The family spent three months living in a shelter as they tried to secure affordable housing somewhere in the Greater Toronto Area. Despite having more than 15 years’ experience in marketing research and an MBA from Business School in the Netherlands, she was concerned about finding employment with no Canadian experience.
“I knew I couldn’t waste any time to take the steps I needed to become successful,” she says. “While I waited for my work permit to be processed, my husband and I started volunteering with the Metropolitan Community Church in Toronto; I knew this was the best way to gain the experience I needed.”
In the meantime, Martina’s caseworker referred her to COSTI where she enrolled in its Newcomer Employment program for skilled newcomers and worked with COSTI’s service partner Refugee JumpStart for ongoing mentoring. “I participated in résumé writing, job search workshops and mock interviews, health and safety training, and workplace communication and language terminology workshops,” she says. “The workplace communication and language terminology workshops gave me an understanding of the Canadian workplace and how the workplace functions – a very different approach from what I had experienced in Nigeria.”
In June 2019, Martina received her work permit and secured employment at the Church as an analyst in annual giving just two months later. Martina credits COSTI, and specifically staff Mojgan Haghi and Rala Bekdach, for encouraging and ensuring newcomer professionals. “From the moment I enrolled in the program, Mojgan and Rala were there – helping me as well as others to find the courage and confidence to not settle for a survival job, to reach for my dream and secure employment in my professional field of expertise. Their positivity motivated me to go for what I deserve. Today, thanks to them, I feel confident that I can achieve anything.”
In 2020, Martina secured a job as the Executive Director of Impakt Foundation. “When staff at Refugee JumpStart approached me about the position, I was skeptical and didn’t think I would even get an interview, and if I did, be able to effectively articulate my work experience to the interview panel—Impakt’s Board of Directors,” she says. “But Refugee JumpStart effectively prepared me for the interview and I was so excited to hear the news that I got the position. I was so happy I wanted to dance… and I did!”
Martina says this position is what she aspired to accomplish for her career in Canada. “It is the foundation of my success in Canada and has allowed me to actively engage in the economy and contribute.”
Now looking back, Martina says there was a lot of doubt and fear of the unknown in coming to Canada, but the settlement process surpassed her expectations. “I know that many newcomers settle for less, but COSTI believes they should never settle. Their staff live and breathe this philosophy and make sure to give you the tools to build your confidence to be successful. It’s why I am where I am today.”
Sponsored by the RBC Foundation in 2019/20, COSTI’s Newcomer Employment program provides employment support services to highly-skilled newcomer professionals through a comprehensive and integrated workshop approach that allows participants to learn effective work search and interview techniques; understand the Canadian business culture in order to gain and retain employment; and access resources to additional educational training needs.