Editor's Letter
Be part of Canada’s changes

by Celia Sankar

    Diversity is in my blood — literally. Born of a mother whose ancestors came from Africa and of a father whose ancestors came from India, I feel privileged to be so personally acquainted with the issue. Through my parents’ 45 years (and counting) of togetherness, I have witnessed that different cultures can come together harmoniously and that life is, in fact, richer, more interesting and more beautiful because of the mixture.
    It was not only at home that diversity was an integral part of my life.
    I grew up in Trinidad, an island of under two million souls, who can trace their origins back to almost every corner of the planet. “Here every creed and race finds an equal place,” each citizen affirms in singing Trinidad’s national anthem. And although my homeland is not perfect, it has achieved a remarkable level of integration and harmony, which so impressed South African antiapartheid fighter Archbishop Desmond Tutu that he dubbed us a “rainbow country”.
    Even with that background, when I came to Canada, diversity was nowhere on my agenda. But as fate would have it, it was a subject I could not ignore.
    Canada had held out a promise as a land where I could advance my writing career. It lived up to that promise, and enabled me to set out on a cross-country book promotion tour. As I travelled across this vast, rich and beautiful land, I had the opportunity to speak with literally thousands of people, many of them immigrants. Along the way, I also met people with disabilities and members of Aboriginal communities.
    The picture that emerged from their stories was rather disturbing.
    For many, life in Canada was marked by dashed hopes, daily humiliation and, in some cases, near destitution.
    It’s one thing to be aware on a purely intellectual level that fellow Canadians who come from certain backgrounds face tremendous hardships. It’s quite another to actually listen to their frustration at a system that seems indifferent to their potential, that seems to say they are not worthy.
    Although I belong to the demographic, I had been one of the fortunate ones. But why had it been so for me? And what could be done — and more specifically, what could I do — to help those who are just as deserving of the opportunity to make their contribution to society?
    It was a question I set out to explore the next year as I embarked on a more extensive book tour.
    The picture that emerged, in the end, was encouraging.
    I feel proud as a Canadian to say much is being done, by official authorities, by corporate Canada and by traditionally underrepresented groups and individuals to bring about a more inclusive society.
    And this is as it should be. It takes a concerted effort by all of us to bring into being a world where diversity is embraced and people of every background live in harmony.
    The DiversityCanada Foundation was born to play a part in making that vision a reality.
    Our discussions with Canadians on both sides of the equation pointed to the formula for success in diversity at work. Jobseekers must not only be qualified, but also need to be equipped with specific skills required for jobsearch and on-the-job success. Employers need to not only state they support diversity, but to actively invite traditionally under-represented groups to join their team and implement policies to make them feel welcome.
    This handbook is one of the resources we offer to bring together diverse job seekers and employers who value diversity. Another important resource is our website, which you can visit at http://DiversityCanada.com. There, you will find more career development tips, multimedia and interactive tools, information on companies seeking to diversify, and most crucially for jobseekers, actual job offers.
    Canada is changing, opportunities are opening up and it is those who adapt today who will reap the greatest rewards. Count yourself among them.

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Chris Cyr has worked in graphic arts for many years. Passionate about the use of computers to create art, he is enrolled in the highly acclaimed School of Animation Arts and Design at Sheridan College.

Photographer Jeff Hui is a co-founder and the creative director of Fizheye Creative Inc., a Toronto new media solutions company. He was inspired seven years ago to follow in the footsteps of his father, a well-known photographer in the advertising industry. Web: fizheye.com

Anne Sowden is a certified professional member of the Association of Image Consultants International, one of only ten in Canada, and is president of the Toronto Chapter of the association. Web: hereslookingatyou.ca

Amanda Reid, who has a BA in criminology from the University of Toronto, is new to modeling. Her credits include background model appearances on the television show Instant Star, and on channels Much 5 and CMT. Amanda is a certified make-up artist and did the make-up for our photo shoot.

Runway and studio model Erin Herbert is a trained dancer and aspiring actress. She lists interior decorating and horseback riding among her hobbies.

Glyndon Bonnick models as a hobby, but anything dealing with fitness is his passion. He has been a dragon boat racer for seven years and goes to the gym on average four times a week. He is studying kinesiology at York University and is considering a career as a personal trainer.

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Scanning the Canadian job scene

By The Numbers:

Canadian unemployment rate in November, 2005; the lowest the figure has been in three decades.

Percentage, in 2001, of the Canadian population born in other countries (some 5,645,800 people).

Percentage of disabled population with jobs (versus 82 per cent for those without disabilities).

Employment rate of immigrants of prime working age (24 to 44) after two years in the country; of these, 41 per cent found a job in their chosen career.

Percentage of women of working age in Canada who were employed in 2003.

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Embracing diversity as strength

    When McGill student

Eva Vanek saw a need to support diversity in her community, she didn’t wait for someone else to do something about it. Instead, she rolled up her sleeves, assembled a crew of volunteers, took on a pile of paperwork, and led the effort herself.

    Vanek is the president and founder of Community Outreach For Immigrants (COFI) McGill, a non-profit volunteer organization that links recent (and even not-so-recent) immigrants to Montreal with students at McGill University. Modeled on the federal HOST program (which runs under Citizenship and Immigration Canada), COFI seeks to empower people from diverse backgrounds and foster a positive experience of adaptation and settlement in Canada through social interaction and friendship.

    Essentially, it’s a “buddy system” designed to help acquaint individuals with what the country has to offer.

    Diversity has long been a passion for Vanek. The 24- year-old’s travels have taken her across Canada and all over the world, from diving reefs in Thailand to remote rural villages in Costa Rica to English academies in the Czech Republic. Along the way, she has met hundreds of individuals from all sorts of backgrounds, securing her faith in the value of multiculturalism.

    COFI originally emerged as a supplement to Vanek’s academic thesis. As the project gained momentum, however, it gained community partners and official recognition by the Student’s Society of McGill.

    “We aim to bridge gaps between peoples of different backgrounds,” Vanek says, “and actively embrace the concept of diversity as a strength.”

    Those accessing the services range in age from seven to 70. They have arrived in Montreal for a variety of reasons; some to be with family, some for freedom from different types of oppression, and many seeking better job opportunities. This last reason is the source of most of the frustration among COFI participants, Vanek says. She has met lawyers working as nannies and surgeons driving taxis, all struggling to make ends meet while trying to launch a career.

    “Most have their own horror stories of barriers,” Vanek says. “This is so unfortunate, because I believe there are so many ways to actively address these issues.”

    Together, the clients and volunteers participate in everything from massive potluck dinners to quiet cups of coffee. In linking young Canadians at the university with those striving to succeed in their new country, COFI delivers a message of hope — something sorely needed for anyone taking on a new endeavour.

    “It seeks to break helplessness,” Vanek explains. “For example, if a person participating in the program comes home after a long day of defeat, a friendly, sincere volunteer can hopefully make some difference in finding strength. (We) provide a familiar person to contact through thick and thin, someone who can help combat the lows — the failed job interviews, the discrimination encountered, etc.”

    It’s a simple solution, one which Vanek believes can work across the country.

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Assessing and planning

    You know it. It’s time for a new career. Whether you’ve only recently decided to find a new occupation or you’ve been casually hunting for years, it’s time to take action.

    If you’re heading out of university with no experience, facing a serious disability, trying to raise a child, or struggling to learn English or French in a new country, starting a new job search may seem daunting, exhausting, even frightening.

    But the situation need not be discouraging.

