My husband and I moved here from Nigeria for greener pastures. It was a massive decision for us, because our son was only 11 months old at that time. Also, although I am a lawyer, my qualifications weren’t immediately recognised here, so I had to repeat part of my undergraduate degree, and redo the entire legal practice component as well, which wasn’t easy with a young child.
After I finally finished and was admitted to practise in Queensland, I put in applications everywhere but because I didn’t have local experience, I couldn’t find a job anywhere. In the end, I contacted a lawyer who allowed me to do work experience with her. Then I started putting in applications again.
Finally, I found a job as a Probation and Parole Reporting officer in corrective services, but it meant I had to travel to remote places like Goondiwindi, Pittsworth and Inglewood. Some days, we would finish late and I would have to spend the night there. Other days, I was one of the last parents to pick up my kids from daycare, and I was ridden with guilt. But throughout all that, my husband was so supportive.
Later, I gave up that job because I didn’t feel good about the time I had to spend away from my children and because I really wanted to practise as a lawyer. Again, it wasn’t easy to find work, so I took it upon myself to network in the local area, as well as going into law offices to share my CV. Finally, I found work at a law practice in Gatton as a junior lawyer. When I found out I had work in my field, I was elated!
After that, I was able to get a job as a family lawyer with Legal Aid, which was a fantastic training ground. Four years later, I moved on to another practice in Inala, where I am now a senior lawyer. I am also part of a professional group of African lawyers called the Bar Table. This year, we set up a mentoring program to support law students and junior lawyers.
I remember a conversation I had one day with a junior lawyer who thought I was lucky to have the job I do, until I told her my story about how I got to this point in my career. I told her it doesn’t matter if you get your degree here or overseas because the market is not easy for anyone at the moment and you need to work hard. It’s really important to learn what employers want in a CV and how to compose yourself in interviews, and then to get out and speak with people rather than just waiting for jobs to come to you.
It doesn’t mean people won’t have their prejudices, but if you work hard I believe you will get something back for it.
Photographer: Krystle Sempf www.instagram.com/krystle_lcp
Read more unique stories in the New Humans of Australia coffee table book. The perfect gift or conversation starter! www.newhumansofaustralia.org