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.
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.
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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!
From Bella Naija
Feature Photo: Ron Chapple | Dreamstime.com