    With proper planning, hard work, attention to detail, and, yes, a bit of luck, you should be on a promising career path in no time. The key to success is making a good start: pinpointing what you want and determining the steps you need to take to achieve your goal.

    “You could do a self-analysis, if you knew the things to ask yourself,” suggests Lorraine Pura, labour market analyst at Saskatchewan-based Metis Employment and Training of Saskatoon, Inc. “For example, (ask yourself) if you know how to look in the papers for jobs, or if you know how to use computers.”

    As communications and marketing specialist for Toronto-based Accessible Community Counselling and Employment Services (ACCES), Shawn Mintz witnesses as many as 10,000 clients make a go at starting over their lives and careers each year.

    While 80 per cent of ACCES’ services are geared toward new Canadians, the agency is open to anyone (it also operates the City of Toronto-funded START program, to help single mothers on social assistance get job-related computer skills).

    In Mintz’s experience, a good search starts immediately after you’ve made the decision to change career paths.

    “The faster you access the services, the better,” he stresses.

    Job hunters should explore different options first, using a mixture of interests, prior training, and feasibility. From there, perseverance is key. It might be a lengthy process, and you must be willing to approach it with strong resolve.

    “It’s about not giving up,” Mintz explains. “It’s about remembering that it’s going to be challenging. It’s about persevering and maintaining a positive outlook.”

    By starting with the right attitude and taking the proper steps, you’ll be amazed how far you’ll go. It’s a strategy that pays off: 82 per cent of all ACCES clients find a good job.

    “The advice we give people,” Mintz says, “is that you really can do it.”

    Here are a few more tips to help you get started:

Get online…

The truth is, an enormous amount of career information is available online. Virtually every modern industry has a slew of sites devoted to it, many with detailed facts and employee testimonials. Visit http:// DiversityCanada.com and go to the Career Center to find links to a multitude of helpful sites that will point you to various career options. Are you technologically illiterate? No matter. Even if you don’t know the difference between a URL and a USB, it’s a good idea to book an appointment at an agency like ACCES or Job Connect or with your school’s career counsellor. They’re there to help you through it all, including navigating the digital maze.

…but don’t get bogged down.

While online research can provide plenty of background information, it doesn’t show the whole picture. There’s more to career research than words on a screen (or on paper). You might want to explore alternative means of investigating whether a certain career path is right for you. Even something as simple as testing out a hypothetical job routine – for example, trying out a 5:00 a.m. wake-up call or spending the entire day crunching numbers – can be an awesome way to gauge if a certain career is for you.

Get out there…

A hands-on approach to occupational study is almost always the best way to see if a particular industry is for you. Go talk to employers and workers in an industry you’re interested in, and check out what it’s all about. Say you’re interested in becoming a surveyor. Establish contact with some contractors or foremen, preferably (but not necessarily) someone with whom you already have some sort of contact. Offer to buy the person a coffee so the two of you can discuss the nuts and bolts of the industry. While this approach may seem intimidating or presumptuous, more often than not employers are receptive to the questions of newcomers; after all, you may be the future of their industry. Just remember to work around their schedules, and not to take it personally if they’re too busy to fit you in right away.

…but don’t get discouraged.

Even if you’ve never had ameaningful job, there’s no need to panic as you explore possible job paths. Industry inexperience is far more common than you may think it is. There’s no need to lose hope. A lack of experience can be compensated for by upgrading your education or volunteering for a local nonprofit organization. Also, there are some government-sponsored wage subsidies available for employers who hire inexperienced workers, making it an appealing option for many companies. Your local career center should be able to provide you with more information on such programs. All in all, a visit to a career center is a good idea. You may be surprised at how far simply having someone listen to your career hopes (or even confusion) will help to make the way forward clearer, and will help to keep your spirits up.

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Oh where can my new job be?

The Internet:

Ever since the digital revolution took root in the 1990s, job-hunters have been speeding down the information superhighway in search of the perfect position. Virtually every major company has a “careers” section on their site, and there are several job boards where you will find announcements from a large number of employers. The DiversityCanada Foundation, publisher of this handbook, operates a website specifically designed to bring you career offers from employers looking to diversify their workforce. Visit http://DiversityCanada.com.     Pro: Volume, volume, volume. You’ll have access to more postings than you can fathom. Plus, you can hunt in your pyjamas.     Con: When looking online, you may find something fantastic, only to scroll down and find out it’s a three-year contract in Antarctica. Also, on certain sites, the anonymity of the ’Net can attract some shady employers.     The bottom line: As long as you proceed with caution and stick with reputable sources, the Internet could be your best friend as you aim toward employment.

Classified ads:

This one’s been around for generations of career crusaders. Turn toward the back of your newspaper and you’ll find an assortment of neatly-indexed, condensed postings of openings in your area.     Pro: You won’t find many postings for Antarctica here, especially if it’s a community-based publication.     Con: It’s usually slim pickings if you’re looking for anything outside your hometown.     The bottom line: With such a brief format, the classifieds are still a great resource, particularly if you’re pressed for time or hunting casually.

Career fairs:

The career fair presents a familiar sight for many veteran job seekers – vast convention centers packed to the gills with perky, smiling ambassadors for dozens of different companies. Loud, bustling, and often chaotic, career fairs are there explicitly for hunters like you.     Pro: With so many options available, you may find yourself drawn to an industry you may have never considered before. Many accessible and diverse employers choose to seek workers in this forum, since fairs tend to attract a broad range of applicants. Also, some companies accept resumes and interview on-site.     Con: In some cases, much of what you encounter will not be actual employers, but rather temp agencies or training organizations after your wallet, not your services.     The bottom line: Career fairs are never a bad idea to check out, but they’re best used to complement, rather than replace, a more specific search.

On-campus recruitment:

This is a great option for individuals currently upgrading their education. As the school year progresses, many companies hold recruitment sessions for potential future employees at campuses across the country. These sessions will often be smaller, more informal affairs, with presentations, plenty of glad-handing, and, quite often, free food.     Pro: Hey, the employer is coming to YOU! How much easier could it get?     Con: Companies are often looking for highly specific candidates, usually in professional or skilled trade areas. General arts and science students are usually out of luck.     The bottom line: On-campus recruiting makes a difficult process a breeze, provided you’ve got the specific skills they’re looking for.

Cold calling:

For the truly brave, there is always the dark horse of the job hunt – the cold call. Rather than wait for a position to come up, cold callers use phone, email or snail mail to put their name in at their companies of choice.     Pro: Unsolicited resumes tend to stand out, causing employers to remember you as a genuinely interested candidate when a position opens up. Occasionally, if they’re really impressed, they’ll create a new position, just for you.     Con: You’re likely going to get a lot of polite statements like, “We’re not accepting resumes at this time,” and the occasional ego-crushing hang-up. At times frustrating and downright demoralizing, this one ain’t for the faint of heart.     The bottom line: If you’re really determined to work at ABC Corp, cold calls can be a great way to show your enthusiasm – who knows what may happen.


This is an excellent and effective method to get your name out there. Tell everyone from your hairdresser to your new neighbour to the kid selling lemonade on the corner that you’re looking for work, and ask if they might have any idea about potential leads. Connections are invaluable in this day and age – actually they’ve always been – and you never know who the person you’re speaking with knows.     Pro: Your doctor’s brother’s wife could be a partner in that law firm you’ve been checking out. With a few strategically placed phone calls, you may be able to net a lunch meeting. Plus, you’ll build a solid roster of industry contacts that you’ll likely be able to use throughout your career.     Con: “Selling” yourself at all times can be exhausting. After awhile, you may just want to make small talk about the latest Oilers game instead.     The bottom line: Networking is a wise idea in any job search. It shows you are keen, committed, resourceful and confident in your own abilities – attributes most employers are

looking for.

