Moving to a whole new country, a whole new continent may seem like the scariest choice you could ever make. Will you like your job, will the move be worth it, or what if you never manage to settle in?
These are just a few questions you may ask yourself. On the upside, what if it becomes the best decision you will ever make, what if you find a great group of friends and your job is the best career choice you could have made?
Chiedza has previously detailed her experience on immigrating to Canada to be a lawyer. Starting as a Masters student, she got an internship at one of the biggest law firms in the country and currently is completing her articles at McMillan LLP. She details below her experiences moving countries to kickstart her career
There are various ways you could immigrate to a new country – as a student or as a professional. The choice may lie with your experience and qualifications.
Professionals who qualify have the option of applying for an Express Entry Visa into Canada whilst students have the opportunity to qualify for a post-graduate work permit. Consider what your best option could be.
Making the move…
Going in blind when making such a seismic change to your life requires preparation. Moving to a new country takes a lot of research, time and money.
Plan what you need to do to, how you’ll do it, then take the huge leap and DO IT! Sometimes it means finding new ways to create opportunities for yourself and opening doors through your own initiative.
Chiedza describes the experience of moving to another country as challenging. In particular, moving to a country where she did not know anyone. It felt like starting all over again.
“To prepare for my move I connected with people on LinkedIn who had made the same move as I wanted to make. They, in turn, connected me to other people. I was very lucky to connect with helpful people.”
The power of networking…
Qualification and experience from back home may not always be recognized by potential employers. Some may prefer someone with Canadian experience and those with prestigious work experience or attended Ivy League or Oxbridge universities may fare better on the job market but not everyone has this experience.
Networking has a major impact on the impression you could make to your future employer. Before approaching someone to discuss opportunities it is definitely worth it to research the company and anything else you can find out about the person off LinkedIn (i.e. Google them).
This helps you determine how to approach them- what do you have in common and more importantly what do you specifically need help with.
“I found the best way was to network with someone in the company/firm/organization and they would recommend me.
Most companies trust recommendations from their employees. I have noticed that broadly worded networking emails are not very helpful.
Being specific with emails always shows that you know what you want So in essence what makes one the best candidate as a foreigner is effective networking that will result in getting recommended for the job you want.”
Be mentally prepared…
The job hunt is one of the hardest processes you could go through, but remember, perseverance is key.
“You have to have a thick skin and be resilient. You will be told “no” more than “yes”. Don’t take it personally – just keep going until you achieve your goal.”
Nobody deals with rejection well, but one small setback does not necessarily mean you should give up.
“I believe that what is meant for me will be for me and that rejection is not a denial of my dreams. So, I keep it moving. In terms of managing my expectations, I hoped for the best and prepared for the worst.”
Managing the corporate world has been extremely busy. “I struggled with impostor syndrome the first days. I had to remind myself that I worked very hard to get where I am so I deserved to be at the firm just like everyone else.”
Chiedza shares the key lessons she has learned from her immigration to Canada:
Failure is the best form of feedback because it forces you to change and grow – so failure works for you and not against you;
Don’t let your achievements set you back. It is very easy to relax after getting successful at something; and
Be grateful. Each time you want to complain (even when the complaint is valid) – just think of what you’re thankful for. This is one of the best ways to deal with stress.
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Lynda Aphing-Kouassi is a former banker and Founder and Director of Kaizene, a firm specializing in training, coaching and networking conferences.The process of creating African leaders and encouraging the inclusion of women is the core of her business which she tries to achieve by her coaching and training sessions.
Passionate and rigorous, Lynda has extensive experience in the management of companies and employees in the following sectors, portfolio management; training, coaching, and seminars; conferences organization for more than a decade.
For Lynda, the biggest resource a successful company should rely on is its workforce. Not being visible on the balance sheets it’s often relegated to the bottom rank. Via its various initiatives on leadership and training seminars organized, Kaizene accompanies multinationals and SME’s by reminding them of the best leadership techniques to use in order to enhance the skills, inspire the employees, create partnerships and synergies and ensure a stable and sustainable development.
“Our beautiful Africa is full of leaders we just have to accompany them to the best of our abilities, mentor them, remind them of their potential and reiterate to them the soundness of excellent leadership in order to give back to Africa the place that it should have: “the provider of excellence”.
You spent 19 years abroad, fill us in on your experience in a foreign land.
