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Uloma Ezirim’s Diaspora Chronicles: On Relocating & Finding the Right Job

Uloma Ezirim

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Migrating anywhere is not easy. It is even more challenging when you’re constrained by the absence of the educational or professional requirements for the place you’re moving to. The challenge of settling in – with or without family- always seems like a daunting feat. BellaNaija Contributor, Uloma Ezirim, has decided to share a 3-part series called Diaspora Chronicles. In this honest and refreshing segment, she shares some of her experiences since she moved to the UK.
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After almost 10 years in the Nigerian Banking Sector, personal circumstances necessitated a move to the UK. We relocated through the then popular Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP). The idea behind the HSMP was for highly skilled people to immigrate to the UK to seek out work opportunities. The benefit to the UK would be the filling up of critical skill gaps to supplement its labour market.

This route provided some flexibility, as there was no need to have a job offer prior to relocation. As we all moved in droves then, we thought the premise for this scheme was that we would get like for like opportunities. At least this was what I presumed.

In view of this, that fear factor was greatly diminished!  I had 2 degrees, one from Nigeria and the other from the UK plus tons of working experience. I could just see myself, brandishing my resume and snagging that hot job in the City or maybe even in Canary Wharf… all in high heels. I woke up hard after arrival; it turned out I had been dreaming!

The lesson that the UK experience far outweighs any degree was turning out to be real. Things not looking so exciting anymore meant that I had to toss aside all my preconceptions and re-strategize.

Clearly, settling for less was not an option; how do I explain it to my folks who had spent so much educating me? My aunties that had boasted in several August meetings about how their Ulo had taken over “the London”. My ex-colleagues that intended crashing at my new fancy abode.

The UK experience from the little I had observed is not to be trifled with, as it covers a wide spectrum spanning from the specific knowledge of the role to softer skills like communication, literacy and even etiquette. Trust me a one year master’s programme in the UK had not schooled me enough on these, and I learned the hard way.

One day at the office, I needed a perforator to punch holes on some documents. I stood up from my desk, put on the best English accent I could muster and went around the large office asking for a perforator. All 15 people in my section looked at me shaking their heads in the negative. I sat down and looking to my left, there was a perforator! When I pointed at it and asked the colleague who had it to pass it on he said, “you should’ve just said hole puncher love!”

To become… I had to establish a plan (you get what I did there). Looking at the UK budget summary for the year, it was obvious that the quickest route to success for someone like myself was either through Social Care, Education or Health. The reason behind this is that, the government was, as usual, pumping revenue into these sectors. Remember that my competition were youngsters with A-Levels and degrees from the fanciest of universities  – not mentioning the key experience they would have acquired in the years I had been in “Naija”. There was no way I was going to be a nurse. I’ve had injuries that I never looked at until they healed. I was too old to be a medical doctor, didn’t have the brains either. Social Care involved undertaking a post graduate training, but there was need to have done a pre-requisite course. I didn’t fit in to that criteria either. The Education route seemed to be the way out at this point.

The government had a fast track salaried scheme to get one into teaching. The best bursaries were available for Maths teachers but you had to have made a 2:1 or first class and yours truly had a decent 2:2. On researching deeper, I noticed that there was a new career path growing in the field of Education Administration.

The government was funding courses on School Business Management (SBM) as a way to enabling teaching staff focus on their core duties of teaching and learning. For me this role was perfect, it involved every other task in a school without the teaching aspect – (mums voice was ringing in my head “Uloma Nwam you cannot be a teacher like me!)
Anyway the SBM role would be challenging as it involved managing the support system of the school and the job specification encompassed Business, Health & Safety, Facilities, Procurement, HR and Administration. I negotiated with my employers to get this training and that is how I started “becoming”. I’m not saying that I am where I should be, but I am happy and with the hectic life style of the typical UK parent, working in a school does provide that balance.

Share your stories and comments. Hope you got something “tangible” for Christmas. This year will be super by His grace!

Photo Credit: Tyler Olson | Dreamstime.com

Uloma is a School Administration Manager. Her mantra in life is Laughter, Love, Relationships = Happiness. Uloma is very passionate about all things Nigerian and this is reflected in her creative expression. Join our community on www.diasporachronicles.com.

23 Comments

  1. Odididi

    January 5, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    Lovely read. I am a british citizen but schooled in nigeria,and i have been contemplating on relocating after nysc to join my siblings..but the doubts and fear of wat to expect won’t let me be.I really hope u come bak and give us more details of your experjences

    • chy

      January 5, 2017 at 2:37 pm

      I hope you read this!
      I was in the same exact boat as you august 2015!
      Except I had worked for 3 years in Nigeria before leaving.
      I did a masters and I started working before I finished the masters.
      You have nothing to lose since you just finished your NYSC and haven’t found a job yet
      If you decide to move start applying for jobs once you get here so you don’t have to wait until the end of the masters to have one.