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No connections? No problem

    Networking plays an important part in the job search. But if you don’t know anyone in your industry of choice there are still ways to gain a competitive advantage in the job market.

    Volunteer. Get out there and take part in as many related events as possible. Thinking of being a teacher? Sign on to teach a children’s class at the library. Interested in public relations? Serve cocktails at the industry’s big schmooze-fest. And if your heart is set on working at your local radio station, be the first in line to help out with their charity run. These activities provide a double-whammy – not only does volunteering look fabulous on a resume, but you’ll be making fantastic connections as well.

    Meet people. This may seem simplistic, but the best way to make connections is to get out there and make connections. If there is an association for your chosen field, find out if you can attend any of their events as a guest or if you can become an associate member at a reduced cost. Try to meet as many people as you can who are working in the career you’re interested in. Ask what the climate is like for young workers and what new skills you’ll need to succeed. Chances are the person you’re talking to knows someone, who knows someone who’s got the job for you.

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Crafting the perfect resume

    The resume or curriculum vitae is a crucial document. It’s a one-page encapsulation of who you are, what you’ve done, and why you’d be good for the job on offer.

    If you have major gaps in employment, education or experience, you may want to adopt a resume style emphasizing skills rather than the traditional chronological accounts of employment.

    “The most important thing is to sell your skills,” suggests Karen Lamothe, Edmonton-based project coordinator for Alberta Learning Information Service. “And when you back up your skills, you have to back it up with the ‘prove-it’ theory.”

    Each statement of accomplishment should answer the ‘Five w’s’ (who, what, where, why and when), and every achievement should be put into numbers as far as possible.

    “Giving the numbers will help employers see the depth and breadth of your skills,” Lamothe explains. “You need to sell (the employer) the skills, to let them know that you can do the task.”

    She also recommends starting the document off with a personal profile, detailing the number of years you’ve been in the industry, your credentials and skills, a few accomplishments related to the job in question, and a brief list of personal characteristics.

    Here are some more tried-and-true tips to make your resume as powerful as possible:     Avoid empty statements. Don’t just say, “Functions as a good leader.” Explain how you have proven your leadership in the past. Employers get loads of these empty statements, and they tell very little about how you perform on the job. If you can’t think of at least one example or experience (not necessarily job-related) that explains your statement, take it off your resume.

    Tailor your resume to the job you’re applying to. While you learned Crafting the perfect resume a lot as a typist in Tehran or a cook in Calgary, the executives at the accounting firm to which you’re now applying may not care. Perhaps driven by insecurity or lack of experience, many prospective employees choose to list every job they’ve ever had. However, in these instances, quality is more important than quantity. It’s much more effective to prioritize and expand on relevant experience.

    Highlight soft skills. Don’t have any direct experience to list? Don’t panic. More and more employers are placing value on a worker’s ability to function within the organization. You can teach someone to do a task, but you can’t teach them how to get along with co-workers. Communication skills, organizational expertise, and the ability to function amicably in the workplace are all qualities many of today’s bosses seek. So highlight these.

    Avoid computer templates like the plague. Sure, that resume template that came with your software makes your resume look pretty spiffy on the screen. It’s not going to help you out much, however, when your list of credentials looks exactly like hundreds of others. Use computer templates or resume packages to learn the basic structure of a resume; don’t use them for style or design. Take some time to develop a clean, crisp, and unique format of your own. Get professional help, if necessary: it will almost certainly be a worthwhile investment.

    Make your first page easy on the eye. Nothing distracts a potential employer more than a cluttered, unorganized resume. To avoid this, make your spacing and formatting consistent, and be sure to leave plenty of white space. This is particularly important on the first page, which should present your most hirable attributes to your future boss. For an extra punch, place the stronger points of your resume in the middle of the page, which is a space to which a reader’s eyes tend to naturally gravitate.

    Watch your length. While it may be tempting to keep writing about how well-qualified you are, most employers are very, very busy. As such, it’s best to keep things short and sweet. A twopage C.V. has long been the standard; however, if you can condense it even more, all the better. Anything longer than a pair of pages is too much.

    Call in your proofreaders. Having a second, or third, or even fourth pair of eyes peruse your product may seem a bit of an inconvenience, but it’s essential that you have proper spelling and grammar if you want to get your foot in the door. To keep things clean and easy to read, it’s best to stick to point-form text, with consistent use of voices and verb tenses. Such things are easy to forget, so enlisting some proofreaders is a great idea.

    Keep things positive. Lack of confidence can be a problem for anyone having difficulty finding work. But developing the confidence to boast of your skills is important. Even if you’re convinced your resume is weak, you should never call attention to any perceived flaws. You don’t want to give an employer a reason not to call you. Focus on the best you have to offer.

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Should you self-identify?

    Many companies today are making a concerted effort to include in their workforce people who have been traditionally under-represented. These employers encourage applications from visible minorities, Aboriginal people, women, and people with disabilities.

    How would they know you belong to one or more of these groups? You’ve got to tell them, or “selfidentify”, as they say.

    Some career experts believe the fact that you belong to an equity group should not be stated at all in your resume or cover letter, but that your qualifications alone should get you into an interview.

    Other career experts would encourage you to self-identify, especially when applying to Equal Opportunity Employers. These experts say, at the very least, you should fill in the optional portion of application forms which ask whether you belong to an equity group.

    But there is one thing almost everybody agrees on, and this includes employers interviewed by the DiversityCanada Foundation, publisher of this handbook. The fact that you belong to an employment equity group should not be your one distinguishing characteristic. The skills you have to offer should be a good match for the position in question, regardless of your cultural background or status as a person with a disability.

    You may find, however, that the fact that you belong to an equity group allows you to offer the employer something extra. In such a case, you would do well to show up your winning qualities and skills.

    If you were an employer, what would you think after reading cover letters with statements like these, for example?

Candidate A: “As a result of an accident, I lost most of my hearing as a teenager. Since then, I have worn a hearing aid and have learned to read lips, which allows me to function as any fully-hearing person. This has made me more attentive to and considerate of others. I believe this will serve me well in the role as receptionist at your company.”

Candidate B: “I was pleased to note that XYZ Finance Corp is an Equal Opportunity Employer. As a person of Chinese heritage who is fluent in Cantonese, I believe I would would be an asset to your marketing department in Vancouver, where the Chinese community forms a substantial part of your potential market.”

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Keeping your cover letter in check

    Now that you’ve got a solid-gold resume, you’ve got to think of how you’re going to present it. A good cover letter can say volumes about who you are and what you want – if you let it. Here are some tips to ensure your first contact with an employer is a memorable memo.

    Keep it short: A cover letter should never, ever be longer than one page.

    Keep it in perspective: As you’re writing, remind yourself of what it is you want from this letter, and how you would interpret it if you were the employer.

    Keep it relevant: You don’t have to discuss everything on your resume. Only highlight experiences and skills that directly pertain to the position at hand – and cap it at two or three examples.

    Keep it on track: It’s easy to get carried away when writing about yourself, but no one wants to read a fivesentence account of some presentation you delivered two years ago. Save the play-by-play for your autobiography.

