Like many new immigrants, I moved to Canada with big dreams. With an MBA and a rising career in advertising working with international brands, I was confident of making it big in Canada. After all, I had moved countries and lived on different continents before; succeeding in a new place was not a new thing. The prospect of starting from scratch and making it big excited me. It’s not necessarily a guy thing-well, actually, yes. It’s a guy thing. I was in for an adventure, for sure.
It was not long before my enthusiasm and options started to run out. Despite the headwinds I was facing, I sent my applications to every advertising agency in town. I started getting lots of mail over the next few weeks brimming with lovely politeness that all ended in no. Many agencies didn’t bother to write back because they figured we both just kind of knew.
With no luck from advertising agencies, I decided to spread the net wider. I thought the skills and experience I gained on the agency side would be an asset for any client. Unfortunately, most recruiters could not see beyond my lack of Canadian experience. My dream job in Canada seemed a distant possibility when even after 4 months I couldn’t get a decent break. Desperate to get back into the workforce I decided to take up survival jobs to stop the bleeding on my bank account. When I mentioned this to some of my closest friends they looked at me like I was proposing to remove my own liver. Working the graveyard shifts on factory floors, however, turned out to be a bigger nightmare than I imagined. While it helped pay the bills; tasks like scrubbing store signs at -5 degrees, picking hot automotive parts from burning furnaces, and carrying heavy boxes across warehouse floors were definitely not my idea of work. It taught me important lessons in humility and the dignity of labour. I began to question the value of my education, knowledge, and experience. There seemed no light at the end of this proverbial tunnel.
One day a friend mentioned a journalist who was writing an article on immigrants battling chronic low income. I was keen on sharing my version of the immigration story and needed a place to vent. When I spoke with Marina Jiminez who was writing the article, I was bitter, angry, and frustrated. Marina did an amazing job of weaving my story into her article in the Globe and Mail the next day. My forlorn picture that accompanied the newsprint story seemed to highlight my plight.
Things changed overnight. I started getting calls from recruiters and companies who were keen to explore what I could bring to the table. The big break came when one kind-hearted management consultant read the article and reached out to Marina. He mentioned that he had few contacts in advertising agencies and could introduce me to his connections. When I met Himal who runs a management consultancy firm, I saw a living example of human generosity. Here was someone willing to go above and beyond for a stranger. He spent countless hours mentoring me. As luck would have it Himal’s connections were leading the biggest and best agencies in town. I got to present my credentials to the CEOs and Managing Directors of the crème-de-la-crème of advertising agencies in Toronto. As a result of one of these meetings, I got an amazing opportunity to work at the Mecca of advertising agencies — Ogilvy and Mather. Working on brands like IBM building award-winning integrated marketing campaigns like Smarter Planet, Watson-Jeopardy with some of the best talent in town was my dream coming true.
No Secret Formula here – You just got lucky, you may say.
Despite what some gurus would tell you, there’s no magic formula. If you are new to a place (or even if you are not new), you have probably realized that life is not always a bed of roses. As a student or new immigrant, you may feel a lot of pressure to do well and to fit in. If you’re feeling down, you’re not alone. The important thing is to reach out to others and know that you can make it through. As you go through this journey, remember to take things one day at a time.
As Nicholas Sparks in A Walk to Remember said “I now believe, by the way, that miracles can happen.”
This article was first published in New Canadian Media. Edited and used with permission