Zeina Gabriel celebrated her first year as a Permanent Resident in Canada last month. Originally from Lebanon, she holds degrees in Chemistry and Archaeology and is currently pursuing two more degrees –Master of Business Administration (MBA) and MA in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies.
With more than a decade of experience in administration in Lebanon, she landed her first job in Canada as a research associate at Know History just 4 months after her arrival. Since it was a 6-month contract which ended in August, Zeina is back to job hunting again “like many other newcomers to Ottawa”.
In a heart-felt chat with us, Zeina spoke about her experiences in her native country, why she feels that Canada is really her home, and what still needs to be done for the integration and inclusion of newcomers:
What brought you to Canada?
Many issues, mainly related to the political and economic situation in Lebanon, pushed me to emigrate.
You see, Lebanon is a very small country in the Middle East. It has been unstable since the last decade and between 1975 and 1990, it was ravaged by a fierce civil war.
Afterwards although the bombing had stopped, the country remained unstable with increasing levels of corruption, a volatile political situation, and many smaller wars every few years.
Lebanon is falling apart, and I found it best to leave while I still could.
Has Canada been a welcoming and inclusive country for you? In what way?
Yes! I feel that I belong here and can proudly say that Canada is my home.
The Canadian people are very accommodating, helpful, and polite. They are open-minded, and they show an understanding for other cultures.
Did you face any hardships or disappointments during your job hunt, how did you work around them?
I believe my journey with job hunting in Canada has been very smooth.
I heard people complaining about feeling isolated while job hunting, so I am trying as much as possible to network, meet friends, exercise, and leave my house for at least a few hours every day.
I have also heard that people become discouraged after spending some time job hunting because they apply for jobs, they never hear back from employers or they aren’t invited to job interviews; I believe I am lucky as my job search has been very fruitful over the last few weeks.
I believe isolation and discouragement along with uncertainty and the fear of running out of money can have their toll on job hunters, and can cause hardships and disappointments; luckily, I am trying as much as possible to surround myself with a positive encouraging community and I am also keeping my spirit up by not dwelling on any negativity.
I meet with my mentor on a weekly basis and I get in touch frequently with my employment counselor. Both my mentor and my employment counselor encourage me, guide me, and send me vacancies to apply to. They even offer to help me with cold calling, and they are always ready to provide me with a recommendation letter to open doors for me and to introduce me to prospective employers.
What is one of the hardest lessons you had to learn as a newcomer? How did it impact your life?
I came across many people who would hardly listen to my story before pushing me to apply for any survival job without knowing anything about me.
Plus, newcomers are usually told to take a few steps back in their careers and not to expect to start at the same level that they had in their home countries, but I came to realize that employment counselors hardly specify where exactly to start and what basic salary to aim for.
And if someone happens to be at a crossroad in their career, most employment counselors are clueless on how to assist them.
As for how these hard lessons impacted my life, well, they made me stronger and increased my self-confidence.
Based on your own experiences, what advice would you give to other newcomers?
I would maintain that Canada is the land of opportunities where everything is possible. So, keep going no matter how hard it gets.
Expect a “no” as much as you would expect a “yes”.
Raise your standards, shoot for the stars, and don’t settle for less than what you deserve.
Find a positive support group who is always willing to cheer you up and to provide you with constructive feedback.
Always believe in yourself and keep studying because learning is the key to success.
Pay attention to your thoughts because they can sabotage or fuel your success.
And finally, I would reiterate that mastering French and English is the key to land a job in Ottawa since it is a bilingual city. Good luck!