    Keep it correct: There’s nothing quite so jarring as a typo or grammatical error in the first sentence of a cover letter. And it happens far more often than you’d think. Keep it polite: Use proper titles (Sir/Madam, Mr./Ms./ Mrs./Miss). Introduce yourself in the first paragraph, and be sure to thank the employer for considering your application.

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What the career experts say

    So, you found a posting for a company you’re really interested in. You worked hard to craft a perfect resume and cover letter for the job. And, lo and behold, it worked – you’ve been called in for an interview.

    You’re on cloud nine.

    The company has expressed interest in you, and you are flattered and proud. As the interview date draws closer, however, excitement morphs into dread.

    Now what?

    The interview is considered by most job hunters to be the most intimidating part of the hunt. And understandably so. There’s a lot riding on that first face-to-face meeting, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the situation.     This doesn’t have to be the case. With enough forethought and planning, that terrifying meeting with your potential bosses can even become an enjoyable experience – and a smash success.

    To ensure this, you’re wise to adopt one simple mantra: prepare, prepare, prepare.

    “You need to know the details of the job you’re applying for,” advises Sharon Blackwell, Calgarybased regional communications and operations manager for Alberta Human Resources and Employment. “And you must have a good understanding of how your skills and experiences fit in with that particular job.”

    You must be prepared to give examples of how your skills fit into the needs of the company. And the experiences you list need not be gleaned from employment. “It doesn’t have to be work-related,” Blackwell comments.

    “There are many, many other ways to show experience. In your volunteer life, how you manage your home, your experience overseas, things like that.” Here are a few more tips: Do your homework. By getting to know the organization, you’ll be better prepared for the meeting. This can be accomplished in a number of different ways. A company website is a fabulous way to learn about the history and ethos of a business. If possible, it’s a great idea to visit the physical job site itself. There, you can gather brochures, speak to reception personnel, and get a general sense of the office environment. Basically, you want to get a good sense of the organizational structure.

    Dress the part. Jeans and a T-shirt won’t cut it, no matter how laid-back the job at hand appears to be. No matter what business you’re applying for, it is always, always appropriate to dress up. To play it safe, stick with business casual – clean dress pants, a conservative skirt, a smart jacket, and/or a buttoned-up, collared, and pressed shirt. Personal grooming is also important – clip those fingernails, tidy your hair, and be sure to brush your teeth. A neat appearance suggests much more than aesthetic considerations – it shows you have respect for yourself, you respect the company and its representatives and you understand what’s required. These are all things employers look for when hiring.

    Put your best foot forward. The biggest mistake any applicant can make is showing up late. Aside from displaying poor time-management and organizational skills, it’s just plain inconsiderate – after all, these people are taking time out to help YOU. Always show up at least ten minutes early. Period. Once at the interview, be friendly, polite, and respectful. Remember the basics – always say please and thank-you, and smile as often as possible. Interviewers look for a positive attitude, and there’s no better way to impress than that in an interview.

    Know your own history. There’s nothing as awkward as a blank stare following a question. Before you even enter the meeting, you should be prepared to rattle off work experiences with ease. Try to come up with relevant anecdotes that are both interesting and informative. For example, if you’re applying to work as a nurse, talk about that high school blood donor clinic you helped organize. While you can’t predict what exactly your interviewer will ask, you can assume there will be at least one inquiry about your past – and you should know it well. To further prove your preparatory prowess, bring extra resumes (in case there is more than one interviewer) and a portfolio of your work (if applicable). Also, have a list of references on hand – it’ll bring you one step closer to being hired.

    Ask away. No matter what the job, you’re going to want to know a few things before you start working – and not just how much cash you’ll bring home. You might want to know what the office environment is like. What kind of turn-over rate is there? What major projects does the company have lined up? What is the busiest time of year? Is it an accessible environment for physically disabled employees? Asking similar questions will do more than satisfy your curiosity. It will also prove you’re bright, thorough, motivated and genuinely attracted to the company.

    Keep upbeat. If it all seems to go terribly wrong, it is essential to keep things in perspective. No matter how badly the interview may have seemed to have gone, no matter how rejected you feel, a healthy attitude can work wonders. Sit down, relax, and don’t be too hard on yourself. Remain positive. Even if you felt the interview went badly, it taught you something, preparing you all the more for your perfect meeting. And who knows, unlike you, the interviewer may have felt the interview went remarkably well.

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What to do after the interview

    Once out of the interview room, many applicants assume their work is done.

    Not so.

    If you don’t follow up on your meeting, you run the risk of seeming indifferent or, even worse, uninterested in the company that interviewed you.

    Many employers have said they are surprised at how few job candidates stay in touch after the interview. Those who do, of course, stand out.

    By taking the following approaches, you can place yourself back into the thoughts of your interviewer and boost your chances of being selected.

    Thank the interviewer. A proper thank you is certainly in order for every company representative who took time out to discuss your interest in joining their team. The note should be brief (no point-by-point recounting of the entire interview necessary), sincere (avoid gushing sentiments), appropriate for a work environment (don’t use any nicknames or jokes), and timely (write it immediately after the meeting).

    Pass along more of your best work. This is an alternative to the simple thank you note and would be appropriate according to the nature of the interview. Say you discussed a course you took last winter. Send along a copy of your diploma. Or, maybe the interviewer showed particular interest in a project you mentioned you finished in your first year. Print out a copy and ship it off. Add a simple note detailing why you’re sending the information along: “As we discussed my XYZ project in our interview, I thought you may be interested in reading a copy. I look forward to hearing your impressions....” You’ll really prove you’re keen on the job.

    Pick up the phone. Most jobhunters interpret a lack of response from the potential employer as lack of interest, but that’s not always the case. The hiring process at many organizations is long, detailed, and simply not accomplished overnight. Ringing up to check on the status of your application if you haven’t heard back within the time specified during the interview or within a reasonable time frame keeps your name fresh in the memory of those who hire. Frame your conversation as a polite enquiry rather than a demand. Try to be as humble and patient as possible during that call. Smile when you speak to convey friendliness over the phone.

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What the employers say

    It may seem insignificant, but your shirt or skirt, your tie or lack of one can cost you a job.

    That’s the word from over 100 hiring managers and Human Resource professionals representing employers from St John’s to Vancouver and ranging from modest mom-and-pop operations in Northern Ontario to billion-dollar Bay Street corporations.

    The DiversityCanada Foundation, the publisher of this handbook, went straight to the source. We asked employers what advice they would give job seekers if they could provide only three tips.

    Almost universally, employers said candidates must dress appropriately if they are to have any hope of success.

    It may seem an obvious point, but the managers indicated a significant number of people they interviewed over the years have torpedoed their chances by showing up in jeans, in soiled or rumpled clothes, or with too-trendy hairstyles.

    Why do employers place so much emphasis on appearances?

    It’s not at all that they are being shallow or picky, suggested Anne Sowden, president of the Toronto chapter of the Association of Image Consultants International. She pointed to studies conducted at Harvard University which showed that within 30 seconds, a person is able to judge someone’s competence within about 80 per cent of accuracy.

    “Whether we like it or not, people make decisions about us and our abilities based on the way we look,” Sowden said. “Our appearance is one of the most powerful nonverbal communication tools we can use. The image you project can affect your ability to inspire trust and confidence.”

    So the message is clear. Your job interview attire cannot be whatever is hanging around in the closet on the big day. Employers want to see that you have given thought to the clothes and hairstyle you choose to show up with for the interview.

    You CAN dress to impress if you remember these three words that many employers said they look for in a job candidate’s appearance: Clean, Appropriate, Neat.

