Yasmine saw her move to Canada as an opportunity to transform her career, and decided to pursue one that was meaningful and spoke to her. Here is her story:
*Yasmine is a pseudonym. Her name was changed for this story to protect her privacy.
“It was not an easy experience, but from the moment I arrived in Canada in 2019, I could feel and sense that my ability to express myself had changed.
I grew up in Syria – the place of my birth, childhood, and education. After graduating from the University of Aleppo with an Agricultural Engineering degree, I worked as an executive assistant and office manager for a number of large firms in Damascus. Later, I worked for an oil company. Ironically, that oil company was Petro Canada when it operated in Syria before 2010. A few years later I moved to the Gulf, to work in a field where I could use my skills in communications, HR, and office administration.
After moving to Canada and realizing the difficulties related to job searches, something came to my mind – why not study something I’m interested in? Sure, I could just as easily take advice from someone and go into a field that I find boring, but with better career prospects. However, even if it helped advance my career, would I really succeed at something I wasn’t interested in? My initial thought was to pursue a psychology degree, but as a newcomer I felt the need to do something fast that would allow me to start working quickly. Therefore, I enrolled in a social work diploma. I finished this degree without any regrets; it opened a lot of doors for me.
Canada is a very systematic country. Back home we have a rich network of support and can talk to everyone easily for personal and professional advice. Here you must be part of the system, and wait for the system to get things done. If you don’t know how to be part of the system, you are kicked out: you miss out on support, services, opportunities, and fall through the cracks. Navigating the system is very challenging, especially for us newcomers. Without tools and guidance, we know nothing about how to build a life in Canada. From the moment we are looking to rent, apply for a drivers’ license, apply for jobs, etc. we have to interact with systems in Canada that were not designed with us in mind. In most cases we are left alone to learn how to use the system.
I connected with Jumpstart Refugee Talent on LinkedIn and offered to volunteer. I highlighted that I was available for work and applied to their programs. After a while, the Refugee Talent Hub team reached out to me about a job opportunity. I had just finished my PSW diploma and needed a placement. I preferred having a job in social work over an office job. So I immediately said yes! I’ve been working at this agency that helps the homeless and people with addictions ever since.
Honestly speaking, I’m enjoying my job. Many people look at me and ask, “Why are you doing this? why don’t you find something that is not this tough?” I say that it may not be an easy job, and in fact it can be overwhelming. But day by day I am reassured this is the place I want to be. It’s self-rewarding and I feel human.
No matter how tough it can be, you can support a vulnerable person. Not with physical or material needs, but by sharing a moment and having a human connection. They [my clients] want to feel alive, and they want to feel like someone is there to listen to them. Most of the time they have been rejected by society; and when you see them up close, you realize that anyone and everyone could be in their position. For me, when you have a humane approach in dealing with these people, you can see how being treated with respect can change their whole demeanor. It’s that moment when you know you’ve made an impact on a person’s life that gives me a lot of balance and satisfaction in my life & career.”
For more information about Jumpstart’s Refugee Talent Hub Program, visit https://jumpstartrefugee.ca/programs/talent/