As a French speaker who disliked English at the time, living in London was a most difficult experience. My sister who was married to an Englishman lived in London already and they kindly allowed me to live with them. I soon found I could express my fears and got to speak English more often. My brother-in-law’s help was tremendous because he was patient and understanding despite the many mistakes that I made. I then started uni and work during which I experienced a lot of setbacks and a feeling of non-belonging as far as the lifestyle was concerned. It is at that time I realised that to belong you had to embrace the new culture. But I could see that others embraced it to the point of forgetting their own!
I then decided that the authenticity of my culture would take me far. So, while learning and understanding the lifestyle in the UK I was also bringing my own to the table. For example, I would make my country’s food during parties and lunches and wear my African print dresses as often as possible. I became an object of curiosity which brought people near me to try and understand where I was from and slowly the feeling of not belonging disappeared. I started to make real friends and began to really enjoy and understand the country. The UK became my home.
At work in a FTSE 100 company and being a black person, you can imagine that every disagreement or difference of opinion may well be perceived as aggression. I considered this as a form of bullying and refused to be bullied. I worked hard and developed this mindset of a winner where nothing was good enough until it was excellent. Also, I made sure that I was going to be accepted, not just tolerated. This is what you can do if you value and believe in yourself.
I learnt from this experience that only you have the answer to your own doubts and that the only judge is God. So, I have brought back with me this mindset of a winner and the power of excellence. My dream is to influence my peers with this belief so we can be proud individuals, strong, developed and authentic and to then become an example to others. I believe we can and will, with our young population and this mindset of confidence and excellence, have a better Africa.
Awesome! So what did you experience in terms of mindset and lifestyle that you wish to bring to your own country or Africa as a whole?
During my time in Europe, I found the development of infrastructure so important that it created a great communication between companies and people. The buildings are often rehabilitated and well maintained, communities put themselves together to ensure development and the cleanliness of their spaces in order to have a decent living environment.
Technology is well advanced allowing sustainable environment and every child understands the value of a prosperous technology. I truly wish we have the same type of developed infrastructure in Africa, and I am sure we will get there. All services ( water, electricity, transport etc) go through the infrastructure and ensure the development of the community. This prompted me to plan the organisation of a conference on infrastructure in October this year to discuss our lack of infrastructures and how to ensure a sustainable development for Sub-Saharan Africa.
A better Africa to me is a stable Africa where we understand politics and don’t use it against ourselves. It is one where we realise that Africans have all the necessary tools to be excellent and should therefore collaborate. A better Africa is one where Africans can freely travel across Africa and use our own products, learn to transform our raw materials and understand our values.
A better Africa is one where one African can’t tolerate seeing another one begging but where possible help others and grow together. And most of all where we do not envy Europe and strive to be the best.
Walk us through the journey of starting up Kaizene.
Kaizene is a baby that was born on the underground in London whilst talking to a friend about setting a business. Then the idea was put to bed. I had a job opportunity in Abidjan and although I had never experienced the working life in Abidjan, I had a fantastic manager. There were some difficult moments of integration and being someone who has just returned from the Diaspora, the situation was somehow different and I was not fully assisted in terms of integration.
I felt that my Director could not do it all, it was also upon the team to open up. Alternatively, I had to adjust myself to our realities and accept the fact that I was back home. I was always in tears in my Director’s office because of the absence of integration. It was the most difficult experience and I felt that the training for staff was not sufficient and there was not enough autonomy or empowerment.
After a discussion with my Director, we decided to part ways. This experience was helpful for the successful creation of Kaizene. I will always thank my Director for his understanding, time and belief in me. I came back to London, opened the drawer that contained my business plan and knew that I wanted to set up a training company where I can use my experience to help develop talent and at the same time secure the development of the companies in Africa. Then came back to set up the company and started selling our services. It’s a rocky road but a passionate and truly rewarding one.
To this day we provide training, coaching, and organise various leadership and mentorship seminars to individuals and companies. We also organise conferences for the creation of partnership and synergies. To me, a true entrepreneur is the one who thinks of transferring some knowledge or skills to others before thinking of the cash advantage associated with it. Only with passion can we ensure the success of our enterprises, and being an entrepreneur is not all about success it comes with a lot of failures but the most important is what we learn from it and how we pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off to carry on.
Kaizene is now two years old, almost three and we are known in the market. We have a good client base but we still need to carry on to ensure that we reach our main goal; which is putting training and education in the heart of everything we do to ensure a sustainable development and become role models for the younger generations.
So, after your experience in Abidjan what measures did you put in place in your own company that prevents other people from facing the same issues?
I have put in place a strong integration scheme in order to welcome all our newcomers. I also have a mentoring system where one is assigned to a mentor to assist them in their duties and also introduce them to the rest of the team in a better way.
