Ndeye Labadens: Found her voice at Newcomer Connections

Ndeye Labadens was empowered to grow her self-confidence at YMCA Newcomer Connections, helping with her career and achieving more success as a Social Media Influencer. Ndeye, who gained more than 60,000 followers on TikTok during the pandemic, started working at Scotiabank in November 2022 as a customer care advisor. In less than 2 months, she was promoted to bilingual customer solution advisor.

“I studied in the States, and in the United States, certain things like the soft skills don’t account for that much,” says Ndeye. “During the job hunt, saying I have a TikTok could be bad for me, while in Canada, I learnt that it might imply you have customer care skills. You know how to talk; you have good communication skills and the ability to connect with people.”

The Franco-Senegalese Ph.D. student came to Canada as a visitor in the summer of 2019, travelling across the country to complete her bucket list starting from the west coast in BC. She wanted to visit Saint John to see the Reversing Falls and experience the phenomenon.

“I travelled by train, by bus, by road, by air, by all different ways possible except the balloon, until I reached Saint John,” she laughed.

Ndeye reached Saint John on May 31st, 2019, to visit the Reversing Falls on June 1st, and was supposed to continue to St. John’s, NL. However, when she visited the Reversing Falls bridge, Ndeye found her calling and decided to stay in Saint John.

Being a visitor, Ndeye was ineligible to work in Canada and had to go through the process to change her immigration status. After receiving her work permit, Ndeye approached YMCA Newcomer Connections for employment support and, following the Client Intake Process, was connected to the Employment Liaison, Min Liu.

“She (Min) understood exactly what was going on and was able to identify the soft skills I could not,” said Ndeye. “Min gave me confidence about my voice. Initially, I disliked my voice and hated to speak out. I hated listening to my recordings, but now I have grown comfortable with it.”

It took Ndeye over a year to reach the current stage of confidence and launch her podcasts, now available on Apple Podcasts. Additionally, Ndeye was guided by Min on job hunting, interviews, job application, resume writing, and more.

“She gave me some websites, what to do and what to say for the job hunt,” said Ndeye. “However, the fact that she told me that you shouldn’t hide who you are; when you hide your true authentic self, you aren’t at your fullest potential because you’re focusing on hiding instead of putting all your energy towards what you’re looking for – that enabled me to put everything on the table.

“I’ve had that approach since then, and it was really helpful for the first application (with Scotiabank) and the interview for the promotion.”

During the job hunt, Ndeye started volunteering with multiple organizations, including PRUDE Inc., the Saint John Newcomers Centre and YMCA Newcomer Connections. Currently, Ndeye volunteers as a First Friend with Newcomer Connections, where she helps a GAR (Government Assisted Refugee) family of a single mother with six kids.

“What I love working with them is the fact that she (the mother) tries to do everything by herself,” says Ndeye. “She doesn’t want to receive too much support and wants to be independent. Not so many people would be willing to fight, and I’m really proud of her journey and her will.”

Ndeye also attends the Saturday Employment Workshops at the Saint John Regional Y for continuous improvement. Being comfortable with herself helps her guide others, taking inspiration from the methods of Min Liu.

“I am so proud of her,” says Min. “Ndeye is smart, positive, open-minded and always encourages others.”

Ndeye was excited to receive her Permanent Residency in the first week of February 2023 and celebrated it with Min. Ndeye would love to stay in Saint John and continue to support others to find something to stand for. She loves to connect with people, relate, and work on building a more equitable society that leaves no one behind.

“Speak up against insensitive comments. If someone you know makes an insensitive comment about a person’s gender, race, or sexual orientation, call attention to the statement and explain how it does not promote inclusion,” says Ndeye. “Regardless of race, gender, or ethnicity, they can grow and achieve their aspirations. As a black female, I found my place and intend to build my future. Stand for something, don’t let anyone steal your joy.”