Everyone has a story. Each time I share the story of my early days in Canada, I get the response, “That’s a miracle.”
I was born and educated in India, and like many new immigrants, I moved to Canada with big dreams. With an MBA and a rising career in advertising working with international brands in Dubai, I was confident of making it big in Canada. After all, I had moved countries and lived in 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 is. 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 even 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.
However, his expertise counts for nothing. Mr. Mathew has been to more than a dozen interviews, and is always told the same thing: “You must have Canadian experience,” he said with a rueful laugh. – excerpted from Globe and Mail: Immigrants battle chronic low income
My dream job in Canada seemed a distant possibility when, even after four months, I couldn’t get a decent break. Desperate to get back into the work force, I decided to take up survival jobs to stop the bleeding of 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 C, picking hot automotive parts from burning furnaces, carrying heavy boxes across warehouse floors, was definitely not my idea of work. While 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 about 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, at that point, needed a place to vent. When I spoke with Marina Jiménez, who was researching 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 (Jan. 31, 2007). My forlorn picture that accompanied the hard-copy version of the story seemed to accurately portray my plight.
“It is a criminal waste of my knowledge and experience,” said Mr. Mathew, who plans to leave Canada by the summer if he doesn’t land a job in his field. – excerpted from Globe and Mail: Immigrants battle chronic low income
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 a 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 complete stranger. He spent countless hours mentoring me. As luck would have it, Himal’s connections were the biggest and best agencies in town. I got to present my credentials to the CEO’s 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 job at the Mecca of advertising agencies — Ogilvy and Mather. Working on the IBM account, building award-winning integrated marketing campaigns like Smarter Planet and Watson-Jeopardy, with some of the best talent in town, was my dream coming true.
As Nicholas Sparks said in A Walk to Remember, “I now believe, by the way, that miracles can happen.”
Dennis Mathew is a Toronto-based marketing professional engaged in building cutting-edge, thoughtful and measurable solutions for marketers. With more than 15 years in advertising and digital marketing, he has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands to develop award-winning social, mobile and digital marketing best practices.