Women's Work: The Job of Finding a Job

By Sally McBride

Sally McBride is a former Human Resources Administrator and writer who has published stories in Focus on Women Magazine and many other publications in Canada and the US.

Zaineb and her husband came to Canada from Iraq in 1997. The young couple, both engineers, wrote the tests necessary to work here, and soon found jobs in the construction industry. “It is important to be persistent,” says Zaineb. “Don’t give up, even if the qualification process is long and hard.” A friend of hers, who worked as a dentist in the former Yugoslavia, is still trying to qualify after several years. It has been difficult for her to go so long without working. However, once she passes the tests, she will have a good career.

Nasim, who arrived from India a few years ago, knew she might have to earn money to help if her husband was laid off from his job. This was a possibility she was wise to plan for. She also wanted to stay home to care for their teenage children. Nasim earned a certificate in aesthetics and set up her own home skin care business. Now she has many clients who rely on her to improve their looks. “I love my job,” she says. “I can choose my own hours of work, plus I am here to look after my kids.” Another solution to the problem of finding a job is to get together with others. This was done by a group of Somali women, who set up Haween Enterprises, a sewing company. The company, whose name means “Women Power” in Somali, provides training and paid work to immigrants with few job skills. Farhia Warsame, programcoordinator, says, “This is a social enterprise.”

She is proud of the business, which empowers women to be self-sufficient. “We are here as a support network to these women.”

Everyone who comes to a new country has their own problems to overcome. Some, like Zaineb, have good professional skills, plus a husband to help out. Others, like Nasim, need to learn a new skill to help the family. Still others, like the Somali women, fled a war-torn country, leaving husbands and family behind. They must start a whole new life on their own. It helps to find other women to share their strength and skills.

While government social assistance gives money to people with no income, most prefer to earn their own living and to rise to a better way of life. Women who are patient, clever and willing to try something new have a better chance of success.
It is real happiness to find a job you like. If you don’t like what you are doing now, why not start to plan a change for the better? Most adults in Canada have to work for a living. There are some who do not have to, but find employment anyway. They simply like to get out of the house, meet people, and do something interesting or worthwhile. It is a bonus to make money at the same time.
Says Zaineb, the engineer, “It is a fact that Canadian companies prefer people who have Canadian experience. Yet how do you get experience if no one will give you that first job?”

One way to gain experience and get closer to a “real” job is to volunteer. Many organizations need the help of unpaid volunteers, and you will gain valuable experience.

Often women have to start “small” with a job that uses what they already know about cooking, housekeeping or child care. These jobs may seem menial or boring. Yet all work is valuable experience, and you can find something better later.

A good plan is to increase your skills with education. Taking courses is productive and also enjoyable, and helps turn you into a more desirable “product”. If it sounds odd to be called a “product” – like a type of toothpaste or soft drink – then stop to think about why you would buy such a product. Is it useful? Does the product do what the advertisements say it will? Is it attractive and at a fair price?
Of course, you are not a soft drink, but it helps to plan your “job” of getting a job as if you were trying to “sell” yourself to an employer. What would make a boss or manager hire you?

You advertise yourself using your CV (or résumé as it is often called in Canada). Here is where you list what you have to offer: your education, experience and special talents.

In an interview, you present yourself and how you look, behave, and react to questions. It is okay to ask questions too. Try to learn a bit about the company where you are applying to work. Then you can ask questions that show you are informed and interested. Plus, you should find out if the job is a good one for you. After all, work is a big part of life and you deserve to be as happy as possible.

If you are neat, tidy, polite and confident, you should make a good impression. You may not feel very confident, but it helps to try and appear that way. Hold your head up, smile, and remember to shake hands firmly with the interviewer when you first meet him or her. Dress in a way appropriate to the job you are applying for, or even a little better than that, but don’t wear the sparkly jewelry or strong perfume.

It may be that you have a lot of experience in the country from which you came and are simply trying to adapt to a new work place. It is only a matter of time before you will be working again. Or perhaps you have never had a job outside the home before and find that now you need to earn money. There are lots of ways to do it, and not all of them mean you have to work for someone else.
If you are starting to look for a job or are thinking of making a change to something better, there are lots of organizations ready to help. Here are a few of them:

Immigrant Women’s Job Placement Centre
2221 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M4S 3B4
Telephone: 416-488-0084, Ext. 229
Web site: http://www.interlog.com/~iwjpc/
Works with community-based organizations to assist women of diverse backgrounds in achieving their employment goals.

LEAP, YWCA of Greater Toronto
3090 Kingston Road, Suite 402
Scarborough, ON M1M 1P2
Telephone: 416-269-0090
Website: http://www.ywcator.org/edu/leap.htm
Offers a series of employment programs on topics like career assessment, work readiness, work internship (unpaid training), and many others.

Working Skills Centre
350 Queen’s Quay West, 2nd Floor
Toronto, ON M5V 3A7
Telephone: 416-703-7770
Website: http://www.workingskillscentre.com
Offers employment-related services for immigrant women. A leader in skills training with a 75% placement rate (number of students it finds jobs for).

Microskills Women’s Enterprise and
Resource Centre
1 Vulcan Street, Rexdale, ON M9W 1L3
Telephone: 416-247-7181
Website: http://www.microskills.ca
A multi-cultural, non-profit, community-based organization committed to assist immigrant and racial minority women.

New Experiences for Women (NEW)
745 Danforth Avenue, Suite 401
Toronto, ON M4J 1L4
Telephone: 416-469-0196
Website: http://new.icomm.ca
Offers integration and settlement services for newcomer and refugee women. Provides information, educational and counseling services, job training courses and a job placement service.

ACTEW – A Women’s Training Community
401 Richmond Street West, Suite 355
Toronto ON M5V 3A8
Tel: 416-599-3590
Website: http://www.actew.org
A provincial umbrella group of supporters, trainers, agencies, and organizations delivering employment and training services to women. ACTEW’s mission is to promote and support community-based training opportunities for women.

If you look in the Yellow Pages phone directory under “Employment”, you will find page after page of companies ready to help you seek and find a job. Many of them offer free testing and upgrading of skills. Some will help you prepare or improve your résumé. You do not pay an agency for the help it gives you because employment agencies make their money from the employer who hires the worker. You should also be wary of paying for job placement services on the web. No matter if you are living in or moving to Alberta – looking for local Edmonton jobs – or doing a more general cross-Canada Search. Like traditional agencies, job listings on reputable job search sites are paid by the employer for the referral once the job seeker has been hired.
It is said that looking for work is a full-time job. Remember that what you have to offer is special and valuable to Canada. Also, do not forget that whether you need to work or not, you deserve to be happy in what you do. Good luck in your job hunt!

CNM