barest minimum wage-paying jobs, I also took one of those despite my skills, education at a postgraduate level, and rich years of experience.
Networking to Navigate the Corporate World
Networking became a big part of how I navigated the corporate world. I searched for opportunities to become a mentee, so I could learn as much as I could about the hidden job market.
I started by joining an organization called ERIEC (Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council) where I worked with a mentor for a duration of six months. This mentor further helped build my knowledge of the Canadian workplace culture, fine-tuned my resume, and connected me with opportunities. Even though my first role was not through these connections, it was a valuable experience.
I later joined niche organizations that are more focused on specific careers. Two of such are the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) – where I am both a mentee and a volunteer, and the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) – where I volunteered and was also an active participant in their study program to become a certified professional.
These exposures culminated in building my self-confidence and sharpening my communication skills. I’ll tell you one thing that I realized, though. Networking is not a math problem that you can quickly solve by just plugging in all the correct variables. Sometimes you hit the jackpot; sometimes, you get no response. I recall reaching out to a senior communications manager within my organization, and I never got a response. It was not until I got a mutual connection to introduce us that it yielded a positive outcome. The lesson here, it is critical to explore your first connections.
Leveraging the Power of Social Media to Help Immigrants in Canada
I am quite pleased to say life in Canada has been great. It wasn’t all sparkly unicorn in the beginning, but we continue to make steady progress. In the 3+ years that we’ve lived here, we have bought our home, submitted our applications to become citizens, and now have jobs with increased earning capacities better suited to our skillsets.
I have also become a social plug for immigrants. My mission is to encourage as many immigrants as possible to explore their newfound environment. I don’t want to be the only black in the group when I go for fun events – being ‘an only’ can dampen one’s spirit. I realize we will always be a minority here. Still, my goal is to make as many fun spaces as I can inclusive of people who look like me. This is why I share content around ways to achieve work-life harmony on my @afroedmontonian Instagram page.
Sharing Words of Encouragement
It’s never too late to start! That’s my biggest advice and charge to every future immigrant. There are more pathways to immigrate legally into Canada today, do your research and get into that pool!
If you are a newcomer, don’t let those rejections cause you to believe that you are incapable of delivering excellent work. Keep your head high, trust in yourself, and don’t get flushed down the emotional drain. Seek out mentors who are passionate about committing their time and knowledge to build the next leaders. Above all, remember that Rome was not built in a day; social and economic integration into the system takes time.
Immigrants who fulfill their dreams are admirable. Those who help other immigrants in Canada fulfill theirs as well are even more praiseworthy. Lola is one of them.
Were you inspired by this story? Please help spread the word about this blog as a way of helping newcomers in Canada find inspiration as well. Thank you!