Brave Stories from

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Ibukun studied in Nigeria, Ghana and England. She kicked off her Human Resources Management (HR) career in England, widened her experience in Nigeria and then had to put it on hold in Germany when she relocated in January 2014 to join her husband, Glenn.

My plan was to go back to work in September. I was waiting until my 2 kids get a place in day care and settle. When I heard from a friend they had an interview while the lockdown was happening, I reconsidered and started reapplying. That was in April 2020. I was so excited when I got my first rejection letter! I couldn’t help but feel the process is real. I’d rather get a ‘no’ than silence, that way I can move on.

Right now, I am caught in-between feelings of uncertainty and insecurity. I have never worked in HR in German but I have decided I want to work in German. My CV and cover letter are in German and I have had one interview in German for a job to teach English. I wasn’t expecting the interview to be in German but somehow I pulled through without much preparation. That experience gives me courage it can be done. I am also planning to do a dry-run of interviews in German with friend but I still find myself asking ‘can I work in German?’ I’ve been wondering if I should do a business German course to familiarize myself with the terminologies or take the plunge and swim my way through. On Saturday, I left Glenn with the kids and went for a long hike to get some clarity on this. I know what I want to do but I want to figure out what God wants me to do in this situation. While getting my daily 10k steps, I realised I need to take each day as it comes. Be grateful for each moment and focus on the things that I have instead of all the things I don’t. I will keep applying for jobs but also look into taking a HR course in German.

I didn’t have a lightbulb moment but I’m practicing contentment and enjoying every moment because they go by so quickly!

Deciding to work in German – the why

When I first moved to Germany, I barely spoke a word in German. I was determined to find a job in HR but I quickly realized I needed to play the long game for that. I started teaching business English in companies which grew into a university teaching opportunity alongside supporting my church in the hiring and onboarding (integrating) of new staff. I capitalized on my English skills to bring value. However, deep inside I was longing to go back to HR and I believe taking on the challenge to work in German will hopefully bring me a step closer to my dream.

I am part of a group of mothers in Bonn who support each other in doing life. During one of our sessions, one of the mums shared about how necessary it is to know and get out of our comfort zones. How doing that which makes you feel uncomfortable is where growth happens. Staying in the English speaking bubble and working in English is my comfort zone. I’ve been here for 6 years now and my kids are soon going to be fluent in German. I want to understand them completely, speak this language confidently and also work in German because I live here.

While on this journey, I am also being very intentional about speaking German. Before, when someone spoke to me in German, I would answer back in German but switch to English a few minutes into the conversation because it’s easier. We’re for example in the process of moving to our new home and I’ve realized my neighbour can speak English. I’ve decided to stick to German as the language we will communicate in. You know the saying, the language you start speaking to someone in, is the one that sticks. I want an opportunity each day to speak and improve this language.

A dream ‘on hold’

I feel old. I finished my Masters in Human Resources Management in 2010. The last time I worked in this field on contract in 2013. Sometimes I wonder if I should list ‘maternity for two kids’ as job experience. What I really enjoy about working in HR is recruitments. I love engaging with different candidates and the process of figuring out who is the best fit for an organization. HR is there to make people’s lives better. We are there to help people achieve their goals. Besides recruitment, I enjoy the training and development sides as well. That said, a lot has changed in this field. There is a growing demand for expertise on the financial and legal side of HR – two areas I want to dip my feet into also.

What’s inspiring you to keep going?

I don’t really know but I just know I want more. I love my kids and husband but I need to feed my own aspirations. My passion for HR keeps me going in a way. I admire people who can confidently say ‘I am a mum.’ That’s not enough for me. I just know I would make somebody’s life much easier if I was working in their organization. I like helping people and in many ways HR is about being of service to others. When you love what you do and care about people you are serving, you stand out in what you do. Working in German may be a tougher, uncomfortable route to go down but it’s the direction towards a dream that has been delayed – becoming the HR professional I want to be.

It doesn’t really matter how many rejection letters I receive. What matters is the one offer I get.

This story is part of the interview project by Joan Okitoi-Heisig. Originally published in LinkedIn:

Follow Joan Okitoi-Heisig on Instagram @atikowrites and Twitter j_atiko