Diana came to the YWCA Employment and Learning Centre knowing it was time to pursue her own dreams: becoming an administrative assistant, owning her own home, and taking vacations.
Working in a physically demanding job had become difficult for her after a recent surgery. Over the years, she had worked driving a school bus, doing pool technician work, and cleaning to help pay the bills. She had raised five sons and now had five grandchildren.
Diana worked diligently to complete her GED, getting extra help in math, and went on to take an administrative assistant training program. However, she faced anxiety on tests for required keyboarding speed. Working together with YWCA employment counsellor Wendy Coleman, Diana found inspiration, positivity, and unwavering belief.
She developed her resume to catch the attention of employers, and discovered her abilities were much stronger than she realized.
“I saw my ability was higher than I thought. After being out of school for a bit, while working, I still did well on the exam. I had a supervisory position which also helps my resume.”
Together Wendy and Diana strategized about how to increase her keyboarding speed in practice sessions, overcome the test anxiety to pass the exam, and get the certification required by employers.
“I have now accomplished getting my typing done by asking if they can take an average of our scores while typing exams, since a number of us get exam anxiety, and I am one of them,” said Diana. “Where there is a will, there is a way.”
Not only did she succeed in getting the program evaluators to accommodate her own challenges, she received her diploma and completed her first interview for an administrative position.
From China to Canada: Job Finding Resources and Feeling at Home
The Job Finding Club is one of many resources offered at the YWCA’s Employment and Learning Centre. The Club aims to support those who are currently seeking a job by setting them up for the right skills to succeed. Whether it is improving interview skills, how to develop job leads, or polishing a cover letter or résumé, the employment educators are there to reinforce motivation and provide guidance throughout the process of job hunting.
Job hunting success
After participating in the Job Finding Club in September 2017, Zhang was employed in three jobs, as a stock person in a kitchen, with a home décor retailer, and with the University of Saskatchewan as a “simulated patient.” Bian had successfully secured employment as a care aide and as a jewelry and watch salesperson at a major Canadian retailer after participating in the Job Finding Club one month after her husband.
A new home in a new country
After the experience, Bian described how much the YWCA and Job Finding Club contributed to her success in her job hunt and how, in a short period of time, the environment at the YWCA felt like home to her.
“We participated in the Job Finding Club in October and November, and we have learned a lot of knowledge about résumés, cover letters, and skills of how to prepare for interviews,” said Zhang. “My favourite part is the one-on-one consultant time. This part provided me with exact information that I needed for my résumé, cover letter and interview. Before the interview, they also helped me to practice for the questions that would be asked.”
In addition to participating in the Job Finding Club, Zhang and Bian took full advantage of the services at the YWCA by completing a number of Canadian training programs such as First Aid, CPR, Personal Care Aid and Service Best.
“During and after the classes, [YWCA staff] Pam and Murray gave us so much help that both of us found jobs in Saskatoon just in one month. After we just live here for two months,” said Zhang.
“YWCA helped us to register for First Aid, CPR, and Personal Care Worker programs. Also, YWCA paid tuition for us, which reduced our financial burden. We took part in the Best Service Saskatchewan training at YWCA, which was quite useful for us to understand the working culture in Canada.”
Due to the support of the variety of resources offered, and the YWCA’s community partners like the Open Door Society and The Newcomers’ Information Centre, Zhang and Bian found the start they needed to establish their new lives in Canada.
The Job Search Program was a particularly helpful resource. The program allows participants to engage with professional employment counselors who develop individual employment plans, review and improve your résumé and cover letters, provide computer skills training, and meet for one-on-one appointments for support every step of the way.
When asked about the toughest part about the job hunting process, Zhang admitted that he felt like the language barrier prevented him from succeeding in job interviews.
“In terms of the toughest part of my job hunting, it is the language,” said Zhang. “As you may know, English is not my first language. I always feel nervous about the speaking, since I just live in Canada [for] 6 months. I cannot speak fluently, so I failed in many interviews.”
After the holiday season, Zhang was laid off from his temporary position as a stock person, but he never lost hope. He was able to find a position wherein his limited English language skills were an asset, when he secured employment as an assistant manager of a company that specialized in exports of edible oils to the China market.
After achieving success in his own job hunt, Zhang shared some of his own advice on how to set yourself up for success during what can sometimes be a long and drawn out process.
“Prepare a perfect résumé and cover letter,” advises Zhang. “Try to perform the best in your first job because you never know what will happen for you [in your] next job. Try your best to make social network[s] and participate all kinds of volunteer jobs, which [will] help [with] your résumé and references.”