    What is appropriate varies from business to business, of course. So job candidates have to educate themselves on what their potential employer would approve of, said Linda Lewis, chair of Ryerson University’s School of Fashion.

    Lewis noted that because of the influx of immigrants into the Canadian workforce, employers have become more accepting of people showing up dressed in non-Western styled outfits that would be acceptable in workplaces in other parts of the world. However, she warns that many employers may frown on a person who is not of a certain culture adopting these styles simply to be fashionable.

    “You have to investigate the culture of the company,” she said. “Look at the corporate reports or brochures to see the image they project. If you can, go down to the office and walk around. Get to know the environment.”

    Such an approach falls right into line with the two other most frequently suggested tips from employers.

    Hiring managers and employers were quite consistent in emphasising that candidates do their homework before coming in to talk about getting a job.

    The second most popular tip was that candidates research the company. The third was that job seekers fully understand and ensure they are qualified for the position for which they are applying.

More tips that come directly from people who do the hiring: – Remove unnecessary jewellery (eg tongue, nose, eyebrow piercings)
– Be pleasant
– Give the impression that you can handle yourself
– Have confidence in yourself
– Show initiative
– Have a real interest in what you say and in the questions you ask
– Have a positive outlook
– Act professional
– Make yourself personable
– Have good composure
– Be willing to WORK!!!!!
– Be polite!
– Use proper English
– Express yourself, be responsive
– Be alert
– Shake hands firmly and make eye contact
– Be yourself
– Be mindful of your body language
– Keep your answers concise and clear
– Leave bad language at the door
– Don't come looking untidy or with strong body odour
– Don't wear strong perfume
– Don't come dressed in jeans
– Don't be sloppy
– Don’t have blue hair
– Don’t be assuming
– Don't just sit there meekly
– Don't have the “know it all”
– Don't talk in slang
– Don’t oversell yourself or act like you know more than you do
– Don't be shy when speaking
– Don't act arrogantly
– Don't be fidgety
– Don’t lead the conversation
– Don't start off by making demands
– Don’t be late for the interview

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Shining on the job

    The Golden Phone Call. It’s the moment every job hunter waits for. Finally, your long and detailed journey has culminated in success. You’ve been offered a job. Not just any job – a great job. Something you’d like to make a career of.

    While you are understandably excited, this is no time to sit back and relax. The first six to twelve weeks of employment – commonly known as a probationary period – are crucial. In this time, you must acquaint yourself with your new workplace, become comfortable in your new position, and confident in your new role. Essentially, you must prove to your new bosses that they’ve made the right decision.

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Handling first day jitters

    Nearly every new employee is nervous on the first day of work. It’s natural. You’re starting a fresh career in an unfamiliar setting, and you naturally want to do well. As with starting any new venture, it’s wise to prepare, relax, and listen.

    You’ll want to start by getting comfortable. Chances are your supervisor or manager will take you for an extended tour of the jobsite on your first day. Get to know your environment by asking questions, stopping to introduce yourself to each of your new co-workers, and adopting the company code of behaviour. Is it a professional environment? Keep it formal. Is it more casual? Share an amusing anecdote about one of your experiences in the industry. Adapting to the company culture takes time, but it is crucial in establishing a positive early impression.

    Enthusiasm is essential. Employers love to see their newest recruit is excited to be there. Ask for your first assignment or task – don’t wait for your supervisor to hand it to you. When you complete your first duty, ask if there’s anything else you can do. Whatever you do, do not sit at your new desk and stare at the wall. Showing initiative is always important, but especially so in the earliest stages of a new job.

    A good way of doing this is by making an effort to connect with clients. There is an element of customer service in nearly every industry, whether it be changing tires or preparing income tax statements. No matter what you’re doing, you are, in some way, interacting with the people who keep your new workplace in business. As such, you have to show you can deal with people from the start. Ask to deal with a client or customer as soon as you feel comfortable to do so. Be as friendly, helpful and considerate as possible. If you’re unsure of something, explain that it’s your first day of work, and that you appreciate their patience. Most customers will understand, and your employer will be thrilled to see you making the extra effort.

    As your first day comes to an end, be sure to ask your boss how you did. If he or she replies “great,” good for you! You’re likely on your way to a stellar career in the company.

    However, in the far more likely instance that he or she has a few comments or suggestions, you shouldn’t take it personally. It’s your first day, after all, and you do still have a good deal to learn. Listen carefully to employer feedback, and make efforts to implement their ideas.

    When you finish your first day, take a bit of time to reflect. Record your early impressions of your new career; it will help sharpen your focus as you strive toward success.

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What employers are looking for

    Who better to advise you what to do on your first days than people who have experience dealing with new employees? Here are a few tips gleaned from hiring veterans across the country. “I always like to see someone who shows initiative…someone who likes to keep busy. Sometimes when you start a new job, you’re nervous, you’re not sure what to do, you’re uncertain. It’s nice to see someone who can finish a job at hand, bring it to (his or her) supervisor and say, ‘I’m done this now, is there anything else I can do.’ It’s nice to see.”

– Wendy Wells, a St. John’s, Newfoundland-based office administrator for Maritime consulting company SGE Acres Limited.

    “The first and most important thing is to smile. I hire nice people and train them to do the job, as opposed to trained people who have the wrong attitude. If managers aren’t smart enough to realize that, they’re going to be in trouble. Human relations are not taught in school. They teach math, English, all the rest of that stuff, but they should be teaching human relations.”

– Arnold Asham, president and owner of Winnipeg, Manitoba-based manufacturer ASHAM Curling Supplies.

    “Punctuality, effort, communication, (being a) team player. All these things are good to see. As to the way a person works, you can tell if someone wants to put their heart into it, or if they’re going through the motions.”

– Bruce Zacard, vice president of Litho Quebec, a Pointe-Claire, Quebec-based printing firm.

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Be a class act on the job

    As you settle into your new job, you will find that your workplace has it own particular dynamic. You may find that you click with your colleagues right away and that your boss is as approachable as your favourite uncle. Or, you might feel as if you have nothing in common with your co-workers and that your boss is rude and impatient. If it is not all smooth sailing in your new work environment, it may be easy to become discouraged. However, Pierre Perreault, employment consultant at the Employment Center at College Boreal in Sudbury, Ontario, assures that you can transcend most sticky situations. With the right attitude and practices, he says, you can avoid undue distress and the office politics of any position. Here are a few simple tips:

. Always arrive on time, and don't be the first out the door at the end of the day.

. Have a positive attitude; smile a lot.

. Say a smiling Hello to everyone you meet.

. Try to remember the name of everyone you are introduced to. Repeat it two or three times in your initial conversation, and, smilingly, look in the person¡¯s eyes while doing so.

. Dress conservatively. One of the best ways to make the right impression is through clean, classy, appropriate clothing.

. Study the company culture and its particular management style. This may help you understand decisions you might otherwise dismiss as questionable.

. Master your responsibilities as quickly as possible. You will best be able to do so by focusing squarely on the task at hand. So, while it is important to establish friendly relationships with your colleagues, ensure you devote the majority of your time and attention to the actual work to be done.

. Seek out unofficial mentors who can show you the ropes. Study and emulate those with outstanding track records; most will feel flattered and be willing to help.

. Be a team player, and try not to be selfish.

. Practise diplomacy. Tread lightly when offering ideas for improving something, and avoid bossy or preachy opinions.

. Write down your projects and achievements from day one on the job. In doing so, you¡¯ll have a solid work record to discuss with your employers at the end of your probation, when they are deciding whether or not to keep you on.