This develops their team spirit and it automatically allows the individual to have a sense of belonging, therefore, increase productivity. To also assist companies that we collaborate with we also provide a tailor-made service based on their visions and objectives.
You also mentioned that you have a good client base, please advice the reader who might be struggling with creating trust relationships with their clients.
Honesty and passion are important in our company and we believe that our clients sense that we have their best interests at heart. To create this trust we have learned to know our clients and prospects, understand their vision and value, protect their brand in developing seminars and training that responds to their needs and objectives.
We have also learned to respect our deadlines and produced all our tasks with quality and efficiency.
What are your core values and what do they mean to you?
Authenticity, religion, integrity, honesty, passion, determination, discipline and hard work. They represent the defining point of my personality and Kaizene.
Those points must be followed at any given point to allow our development and the development of others. They represent my rule of life and my line of conduct.
What techniques can you give #MotherlandMoguls today to focus on to strengthen their internal teams?
Strong Leadership and knowledge of their teams to define the type of leadership to apply to ensure success
In Africa sadly we realise that with strong management strong egos are also born. This prevents sometimes the effective and efficient leadership. We also work on coaching sessions in order to ensure that leaders are capable of empowering the younger generation and leave a legacy of development.
“If you want a career that fulfils you, you need to focus on your interests rather than your qualifications.” Why is this?
Your interests are part of your dreams and your being and as they say dream big and you will achieve it. Not only this but you have a passion and with passion long lasting great things are achieved.
In your interest, you also have the practical skills and the desire to excel and excelling make this interest a durable source of living which is also socially responsible.
I have a daughter and my ideas come with the need to be an inspiration for her and others. I also know that God plays a strong part in the generation of my ideas. As a team great ideas come from big dreams and passion, they also come from the kids we deal with in whom we can truly identify as a better Africa.
Our great ideas also come from experience and the way we wish to see our Africa and Africans. Mostly the Kaizene ideas come from the desire to positively impact and change the world. Our role is to develop the talents in Africa, create leaders and ensure that within our conferences great synergies and partnerships are created. With the talents have a more developed Africa well equipped to became the hub of humanity.
You also have leadership programs. What is the must-have trait for a powerful leader?
Although there are other important traits that make a powerful leader such as humility, self-assurance, social boldness, decisiveness, optimism, focus, and honesty.
For those who don’t have these traits, how can they also possess them?
Following our Leadership programme.😊
What is the hardest thing you ever had to do?
I must travel a lot for the business and the hardest thing that I had to do was to leave my daughter behind with her nanny for work reasons.
If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.
“Black women are made out of brown sugar, cocoa, honey and gold
And the strength of ten thousand moons”
#Blackgirlmagic is one of the top trending hashtags of 2016. Created by CaShawn Thompson, “Black Girl Magic” illustrates a feeling that some of us have known all along, that black women are universally awesome and it is impossible to count all the ways that we are dope, inspiring and mind-blowing.
I am a firm believer in the idea that black women everywhere, at every opportunity, ought to congregate to celebrate our dopeness, to support each other in living out our fullest potentials and to find ways to be there for each other. If we don’t have our backs then who will?
The Amsterdam experience
When I moved to Amsterdam in 2011, beyond the beauty of the city and the openness and sense of freedom I experienced, one thing that also struck me was how “white” the city was.
Now I’m not saying that it was a negative experience from the beginning, but the truth is that most times I was the only black girl in my classes at the University of Amsterdam, in a café in the city centre or at my job…and it got lonely really quickly.
When I would encounter another black person, it felt like finding an oasis in the desert and I would try to make the most of the encounter, unsure of when it would happen again.
During these times I often wondered where the black people in the city congregated and if there were any spaces in the city where I could just walk into and not feel out place. I eventually came to the conclusion that there weren’t and so I set out to find or co-create a space where black women in Amsterdam could feel safe and secure enough to meet and share stories from their personal and professional lives with like-minded women.
Almost 4 years after I moved to Amsterdam, through luck and determination, one evening I found myself sitting at a table with four amazing, talented and courageous black women from America, Jamaica and Bermuda. We had all been looking for the same thing since we moved to Amsterdam and by the end of our discussion, that evening the foundations of the Amsterdam Black Women’s Network had been formed.
In a year, our numbers grew from the 5 founders to a community of over 100 women in and around the greater Amsterdam Area. We recently asked some of our members to share their experiences since they joined the group and these are some of the stories we gathered.
