Training: Back to School or Back to Zero

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Over three years ago, Sabine moved from her home country, Germany, to Toronto, where she has been working as a journalist and translator ever since. Up to this day, she still lovers everything about Canada – apart from the winters.

Ever since high school, I knew I wanted to become a journalist, partially because I’m nosy by nature, partly because my teachers told me I had a real talent for writing. Knowing how competitive this field was, I had already authored stories for different newspapers while I was studying politics and media science at university and I was extremely lucky to find a full time job as an online editor immediately after graduating with an M.A.

A few years later, though, my so well laid out career plan took an unexpected turn: I decided to leave my home country and move to Canada, not for matters of professional advancement but for matters of the heart. In case you have done the same – and it doesn’t make a difference whether you immigrated for the love of a spouse or the love for economical and political freedom – you probably know that living here can come at a price: the permanent, abrupt and often painful break-up from a profession you had also loved.

Admittedly, my heartache could have been worse and it wasn’t even completely over between me and journalism. I have been able to continue working for the publishing company I used to work for back in Germany, and it didn’t take me too long until I got the opportunity to write for the wonderful magazine you are holding in your hands right now.

Yet, I had to realize pretty fast that I was never going to have the same chances to find a full-time job in media as any native English-speaking, Canadian-graduated writer would have.

As we all know, spending money is a lot easier than earning it. Soon enough, the dangerous combination of plenty of spare time and my attraction to big malls and not so cheap yoga studios made it necessary for me to find more work. After some investigation into the Canadian labour market, I came up with two options: scrape the rest of our savings together, head back to school to take a course in English journalism and update my credentials, or swallow my pride and do something that required barely any qualifications, let alone eight draining semesters of studying at university. Of course the later choice didn’t seem all too appealing, especially when I imagined how my family back home would react when I told them I was now serving coffee for a living. “And this is what we paid years of education for?” weren’t words I was keen on hearing, ever.

Enrolling in one of Canada’s bridging programs (courses especially designed for immigrants that help them get licensed or certified in their previous profession in order to be able to work here) can make a lot of sense for newcomers, especially in fields like education or health care. A friend of mine from India used to drive a cab to pay his dues, until he decided to take the course that was necessary to allow him to return to his former profession as college teacher. Although in his case he found a job afterwards, makes good money now and loves being in his old job, two more years of studying and almost 5,000 dollars in fees surely aren’t for everyone. The lady who used to clean my house while I was working full-time took a different course of action: before leaving Ukraine she had been a university teacher, but because her English wasn’t great when she first moved here, she started working as a maid. A few years later, she decided to become an entrepreneur by taking a management course and starting her own cleaning company. She now runs a very successful business with several employees.

In my case, our sad-looking bank account told me that I neither had the time nor the money to sign up for a college program and go for another couple of years with barely any income. Yet, sheer luck was on my side again: literally a few minutes after I had breathed a big sigh and filled out the job application form to start working at Loblaws, I received a phone call from a company that was interested in hiring me as their full-time translator. By pure coincidence they had found my résumé posted on a German-Canadian commerce website. Although becoming a translator had not even occurred to me before, of course I accepted gladly and soon I fell in love all over again: with my new workplace, the interesting position and my nice colleagues. Plus, I ended up earning almost as much as I used to make back in Germany and certainly a lot more than I would have as a cashier at a grocery store. Almost the best part about it: I got to go shopping for a whole new business wardrobe and this time I was even able to justify my spending!

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