. Where possible, plan your day and duties in advance. You, and your supervisor, will be impressed at how a few minutes of planning ahead will allow you to make efficient use of your time.

. Arrive at meetings on time. Furthermore, don't doodle or daydream in them.

. Don't lie. Your mother was right; honesty is the best policy. In the same vein, avoid making excuses.

. Be a class act. Never tell dirty, racist or sexist jokes. Don't use profanity, even when others do. If a conversation turns into gossip, politely excuse yourself and leave immediately.

. Don't take anything personally. Remember if someone is unkind to you, it¡¯s often because he or she is facing some stress that may have nothing to do with you.

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Finding your rhythm and balance

    While it may be tempting to focus entirely on fitting into your new work environment, it’s important not to lose sight of your personal goals. Your new job may be the biggest thing on your mind in the first months, but it’s important to take a step back to assess what’s really important.

Get the most out of each day. Try and learn something new on every shift. Shake up your schedule. Make new contacts. Explore alternative ideas. The more you work to make your job interesting, the more you’ll get out of your time on the job.

Don’t expect to be perfect. In other words, don’t pressure yourself to be a pro right away. Say you’re working to become a hairdresser, and you can’t seem to master the complete art of highlighting. Instead of giving up, try to learn a little every day. Memorize one colour combination on Monday; practise timing or application on Tuesday. Before long, you’ll be well on the way to experthood – and you’ll be far more likely to retain what you’ve learned.

Find balance. In the quest to be the best, many new employees devote too much energy into their new position and not enough on their personal lives. While it is important to pour extra effort into the workplace early on, it is essential to maintain balance with your personal life. Instead of spending your nights stressing about that project due tomorrow, go for a walk. Rather than rushing out the door, wake up an hour earlier and prepare yourself a wholesome breakfast. Taking time for yourself will improve your mental and physical well-being, making you a better (and more efficient!) employee.

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Leave ’em smiling

    Jobs are a lot like relationships. Sometimes, it just comes time to break it off. Perhaps your financial responsibilities have increased and you need a higher salary. Maybe your work environment has changed, and it’s no longer a productive place for you to be. Perhaps you’re moving, or going back to school, or simply looking for a new career.

    Handling such a situation can be awkward. While it may be tempting to storm out in a blaze of triumphant defiance, it’s best to use a more discreet approach.

Here’s how to move on without burning bridges.

You’re debating leaving the company. To help make up your mind, you:
a) Discuss it with everyone you meet to try and gain a broad range of advice.
b) Mention it to co-workers on your coffee break.
c) Carefully weigh the pros and cons on your own, perhaps with some input from a trusted friend outside the company.

Best bet: c)

Why it’s wise: You never know who might overhear your contemplations, so until you’ve made a decision, it’s best to keep things quiet. Chatting on the job is a particularly risky move, as employment-related gossip can spread like wildfire. Nothing makes you look more unprofessional to your employer than discussing these things behind his or her back. Think it over, call in a close pal (not a co-worker!) for advice, and proceed from there.

You’ve decided to go. Who do you tell first?

a) Your best friend on the job.
b) Your supervisor or manager.
c) The president of the company.

Best bet: b)

Why it’s wise: As a general rule, it’s best to make things official with your immediate superior before taking the message elsewhere. Your manager or supervisor is there for a reason – to manage or supervise the activity of employees, including their comings and goings. As such, going above him or her to the company chief is a bad idea. Not only will it burn the pride of your immediate superior, it may make you appear dishonest or conniving to your boss. And no matter how much you want to gab with your co-worker, the message can wait until things are official.

How much notice are you giving before you leave?
a) Mere minutes, baby – you’re outta there!
b) The customary two weeks – it’s the standard for a reason.
c) A month or more – you’re in no rush.

Best bet: b) or c), depending.

Why it’s wise: This is a tough one, highly dependent on the particular situation you’re in. If you have a far-sighted plan, and you know it will take the company some time to find the right replacement, it would be courteous to let your superiors know of your intent well in advance. However, if your decision came out of a rapidly changing circumstance – for example, you’ve been offered a better position that must commence as soon as possible – two weeks is considered adequate warning. Quitting on the spot is never, ever a good idea – at least if you ever want to call in a favour (like a reference) from the organization again.

You’ve given your notice, and are now in your final period in the position. How do you conduct yourself in the workplace?
a) Conduct business as usual – with a bit of downtime to clean your desk and go to farewell luncheons.
b) Grumble frequently, count down your days, and watch the clock.
c) Spend the remaining time left goofing off with your workplace pals – after all, your time with them is numbered.

Best bet: a)

Why it’s wise: You don’t want to be remembered by your co-workers as a goof-off or a sourpuss. You may not want to be there, but the fact is, you’re still being paid to do a job – and not doing it isn’t acceptable, even if you are on your way out. It’s your last day. How do you say farewell to your boss?
a) Coldly. He or she isn’t your boss any more, so a quick “goodbye” should suffice.
b) Emotionally. Hugs, kisses, tears, the whole works. It’s a sad day for both you and the company, so why not let it show?
c) Warmly. A firm handshake, with heartfelt thanks and a cheerful farewell.

Best bet: c)

Why it’s wise: You want to leave on an upbeat tone. An abrupt departure is tacky and rude, and leaves a bad impression of you. However, an hourlong blubber-fest is also inappropriate for the workplace. Smile, say kind words (no matter how hard it may be to do so), and be sure to get your boss’ contact info to nail that reference.

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Blazing your own trail

    The conventional job route isn’t for everyone. In today’s diverse economy, the nine-to-five corporate structure doesn’t always jive with the adventurous type. Tired of toiling for someone else’s benefit and looking for a more relevant venture in which to apply their skills, more and more Canadians are assuming the risk of going into business for themselves.

    Entrepreneurship has become a viable alternative to the traditional career trajectory. In pitching, developing, and running their own companies, many new businesspeople are finding tremendous satisfaction in their work.

    Starting a new business in Canada can be a smart option for a number of reasons. It empowers individuals to create new job opportunities, particularly in small or isolated communities where industry is often limited. It affords single mothers the chance to make a living while raising children. It allows new Canadians the chance to use their skills, and provides individuals with different abilities the chance to work in a tailor-made environment.

    For example, according to Barbara Taylor, a coordinator of Disabilities Strategy with Service Canada, entrepreneurship might be a good option for people living with disabilities.

    “For people with a partial mobility disability, often there are issues around transportation,” she explains. “Many small businesses these days are offered out of the home,” eliminating that hassle.

    In addition, entrepreneurs may dictate their own hours, a big plus for those who cannot handle the traditional nine-to-five schedule. “Recent studies have shown that many people with disabilities are looking for reduced hours because of reduced energy,” Taylor continues. “Working in your own business, you make your own schedule.”

    But entrepreneurship is not without its risks. You’re assuming responsibility for a new venture, something which can be intimidating. There’s no guarantee of a steady paycheque (especially at first), and you may find yourself wondering if all the stress is worth it. Plus, you’ll need funding, and lots of it.

    Thankfully, there are many options for Canadians seeking to go it alone.

    Several provincial and federal government programs exist solely to help out new entrepreneurs. Banks are almost always willing to fund a well-thought-out venture, as are credit unions. Community futures development corporations exist across the country, and are usually willing to take on riskier ventures – in exchange for higher interest rates. Peer-lending circles are starting to appear in rural and remote areas, using a collective cash flow to help fund worthy projects.

