The well-dressed lady behind the counter was polite.
I had seen the “Now Hiring” sign on her store window and had walked in to see if she would consider hiring me for the job. As she glanced through my resume, I looked around. The store had an expensive feel to it. The sign outside had said “maternity wear.” Until then, I wasn’t aware that there was such a thing as maternity wear. I just assumed that women wore loose clothing during their pregnancy. I made a mental note to check with my wife.
“Do you have any Canadian Experience?”
We both knew that it was a rhetorical question. My resume had clearly indicated that my last job was in India.
I had heard it before, it was the Catch-22 situation that most newcomers to Canada faced. If you don’t have Canadian experience you don’t get hired; if you don’t get hired, you don’t get Canadian experience.
“Thank you, we’ll keep you in mind and contact you if something comes up,” she was ready to move on.
Clearly, some job-hunting subtleties were lost on me. It hadn’t quite occurred to me that a brown-skinned, thirty-something new immigrant may not make the best sales person in an upscale maternity fashion store.
Landing in Canada in November had its advantages. Christmas lights and decorations were popping up in malls and around the neighbourhood. Everyone appeared to be getting into the spirit of the holidays. On the flip side, it was probably the worst time to be looking for a job, especially for someone without any Canadian experience.
It took me about a month to figure out that responding to employment ads in newspapers was a waste of time. While job-hunting, I preferred the “Now Hiring” signs over the “Help Wanted” ones – there was a sense of immediacy to the former.
I gave up on my aspirations to become a gas station attendant after I was blatantly told that I was overqualified for the job.
My wife’s experiences weren’t any better.
The corner store that needed a cashier found her lacking since she could not pick out nickels and dimes from a bunch of change. It took us a while to start calling five-cent coins nickels and ten-cents dimes.
Some friends who had moved back had warned me – unemployment was over 11%. I had no real appreciation for what that meant, but the media appeared to be very bearish about the prospects of job seekers.
As days progressed, our searches went from the more prominent career sections of the newspapers to the classified ads sections where the jobs were oriented towards what was referred to as “entry-level” jobs.
It took a few rejection letters in the mail for me to realize that the telephone, not the mail, was the preferred mode of communication to set up interviews. When I went to pick up the mail, I kept my fingers crossed, hoping that none of the letters was for me.
Trying to keep my spirits up sometimes took effort. My goal was simple – gain some Canadian experience and earn some dollars.
How complicated can that be?
And then I got the call, I had been picked for an interview!