    • uloma

      January 5, 2017 at 5:07 pm

      Odididi, you will be fine. However you might have to settle for less initially but only for a short while. Once they discover your talent you will move up the ladder very quickly. You are also young so you probably don’t have kids to also look after like I did. Being British is also a plus, i wasn’t at the time. Remain focused and trust me you will just fine. take care.

    • Phoenix

      January 5, 2017 at 5:29 pm

      I felt the need to comment/reply as I am also a British citizen that grew up in Nigeria. I moved to the UK in 2007 (during my NYSC) but after completing my undergraduate studies and the Nigerian Law School. Like the author, I had lofty ideas of what my ‘plan of attack’ would be.

      Specifically I was going to get a job in a law firm (I was willing to work as a paralegal), then I was going to do my masters 3 years’ later, complete my re-qualifying law exams and return to the workforce as a high powered lawyer, etc, etc.

      Loool. It didn’t quite work out that way.

      I worked at a (Nigerian owned) high street law firm UNPAID for 5 months then bills drove me away, luckily I got an admin job in a hospital on a short term research project and I did this for 8 months. After that I was actually unemployed for 9 months and then just as I got to the end of my rope I got a customer services rep job in a local authority. I sort of got stuck there for the next couple of years but in 2015 I started and completed a Master’s degree in a private university (BPP University). They were piloting a scheme for graduates of Nigerian Law School & I jumped on it and completed an LLM in International Business Law. I now work as a policy adviser in the Civil Service (not my goal job but a long way from where I started).

      I’m aware that I have basically written another post but I hope that it encourages you and anyone else that reads it.

      Do your research before you move!!! That’s my key advice to you. If I’d done enough research I would have plotted my graph a lot differently than I did. If you find that there are any exams you may need to take, try as much as possible to do them before you get here.

      Good luck!

  2. Ada

    January 5, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    I had colleagues who left for the UK between 2005 and 2009 on the HSMP visa, bankers as well, their expereinces were not encouraging at all. Some of them came back to Nigeria, others chose to stay back in the UK and do odd jobs to survive, fast forward 10 years, they are just beginning to secure good jobs. A few of my colleagues who left for Canada fared a bit better but had to change careers in order to survive. Looking for a job abroad when your first degree was obtained in a Nigerian university isn’t easy even with a foreign master’s degree, the companies will also use the fact that you dont have working experience in their country as an excuse.

  3. BUSAYO

    January 5, 2017 at 2:08 pm

    Thanks Uloma. I just enjoyed the read.

  4. Weezy

    January 5, 2017 at 6:02 pm

    In my observations, it is very difficult to assimilate quickly into a the UK or US and keep the professional career trajectory you had in Nigeria unless you get another degree, preferably 2-year one or longer. Even the people I know who are super smart, top students, hard workers, getting a one-year masters in either of those two countries is not enough to understand how the employment system works. There are exceptions, I know of just one person who went to the UK and found a well-paying job fairly quickly, but he was very good in a sector that has high demand and has a relatively low barrier to entry in terms of certification (i.e. computer science) compared to something like nursing.

    It takes a year to just get your bearings and understand the culture. Then you need to do a very good internship because your work experience in Nigeria will not count for many employers (no matter what your schools’ career office tells you). Then, you need to devote time to learn about how people get jobs in your new country. All of that takes time.

  5. BA

    January 5, 2017 at 6:35 pm

    There was something missing in this article and also missing from the comment section and i’m not surprised as when i was job hunting almost a decade ago, the number of nigerians i met during the process was like 2 per cent. Graduate scheme people. Graduate Scheme. Whether yo have donkey years experience in Nigeria, 9 out of 10 times, i doesn’t count for shit, and the incredible arrogance that many nigerians come with after they finish their masters, they think the city is waiting for them. Newsflash, you are competing with Oxbridge graduates who have taken a gap year to do internship during university, and also have uk work experience part time.

    You can’t compete with experienced hire, with nigerian experience, so you start from the bottom and work your way up, and by bottom, i mean selectively choose graduate schemes in international companies, fortune 500’s and the likes, so that working for them for a few years will finally do the magic for your CV, that your nigerian experience can piggy back on. During my job hunting days, i rarely saw nigerians in assessment centres for graduate schemes. very rarely. They think it’s beneath them.

