It may seem difficult to think about what comes next, when your line of work has been deeply affected by the health crisis. What type of employment should you turn to? What are the challenges? Where can you find help? The people who can help you navigate through this are easier to reach than you think. Now, more than ever, is the time to take advantage of our free resources!
Jéhanara Sage, guidance counsellor with YWCA Montreal’s Orientation and Services for Employment (OSE) program shares her energy and her analysis of the current situation and explains how to approach our search for employment.
What is OSE ?
OSE is an employment program provided by the YWCA Montreal. Clients who register with OSE benefit from a global, holistic approach: the program consists of employment counsellors, guidance counsellors, psychosocial counsellors and carefully screened support workers to help clients acquire computer skills and French and English language skills.
The project also makes use of mentors to allow participants to explore a given field or profession. It’s all about teamwork.
What’s the first step to contact someone?
To start, our assistant will direct you to the first available counsellor. It’s very quick. You will receive a reply within 2 working days following your phone call or after you have submitted the contact form.
At your first meeting at OSE, we will listen to your situation with compassion, respect and without judgement: These are the YWCA’s core values. We currently carry out our mandate via the phone, e-mail, video conferencing and even via snail mail, if need be! But counselling, even remotely, remains true to its core: it is there to assist you as though you were here in person.
As a guidance counsellor, what issues do you deal with?
The OSE program is focused on integrating its clients into the workplace. When the client has no clear employment objective (for example, she doesn’t know what type of job she can apply for), she will meet with a guidance counsellor.
In general, I help women who are not sure about their skills. The need for guidance counselling arises when someone is in a state of transition, whether by choice or out of necessity: mid-life, job loss, returning to work after a burn-out or maternity leave, having to suddenly become a family caregiver, or a quest to have your qualifications recognized are many of the possible triggers that lead clients to consult with me.
Guidance counselling presupposes the need to do some initial “groundwork” before identifying an employment target. Once this has been done, the client can commit to finding work. I then help the client with her CV, her cover letter and all other job search techniques.
What are the current challenges faced by guidance counsellors?
One of the concerns that I see often when someone is seeking advice or having to change fields or jobs is the fear of making a mistake. This fear comes in part from not being able to predict the future.
We were unable to foresee people’s future employment situation before the pandemic, nor are we able to now. As a guidance counsellor, I am therefore used to assisting my client in making decisions when the situation is unknown. The challenge is that this time, things are more complicated, because the job market is paralysed, and the client might feel paralysed, too.
Just like my colleagues, I prefer an approach that is based on empowerment, another of the YWCA’s core values. The personal power of women can always be mobilized.
What issues are currently being faced by clients receiving guidance counselling?
The biggest challenge with respect to employment is to continue to move forward while everything around you seems to be paralysed, no matter which way you turn. But how do you move forward if you don’t know how?
You need a catalyst, a driving force. And this driving force is hope.
I chose to become a guidance counsellor in order to help my clients and to nurture their sense of hope. I chose this profession because I’m fascinated by the concept of time, and even of time travel. Temporality is at the heart of guidance counselling: you visit the past and you recall your successes, you take stock of your experiences and your skills, you ground yourself in the present to define a target job to strive for, and then you launch yourself into the future.
Throughout the counselling relationship, I always imagine a bright future for my clients.
What advice do you give to women who are starting to think about a career or returning to the workforce?
If you think back on your career, you may already have made a list of your educational qualifications, your work and volunteer experience, with the names of the organizations and dates. You see, the simple fact of listing these activities will give you the desire to move forward and to commit yourself to a process.
Do not let go of this momentum and remember, you have nothing to lose!
It can be stressful to communicate with people you don’t know, but we are professionals, who have been trained in counselling. We will be able to assist you from the outset and help you work towards your objectives.
Which sectors will need time to get back on their feet, and what advice do you have for people working in these sectors?
A rapidly changing situation
The current health crisis affects all job sectors: either through an increase or decrease in activity. The situation is changing daily: while construction sites are paralysed, they are thinking about starting up again. Yesterday, Olymel, a food giant, expressed its desire to get production up and running soon. We know that the fields of healthcare and food (from the field to the grocery store) have been operating at full force, just like all the essential services. That is why it is a good idea to look at job sites daily.
People say there are no jobs available
Today, on April 21, 2020, I searched the Government of Canada Job Bank and there were 9,903 job openings for the Greater Montreal area. Naturally, you would have to narrow down your search, and your counsellor can help you manage all this information. My advice is that we have to target our criteria up to a certain point and compromise to a certain point. It is in this state of indecision that a counsellor can reassure you, motivate you to forge ahead.
With the current health crisis, working from home has become quite common. This opens up a whole new range of employment opportunities.
Recognize that your skills are transferable
I always tell my clients that diplomas and degrees are static, whereas skills are in perpetual motion. You will not always get a job that matches all your qualifications and training, with or without COVID-19.
Reviewing your skills with us will allow you to map out all the skills you have acquired through your studies and your work experiences, paid or unpaid. This comprises the wealth of your baggage, not counting all your soft skills. Soft skills include your attitude, your motivation, your commitment, your heart qualities, etc. You see! I’m willing to bet that you’re smiling now…
Consider the opportunities
It is good to take stock of your skills with your counsellor, because she will look at your profile with new eyes. This generally gives rise to feelings of joy, and you, too, will see things from a different perspective. Draw on your strengths, see your potential, flush out the key competencies you are unaware of: Look at what will emerge from this exchange! You will become aware of employment opportunities you never dreamt of. You will want to explore new avenues. Your future is yours.
In short, regardless of what your plans are, start today. Every step counts! Our team can’t wait to meet you!
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