    If none of these options works out, you can consider approaching a family member, friend, or colleague for a loan – just be certain to clearly outline the terms, and get everything in writing.

    No matter how you do choose to do it, it’s important to stick with it. If your idea is viable, your plan is practical, and your attitude is keen, you should be able to launch a successful, unique, and profitable venture in Canada, and in the process employ yourself.

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Helping youth help themselves

    There are literally dozens of options for individuals looking to start a new venture in Canada.

    One particularly noteworthy possibility for individuals between 18 and 34 years of age is the Canadian Youth Business Foundation (CYBF).

    As a national charitable organization, the CYBF has a program to help youth get their businesses off the ground through start-up financing loans.

    “It gives money for young (entrepreneurs) just out of school,” explains Anthony Orazietti, Sault Ste Marie-based specialist in youth enterprises.

    With loans of up to $15,000 available, the commitment level is high. Your new company must operate according to a competitive and viable business plan, and must provide you with a sustainable income. The loan term is anywhere from three to five years.

    Providing mentoring and learning resources are the other two key services the organization delivers to support young entrepreneurs.

    The CYBF success rate speaks of its effectiveness. It has assisted more than 1,500 entrepreneurs, creating more than 8,000 jobs in the process. It services nearly 1,000 communities country-wide through more than 60 loan centers. Alumnae of the program have forged businesses in everything from fashion design to systems analysis to automotive repair.

    You can find out more about CYBF by visiting them online at cybf.ca, or by calling them toll free at 1-800-464-2923.

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Thinking ‘Up’

    So, what does it take to succeed in the highly competitive search for jobs?

    As Derly Valencia’s story illustrates (and as do those of Tara Weber and Deborah Aarts that you’ll find on subsequent pages), it can be summed up largely in the two “Ps” — persistence and positive thinking.

    There’s also a third crucial “P”, and it’s people.

    Your job search is not a solitary effort.

    The more you reach out to others for help and are willing to open yourself to new people and new situations, the easier your task will be. No matter what happens, as Valencia indicates, the experience of opening yourself up to the world will be a richly rewarding experience.

    Derly Valencia had a blossoming career as a public accountant in Colombia, while her husband worked as a mechanical engineer. Their country’s economy was healthy, its natural settings beautiful. However, Valencia started to notice her homeland becoming tainted by violence and crime, and stories of kidnapping became more and more frequent.

    “We felt like we were living in an unsafe situation,” Valencia says, “and that’s why we decided to go.”

    In April 2003, the couple boarded a plane for Toronto. The magnitude of their transition became clear upon their arrival.

    “When I was in Colombia, I wasn’t very scared about it. But when I came here, and I saw the big place, I just wondered what I was going to do.

    “We didn’t know anyone here.”

    Alone, overwhelmed, and jobless, the couple had difficulty knowing where to start. Valencia began her Canadian life by doing the best thing she could think of: getting in contact with fellow Colombians in the country. Neither she nor her husband knew these individuals, yet the pair were welcomed with open arms.

    “We visited their families,” she recalls, “and they basically gave us advice, about job websites, where to look, things like that.”

    Heeding the advice of her new friends, Valencia got in contact with a few career centers and started researching different workshops and training seminars. She discovered soon enough that her experience – as a Colombian-accredited, Spanishspeaking accountant – would not be enough to land a career in her field in Canada.

    Language was the first major barrier she chose to overcome. Valencia had studied English in Colombia, but soon found her training helped little on the quick-speaking streets of Toronto.

    “It was so fast!” Valencia laughs. “I couldn’t understand it very well.

    “(English) is very difficult, and very different than Spanish.”

    Rather than give up, Valencia signed up for an English as a Second Language course, and studied intensively for two months. After that point, she continued to study part-time, picking up whichever classes she could in order to conquer the linguistic divide.

    “That’s the most important thing here,” she comments. “(Without English) you cannot work very well.”

    While she was working to master English, Valencia was also mapping out a career plan. A trained professional in Colombia, she was optimistic of her options. As she soon learned, however, applying her skills in Canada was to be a challenge.

    “I went to different employment agencies, and I did research by Internet, but it was difficult,” she admits. “If you don’t have Canadian experience, you don’t get a job. It’s very difficult.”

    She made efforts to learn the terminology and technology associated with the field in Canada, doing research and studying on her own time in order to master the trade.

    In order to work as an accountant in her new country, however, Valencia would have to gain accreditation as a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Certified General Accountant (CGA), or Certified Accountant (CA). She chose to pursue the second option, and made contact with a CGA to evaluate her credentials. She received partial credit for her Colombian experience, but still had a long way to go before reaching the fifth and final level of CGA certification.

    “If an accountant is not enrolled in one of (those programs), it is very difficult to get a job,” she explains. “Always in the job postings, they ask for CGA experience, or CA experience, even for entry level positions.”

    She signed on to a CGA accreditation program and, as of November 2005, had reached the fourth level.

    After addressing her linguistic and credential concerns, Valencia set about to find work. She approached Accessible Community Counselling and Employment Services (ACCES), a free employment service in the Greater Toronto Area. Through the service, she got her proverbial foot in the door of her field through an unpaid volunteer position at an accounting firm. In her placement, she did much more than crunch numbers: she also made some excellent connections, and learned of government wage subsidies available for trainees.

    “I worked for that company for one month,” she explains. “I made some friends, like a network. They helped me to find another job. In that job, I was sponsored by the government, by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. They paid part of the salary, and the other part of the salary is paid by the company.”

    That job begat another, this time a six-month placement at a financial company. Valencia didn’t relax, however. She continuously applied for other positions, aiming to have work lined up when her contract ended.

    As a result, when she was offered a full-time job at the end of her placement with the financial company, she turned it down – she had already landed a position at the chartered accountancy company where she works today. After eight months of hopping from position to position, she had landed what she considers to be a good full-time job in her field. “It’s a very good experience for me,” she smiles.

    While Valencia is in a good position today, her journey was not without its struggles. She became frustrated “many times.” Occasionally, she even considered abandoning Canada and returning to Colombia.

    “I thought about (giving up),” she admits, “but it’s very difficult to go back. You’ve left everything you had before. You have family and friends, but it’s not enough. You left a job, and the positions you had before. It’s very difficult to go back. I couldn’t do it. The only thing I could do is continue trying to compete here.”

    Valencia remains disturbed, however, by the fact that while her husband has worked in several positions, he has yet to land a position in the engineering field.

    “It’s part of my frustration here, because in my case, it’s going well,” Valencia says. “But in his case, no.”

    She is confident, however, that over time her husband will meet with the same success she has.

    Indeed, she now feels “more calm, and more secure,” than she has since arriving in Toronto back in 2003. And while she knows she and her husband still have a good way to go before becoming fully satisfied in their careers, she is determined to get there – one small victory at a time.

    “Even if I feel frustrated sometimes, I know that this country has a lot of opportunities that other countries don’t have,” Valencia shares. “If I (were to) work in any other country right now, my conditions would be worse. Right now I’m here, I am doing something for myself. And I can do it because there are a lot of things around that can help you. But you need to look for the opportunities. You have to try to meet the right people, learn the right things.”

    In her unique way, she emphasizes she will stick with the positive attitude that has seen her through: “I try to think up,” she smiles.

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Dare to Dream

By Tara Weber

    I’ve always wanted to work in journalism. In fact, when I was in high school, I even job shadowed at a local radio station. However, the summer before my final year of high school, I was involved in a car accident, breaking my back and ending up in a wheelchair.