    My very first job in the UK a few months after school was on a graduate scheme with one of the biggest companies in the world. They make plane engines. Cough, cough. This is me with my big degree and experience from nigeria, plus my one year degree in the uk. My colleagues were 22yr olds. Their salary wasn’t fantastic and i never stopped applying for graduate jobs. A few months later, in the same year, I got another graduate scheme job for almost twice the salary and i moved to London.

    My experience, plus sharp naija survival skills made me rise up the ladder very quickly, the graduate job was just one foot in the door. In a few years i was promoted to a more senior role and i’m now oga to the majority of the graduates i started with. I have been a 40% tax payer for a couple of years now and i have owned my own house for years also, even before i became 40% taxpayer, i had a property. I’m now in the process of buying my second house.

    I see nigerian graduates come to the uk year in year out, making the exact same mistake. When they become disenfranchised years later, they start saying they wasted money for the masters, if only they stayed back in nigeria. Oh, i was lucky, i got a professional job in the same field as my uk degree. I wasn’t lucky, i stopped to conquer. While i was applying for graduate jobs, my Nigerian friends were looking for experienced hire. I have gained enough experience now, the next move for me is to go into contracting. my colleagues with my experience are earning upwards of £850 – £1000 a day. Yes a day. I have paid my dues being a permanent staff for almost 10 years, i have well enough experience behind my belt to earn such. I don’t know how it works in the US, but in the UK, start at graduate level.

    • Phoenix

      January 5, 2017 at 8:23 pm

      This is the kind of advice I wish I’d gotten before I moved, yes I have since learned that Graduate Schemes are a great way to break into the system (better late than never I say though!) 🙂

    • Uloma

      January 5, 2017 at 8:44 pm

      Well done! New comers got something to learn BA!

    • Senior BA

      January 5, 2017 at 9:23 pm

      I am guessing by BA you mean business analyst. I’m a senior business analyst myself. Started on the graduate scheme of one the big 4 accounting firms. Worked my way up and after I got my permanent residency, I started scoping contracting jobs. Got my first big break and it’s been smooth sailing since then. I earn in between the two figures you quoted. @BA come and join us in the contracting game. We don’t pay 40 per cent tax. We have clever accountants that ensure that. Before I left my firm I trained to be an interviewer and like you I wondered where the Nigerians were. Not that I intended to give them any special treatment as the grading scheme is quite strict and objective but you hardly see Nigerians as candidates. For the majority they don’t know to go through this route. For the rest that do, they don’t practice the online test questions well or do well at even simple phone interview so they don’t get to the assessment centres which is the last stage. When I started my colleagues were not even as old as my youngest sister ??? but I didn’t send o. I no dey look Uche face at all. Law graduates take up a training contract. Anyone doing MSc or MA get unto a graduate scheme. You are not too big. If you see my CV now you will bow. I don’t even put my naija experience at all. It will dull my shine. The one that they have cancelled PSW, don’t even come here. Go to canada or Australia and start from graduate schemes there too.

  6. Kay

    January 5, 2017 at 7:51 pm

    BN.. please post from people who moved to the US as well.. oshey!

  7. Pink

    January 5, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    Very interesting article and comments. I learnt a lot!

  8. Nyc

    January 5, 2017 at 8:51 pm

    Lol you want to hear about the US…just go straight into medical field both male and female..thats where everyone ends up

  9. DA

    January 5, 2017 at 10:30 pm

    good article. I was lucky (in my mind) moved to UK even before my final year results were out – got a job as a checkout operator (2:1 degree in statistics), how UK can humble you. Here is where my luck starts – due to naija hustle started doing office stuffs in my store, then got a month contract job with Lloyds as a data processor, after that started working with HP as a data analyst (did internship in Nigeria in NBS as a data). Then I had my 2nd child so maternity leave started and then was luckily offered to start working from home (currently still working from home for the past 1.5years). Have had another baby this December so on another maternity leave (started my masters this sept 16) so by the time am done with maternity leave, I would have graduated. Actually now applying for graduate programs (as for now my salary is still not where I want it to be and I want to have lots of options by the time I graduate) but like senior BA said, am probably not practicing the online tests enough. Hopefully soon I will start paying 40% before going into contracting – need the flexibility

  10. funmi

    January 5, 2017 at 10:43 pm

    Beautiful piece, Uloma! You might just want to set up a side gig as a UK Consultant on migrant issues. Well done and keep it up.

