After 30 months (two and a half years) since I first landed in Canada to pursue my dream of becoming a licensed architect, I started a new position in an architectural office as an Intern Architect. Now, I have officially commenced my 2 – 3 years journey to licensure and will start logging in my hours towards the ExAC professional exam.
If you are new to this series or plan to migrate to Canada as an architect or maybe already have and don’t know where to start, then you should read the complete episodes of Sojourn Of A Nigerian Architect in Canada. I have listed below a few of the most popular posts from the series.
In this episode, I will give a brief summary of my journey so far, what I did and how I got a new position.
Before I start, I will briefly describe myself. My name is Ehimen. Before relocating to Canada, I was a licensed architect in Nigeria with 10+ years of experience and was a lecturer at the University of Benin, where I taught architecture.
Summary of my Journey
I arrived in Canada in mid-2019 with a degree in architecture and with high hopes of integrating into the profession quickly. I had resolved within me that I wanted to continue in the career path of architecture and grow to become a licensed architect. Prior to landing in Canada, I had researched recertification for foreign-trained architects with the Canadian Architectural Certification Board (CACB) and so I applied from Nigeria.
A month after arriving in Canada, I heard about an architectural firm in Calgary that offered a free 1-month internship to foreign-trained architects and I also applied. Farmor Architecture called me to resume its 1-month unpaid internship shortly after. After the program, I started applying for roles in architectural offices but didn’t get any. So, I picked up a side job to pay the bills and cover the cost of my professional registrations, courses and tests.
By early 2020, about 6 months after my arrival, I had received a conditional certification from the CACB which enabled me to register with the AAA and RAIC. Believing that my chances had improved I continued making job applications but to no avail. After a year in Canada by mid-2020, to fulfil the conditions given to me by the CACB, I undertook a 6-month post-graduate program at the Athabasca University and finished towards the end of 2020.
Again, I was double sure that my chances had improved once more and then the pandemic hit. This caused global lockdowns and job losses. At this point, I had not practiced architecture for a year and a half and the employment gap was obvious in my resume. It was clear to me that if the pandemic persists, I would have to find a way to explain this gap to recruiters during job interviews. This was when the idea of going back to school occurred to me. I hoped that this would not only explain the employment gap but bridge the gap that often sets newcomer immigrants back when searching for their first jobs in canada. That is a lack of Canadian experience, Canadian education or Canadian network.
I applied to the Architectural Technologies (AT) program of Southern Alberta Institute of Technologies (SAIT) in mid-2020 and resumed in January 2021, one and half years after my arrival in Canada. On resumption, I settled in on my academics, worked part-time and continued to put out job applications.
Towards the end of 2021, as the economy opened up, and employers started showing interest in hiring more, I intensified my efforts in applying for architectural roles. Now, I had a portfolio of design projects from my program at SAIT which I believe showcased my skills more and improved my chances. Besides that and the almost completed Canadian education reflecting on my resume, my resume hadn’t changed much.
By the way, I had perfected the writing of resumes and cover letters after making well over five hundred job applications.
What I did
To start, Canada as a society prioritizes soft skills, interpersonal skills and applicants’ ability to verbally express themselves, and describe their experiences and ideas coherently. I knew I had to learn these skills.
At SAIT, I learned a lot of new skills, including project presentation, interviewing, resume and cover letter writing etc. I used the opportunity of schooling to put together a good-quality portfolio of all my school projects. I had also begun to understand my knowledge gap architecturally in Canada, as well as the Canadian culture. I would say I became more confident.
What I did was work on my LinkedIn profile, resume, cover letter and portfolio. The 4 tools you need to reach out to employers in architecture in Canada.
How I got a New Position
One fateful morning in January of 2022 (two and a half years since first arriving in Canada), I was sent on an errand by my side work to an office in downtown Calgary. On arriving at the destination, it was an architectural office. I knew i had to make the best of the opportunity. So, I introduced myself as an Intern Architect registered with the Alberta Association of Architects and asked if they had an opening. Believe me, it was that simple.
They were busy and suggested that I send my resume and portfolio of works to them for review. After I left, I reached out to them on LinkedIn with a description of the prior event. A few weeks later, they got back to me, scheduled an interview and granted me a new position. Ever since, I have transitioned into being an Intern Architect, working with architects, interior designers, technologists and fellow interns architects in Canada.
In the end, the whole process turned out to be less stressful than others I had previously experienced. Though the wait was long, coupled with the pandemic, the wait was worth it. From here onward I am on a steady track to licensure in 2 -3 years and will continue to share the story of my professional journey in Canada.
If you are inspired by this story and will like to reach out to me with questions, you can do so by commenting on this post or connecting with me on LinkedIn. I look forward to hearing from you.