    After that, I figured that I would have to rethink my plans. I was at a loss. I wasn’t sure what to do, or even what I could do anymore. After a long period of uncertainty, I decided to follow my dream of going into journalism and haven’t looked back since.

    During my undergrad years I began interning in a newsroom. Once I finished my degree, I applied for journalism school, was accepted to a graduate program in Toronto and drove across the country to get there. I finished the two-year program in April 2005 and have since worked in two different TV newsrooms and now have a job in radio news.

    I thought that being in a wheelchair would make things impossible, but it hasn’t. Admittedly, it has made some things more difficult…but not everything. I currently do a lot of work at my desk, which means there is no difference in the kind of work I would have done prior to my injury anyway.

    Going out of the office to cover stories was trickier and it seemed that people were hesitant to let me do it. However, I managed to figure out how to get in and out of a camera van and after that, not only was I asked to go, but I was recognized for taking the initiative to try.

    In some situations, interestingly, being in a wheelchair has even proven to be an advantage. Once someone who was being interviewed by a group of reporters actually stopped to see if there was anything else I wanted to ask!

    There are some careers that would not be a good fit for a person in a wheelchair. I am obviously not able to become a firefighter or a wrestler, but most careers are possible. It just might take a little more ingenuity, strategy and perseverance (things that anyone who has had to get around in a wheelchair has plenty of). There will always be people who don’t think you are capable of doing things, but you have to believe that if you really want to, there is always a way.

    And after all, thinking outside the box is something that most companies want their employees to be able to do!

    In the big picture, it’s your attitude that really matters. Everyone has obstacles; some are just more obvious than others.

Tara Weber is an Ambassador for the Rick Hansen Man In Motion Foundation. Call 1-800-213-2121 for more info or visit www.rickhansen.com.

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Employers who want YOU

    When looking for a job, the best place to start is with companies that are looking for you.

    Many companies are now actively seeking to make their workforce more representative of the rich mixture of cultures and backgrounds in Canada today.

    Employers in the public and private sector realize that hiring people of various cultures is not only the fair thing to do, but it makes great business sense.

    Businesses are finding they are better able to understand and relate with their increasingly diversified customer base if their own employees come from that diversified pool. They also benefit from the injection of new ideas and new perspectives the employees from differing backgrounds can provide.

    Several larger companies that are regulated by or do business with the federal government are required by Canada’s Employment Equity legislation to hire jobseekers from groups that have traditionally been under-represented in the workforce. These groups include visible minorities, Aboriginal peoples, women and people with disabilities.

    According to Statistics Canada, if current immigration rates continue, it is possible that immigration could account for virtually all labour force growth by 2011.

    Additionally, the Aboriginal community, with just over half its population under 25 years old, is the fastest growing demographic group in Canada, and will play a significant role in supplying Canada’s labour force.

    The DiversityCanada Foundation, publisher of this handbook, is a nonprofit organisation which works to link jobseekers with employers looking to diversify. We do so through resources like this handbook and the directory you’ll find in the following pages, and as well through our website, http:// DiversityCanada.com.

    DiversityCanada.com caters for jobseekers in traditionally underrepresented groups. Into its second year online, the site provides users with a revolutionary new approach to finding jobs.

    First, it features jobs from only employers who are equal opportunity employers and are seeking to hire people of diverse backgrounds and abilities. This way, you can be quite sure that every employer you find on our site has a welcome mat for you.

    Second, the website DiversityCanada.com provides you with a real “jobs search engine”, that is a site that functions like the popular search sites Google, Yahoo and MSN.

    The difference is that when you enter a search term at DiversityCanada.com, the results will take you to the websites of only employers who are looking to diversify. There are never any irrelevant results from websites that have nothing to do with employment for Canadians.

    Apart from searching jobs, you can post your resume at our website DiversityCanada.com so employers can find you. DiversityCanada has also linked up with its partner company, Maplejobs Inc (found at http:// maplejobs.com), to provide you with a free e-mail account which you can use to send out job applications. All services at DiversityCanada.com are free of charge to you.

    Canada is changing. There are extraordinary opportunities today for anyone who wants to get ahead. Claim your place too.

    The directory on the following pages provides you with a list of companies that fall under the Employment Equity Act (1995).

    This law states that employers with 100 or more employees in federally-regulated industries (such as banking, communications, and international and inter-provincial transportation) must hire and promote workers from traditionally under-represented groups. (Also falling under the Act are federal departments and other parts of the public service, including the Canadian Forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, although they are not included in this directory.)

    The four groups specifically targeted in the legislation are visible minorities, Aboriginal peoples, women, and persons with disabilities.

    These employers may call themselves Employment Equity Employers or Equal Opportunity Employers. They encourage members of the four targeted groups to apply for employment.

    Employment Equity, however, is not about putting someone in a job solely because he or she is a member of an equity group. Nothing in the legislation forces any employer to hire unqualified persons. Those seeking employment must have the skills, training and aptitude to succeed in the available positions.

    When looking for a job, start with the employers listed here. Visit their websites to discover more about them. You can also visit DiversityCanada.com, where the search engine will allow you to quickly research available jobs in your specific field of interest.

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Obstacles are no match for a winning smile

By Deborah Aarts

    Let’s face it: finding work is no picnic. It’s tough out there. I know. I’ve been there.

    I’ve stood at a new junction in life, facing an uncertain future with little but my pride and determination to rely on.

    I’ll be honest: it’s not a very comfortable feeling. In fact, it can be downright terrifying. After all, you’re stepping forward without knowing where you’ll end up. Even the most self-assured individual must confess that this notion is a little scary.

    The truth is, starting a new career isn’t easy for anyone.

    We each have our own obstacles to employment. Some are physical: perhaps you can’t work long hours because of a leg disability, for example, or can’t make a decent living because you happen to live in the northernmost fringes of Saskatchewan. Others are circumstantial: you have to support a child on a single income, or have chosen to uproot to a new and unfamiliar community. Others still are experiential: maybe you can’t speak French or English very well, or you haven’t finished high school, or your credentials are no longer relevant. Perhaps you clam up in an interview setting; maybe the idea of calling a stranger is terrifying to you.

    Thankfully, we live in an environment that encourages diversity in the workforce. Most Canadians understand the aforementioned barriers, and make efforts to accommodate them as much as possible. The nation boasts hundreds of organizations – both public and private – dedicated solely to helping Canadians of all stripes find productive and meaningful work. Across the country, people and services are working to make the seemingly impossible… well, possible.

    In this environment, there are opportunities for any Canadian with the right attitude to succeed. Barriers and obstacles are no match for a winning smile, confident handshake, and sheer determination. Even in my darkest hours of unemployment, I knew I’d eventually find something that worked for me. I tried to face each day with as positive an outlook as possible – and I am confident my attitude has helped me get where I am today.

    In order to achieve success, you have to envision it – to pinpoint your goal, plan how to get there, and persevere. You must ask questions, do research, and take advantage of those willing to help you along the way. Moreover, you must stick with it. Sheer resolve has ignited many a fine career; there’s no reason it can’t do the same for you.

    Our country is one that encourages plurality, variety, and multiculturalism – something we, as Canadians, should truly pride ourselves on. Such diversity has spread to the workforce, strengthening our economy and improving our reputation as a nation. So stay positive: employers are waiting to hire you. There are opportunities out there in which you will thrive.

    If you keep the right attitude, it’s only a matter of time.

Toronto-based journalist Deborah Aarts was the main writer on this handbook project.

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