Immigrant Success Stories: Zahidul Ahsan
Monday | April 5, 2021 | by Wilma Lee
World Education Services (WES) believes in the power of storytelling and shared resources. In 2019, we reached out to immigrants across North America. We asked about their reasons for leaving home, their challenges along the way, and the advice they would like to share with other newcomers.
In this new blog series, we are now sharing their stories with you. Below is Zahid’s.
Click here to hear from others who have contributed their voices to WES.
Zahidul Ahsan (Zahid) always wanted to live somewhere that his professional contributions could make an impact. That’s why he considered moving from Khulna, Bangladesh, to Canada in 2016.
Discover Zahid’s immigration journey below, complete with his challenges and insights.
Looking for More
In Bangladesh, Zahid had an established career. With a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Khulna University, he was recruited immediately to Unilever (a leading consumer goods company). After working there for two years, he obtained a mid-level marketing position with British American Tobacco – Bangladesh.
But in 2014, Zahid began contemplating a move to Canada. He was in his mid-30s, and while Bangladesh provided a good social life, he wanted to broaden his horizons. He wanted to live in a multicultural city with a higher quality of life.
He says, “If you work and pay taxes [in Canada], you have access to certain guaranteed services.”
After thorough research, Zahid felt that Canada offered the best reward for those who were willing to work hard and bring positive change into their life. He saw that Canada offered great opportunities for the children and families of immigrants.
In addition, Zahid liked the idea of living close to the water. He enjoyed sailing, which was tied to childhood memories of being in Khulna, a port city close to the Sundarbans (“beautiful forest”). Knowing that Canada was a “land of many lakes,” he saw this as a sign.
A Moving Experience
In May 2016, Zahid finally moved to Toronto. He brought his wife, a few suitcases, some savings, and plenty of uncertainties about the future.
“When you are leaving your country, it is very hard,” he says. “You are leaving behind everything. It is a big decision for your life; you do not know what is going to happen. But the day I landed I was overwhelmed by the welcome I received from immigration officers. We were nervous and jetlagged, and they were so helpful.”
Zahid and his wife settled into an apartment near Downtown Toronto. They spent the first few weeks going to service provider offices for different day-to-day needs: opening a bank account, registering for health care, getting a driver’s license.
Zahid noted that the process was stressful. However, the officers were very friendly to newcomers. He was grateful that they took time to talk to him and explain procedures.
He also spent some time exploring the city and its surroundings, enjoying the outdoors.
Zahid was surprised at how difficult it was to get a job in Canada, especially knowing that he had to “start from scratch.”
It took four months to get his first job, a commission-based sales position. It wasn’t what he’d been doing in marketing and communications back home, and he considered it a “survival job.” “I had to go through tough times. Not a journey full of roses,” he said.
Although the early days were full of hardships, he soon secured a mid-level full-time job as a Corporate Accounts Executive at Canon Canada Inc. He appreciated the responsibility, but was still searching for something more suited to his skills and abilities.
Four years into his life in Canada, Zahid has developed a social network. He enjoys the diversity in Toronto, where people come from many different backgrounds. He noticed that people here value others more, and there is a pervasive sense of respect. He appreciates this approach and feels proud to be a part of this culture.
Challenges and Strategies
For Zahid, migrating in the middle of his career was challenging. He noted that people like him need more support, as students have more opportunities to network and meet others, while migrants who want to start working immediately face more challenges.
Therefore, Zahid believes that employment agencies need to better serve migrants coming from a range of industries and sectors and better understand who would face more challenges.
Zahid said it is also important to have more training opportunities in soft skills (for example, the interview process, how to develop a professional network, maintaining workplace calendars, and workplace behavioral norms—including professional boundaries). Additionally, he thinks it would be useful if someone explained the rights of an employee and what to expect during the hiring process (for example, what hiring managers are looking for and how to negotiate salary).
Zahid cited advice given to him by a friend who was already in Canada: “Don’t compare the third chapter of your book to someone who is in the 20th.” In other words, have perspective on what you can accomplish when you move to a new country and not expect to be as settled as someone who has been here for several years.
Looking Back, Looking Forward
Zahid emphasized that it would be beneficial for newcomers to have their credential evaluated when they arrive in Canada.
He says, “I had to invest months of my time to be noticed by the right employer. They were trying to validate whether I had the right experience. With the right piece of paper, which presented my work credentials, discussions could have been easier.”
Now, he is pursuing two paths for the future. First, he wants to continue focusing on his professional development and eventually secure a job that matches his academic background and work experience. He is planning to pursue further education to reach his employment goal.
Second, he wants to give back to his new home—to find opportunities to help people. One important role he wishes to play is to assist others on their journeys to Canada. He would like to help offset the potential challenges that many newcomers will continue to experience.
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