  11. Godblessyou

    January 6, 2017 at 1:20 am

    The person that talked about grad schem may you live long. I currently work for the biggest energy giant in the uk,yes that’s right *shinesteeth* I finish my masters 2012 and only started this job 2015. I finished uni 2010 I wish I had been given this advise about grad schem my goodness. My sal is not where I want it to be but trust me I’m in the right place and my network of the people I know in the business makes my manger who has worked in the company for 10 years jealous (in our last meeting he said you know too much people your network is just too much) hehehehe. Anyway these 19 year olds on grad schemes are making more money than me who came in as a professional. If you do grad schem with my company omg the perks tho,course fully paid for, car, petrol, sweet sal and once you finish perm role(no interview). Il be 30 in a few days and this year baba God got me I must hit that 50k sal with the help of my network, I’m out of office but once I’m back in I have a meeting on my first day back with HR(I did an event in Nov now they wanna know me and help me in my career in the company hehehehe). Baba God noni. My son is 2 and once he is 18 grad schem baby. Did I mention I can get people in the company oh the power of networking. Anyway grad schem people get into it ASAP!

    • Londongirl

      January 7, 2017 at 7:24 pm

      How do you get people in the company?? I am in the UK and I’m searching for a job!! Help please!!

  12. Nitomeya

    January 6, 2017 at 9:51 am

    I moved to the Uk in 2010 for my masters programme, and applied for the post study work visa afterwards, I agree with other comments about applying for graduate schemes and practice for online tests, interviews and assessment center before graduating. I only started fully applying for graduate schemes after I graduated in 2011. Then I found out that I wasn’t even getting response from the application stage, so I did some research on how to ace the application stage process using sites like Targetjobs.co.uk. Then the next stage was the online test mostly SHL, same thing I needed to practice for them and I used assessmentday.co.uk. Next the phone interview stage, I had a friend that got a graduate job after a year and He was a good story teller so I learnt from him as well.

    I did eventually get to the assessment center of two companies but didn’t get the job afterwards. So within a year and half of graduating I had applied for a lot of graduate jobs and only got through to the final stage on two occasions. The lesson here is that, if I had started earlier in preparing I would have gotten more assessment centers as I got better with every rejection so don’t give up.

    Whilst on the job search I was working as a stock taker, (Orridge people) counting stock of good s in warehouse of big stores on a zero hour contract. The pay wasn’t regular but enough to keep my very modest life style and motivate me to get a better job.

    I eventually got a 6 Internship opportunity in an IT company which later turned out to a full time role, they also sponsored my Tier 2 work visa, funny enough the interview process was the easiest I attended whilst looking for a job (Easier than when I interviewed to be a kitchen porter(Washing plate). Favor from God.

    The main obstacle with getting a job in the Uk when you are qualified is the visa. Once you get that sorted/have a company to sponsor you then you are good to go.

  13. Oga Madam

    January 6, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    Good read. The posts and comments are very educative.
    My experience is however different.

    I moved into the UK five years ago, when I got married to my husband who then was a postgraduate student. I had resigned from my banking job with the hope that even though I had no uk degree of any sort, I would get a job with my work experience. This turned out not to be the case.
    I was advised by close friends that the only job out there for me would not be over £15£k per annum and only Doctors and Professors earn close to the £30k mark per annum. But I didn’t accept that. I kept on applying for any role even care work! Lol. But no joy.
    For a long time we lived on my husband’s scholarship stipends and then I found out I was pregnant. Two months later, I was blessed to secure a tax accounting job with the UK tax agency and continued until my family moved to another location (also in the U.K.). I resigned my tax accounting job and went on to be a full time housewife. Applying for jobs got more frustrating so, I enrolled for a diploma training in business analysis and project management. I wasn’t too keen on going for my masters. I just researched on the skill gap in the IT sector and positioned myself I to gaining skills and writing certification exams in this field and to the glory of God, I am in my third contract working as a lead BA in the biggest bank in the United Kingdom at Canary Wharf. How much I earn everyday is a dream. One thing I however discovered is that 1. As you move anywhere, make friends with forward thinking people. 2. Don’t take any job as too degrading: all na uk experience as you may meet people along the way who will help you in achieving you goals. 3. Never ever give up trying to apply for jobs and developing yourself. 4. Secure yourself in Gods plan and purpose for your life through prayers, God’s word and good will to all men. All these have helped me and I hope it does for you too. Ps. I still haven’t got a UK degree. Just my Naija Pali and certifications and the Grace of God!

  14. Uloma

    January 7, 2017 at 7:00 am

    @my oga madam thank you so much. That is the thing every ones experience is different it is keeping the dream alive that is important. You know people like us could not even consider grad schemes as there were stringent conditions tied to the HSMP. Hence we had to seek a path that works. Take care!

    • Chi

      January 9, 2017 at 5:32 pm

      Hi Uloma! Lovely article!! Please how do I contact you? I will like to find out more about the SBM training you did as this is something I am interested in. Thanks

    • Uloma

      January 9, 2017 at 9:15 pm

      Chi write me on [email protected]

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