It’s been hard to feel part of a community
“Co-creating Amsterdam Black Women was a way for me to connect to other like minded women from all over the world, and also help to provide a community where we can share experiences and resources.
Our group is becoming about collaboration and support for all of us and I’m here for that. I love that we are now starting to connect and help each other in all our different endeavours.”
“What I love most about this group is how it brings together all these dope black women who are doing great things who can serve as a source of friendship, inspiration and support for each other! So excited to see us grow together.”
“I have lived here for seven years and have tried everything to meet awesome black people but it’s been hard to feel part of a community. This is something I really need in my life and it comes at a great time. Thanks again for taking initiative. Also it’s so great that the group is so inclusive. It’s important that people feel safe in such a group.”
“There’s something special about being able being able to turn up in a foreign land and find a community with whom you know you’ll be understood and accepted, where you’re just allowed to be your unadulterated self.”
“I like the multi-faceted events, i.e. book clubs, going to the club, brunch, shopping, visioning, etc. I also like that I get to meet black women from all parts of the diaspora: UK, Netherlands, US, France, Germany, etc.”
We are here to create a space where black women can be amongst others who fully share and understand their experience. With the Amsterdam Black Women’s network, we envision a community that is centred on empathy and support that provides a non-judgemental space of communion for those who enter. We want to facilitate growth and support of goals while nurturing inner strength. We aim to be a space of service and advocacy.
It’s not easy juggling full-time jobs, families and other commitments while trying to build a group that achieves all of the stated objectives and strives to become a staple in the black community in Amsterdam. But from the sounds of it, we are well on our way and so we will keep putting in the work because #blackgirlmagic.
If you are ever in Amsterdam, please look us up on Facebook, Instagram or email us. We would love to welcome you into our little family, show you our Amsterdam and most importantly ensure that you have a place that where you can go that feels like home.
I’m pretty sure many of us reach a point in our lives where we reevaluate some of our life choices. We finish high school and get accepted into tertiary institutions and study what we think we would like to be for the rest of our lives.
But who knows what they really want to become when they’re a teen choosing their core subjects whilst dealing with puberty, boy drama and growing pains?
Adulting and its woes
Adulting and traversing the world of work is a journey of OMG laced with moments of YAAAAAAS and varying degrees of ‘I can do the thing’.
So when the going gets tough and mind starts racing, one does consider that the grass may be greener on the other side. Releasing guilt and embracing our efforts as enough, and mistakes as lessons is often our biggest challenge and triumph.
If I was granted the opportunity to go abroad in pursuit of a career that I want, well…
We have all at some point felt like everything is working against us and not with us. A lot of us align ourselves to the internalized propaganda that exists in order make us doubt our intuition and the choices which we dare to make.
We can no longer silence the need for new and greater possibilities that exist outside of our paradigm. Presented with the opportunity to go abroad I would defs jump onto that bandwagon.
There is absolutely no place for nursing prolonged feelings of doubt in this vocation dancery. For the longest time, women have continuously denied themselves the opportunity to flourish because they can.
There has almost always been a reason why one should think things through and why one ought not to go ahead and flex on that new portfolio. We need to block out the negativity and the trolls that continue with the ‘pull her down’ syndrome. For this reason, we also ought to take time for small consistent acts of self-care and self-kindness which will grant us the daily ability to can.
When one has opened oneself to the endless growth opportunities at their disposal there are a few things one needs to look into. These include what is more pivotal between a remuneration structure and job satisfaction? What are you willing to do regarding the roles and responsibilities which may come with the position? Will you be able to handle the responsibilities which come with the chosen career path?
We are reminded over and over again, the importance of setting boundaries and respecting our limits. But sometimes we ought to push just a little harder, for a bit longer. Sometimes we must just be strong and pull ourselves towards ourselves until we conquer the proverbial Mount Frustration-Doubt-Anxiety.
‘J’ is for job; but also for jet setter
So if I were offered the opportunity to go work abroad and pursue an accolade-worthy career, I would not think it through twice!
Even if there may lie challenges ahead and irrespective of the adjustments I would have to make and despite any reservations; I am sure of one thing. It. Gets. Better. This doesn’t even warrant an explanation. Then the only thing left to do would be to… WERQ!
Conscious growth and dedication to a cause may require all of the patience, trusting the process and effort 100%, all the damn time! The understanding that sometimes we may not feel like doing the work, but we will anyway and the effort will be worth it —tenfold!
At the end of it all; we will feel more enriched and empowered than we ever thought we might be. So, if you have a chance to move abroad don’t even think twice. Go get that career of your dreams!