I was recently reunited with a college friend. It’s not like we see each other every 10 years or so. We were still very much in college then. Nonetheless, I still call it a college reunion every time she and I, sometimes our husbands tag along, see each other. We were both enrolled in Human Resources Bachelor’s Degree program. She is now working in the Human Resources field, whereas I’ve had three career changes since then due to life getting in the way of things. My friend has worked her way up in the 9 years that I’ve known her as a recruiter, which was what I initially wanted to be before I became a freelance writer after my car accident. I have to admit, at times I envy her for going through the HR field field and sticking to it despite her own hardships in her own life. At the same time, though, I always have to remind myself to remember that everyone’s journey is different, and jealousy and envy towards my friends, especially my close friends, won’t get me anywhere.
My friend recently got a new job. Finally she’s working at a place that she’s happy to be employed in. She’d been having a tough time in her professional experience, so it was such a good and a happy occasion to even hear that she was finally employed at a place where she felt like a valued part of the team. Throughout our outing, we talked a lot about the unfairness of the recruitment process as a whole, specifically what she’s been seeing herself in the recruitment world. We talk a lot about it anyways, but this particular conversation was what intrigued me to write about this particular topic that had actually affected my own career path choices.
My friend compared our school system to a cult. Students who would never be qualified to even be considered to be employed at a high-paying job such as Human Resources were told by teachers and faculty that they were the best of the best and that a job was waiting for them at the top of the hat. She gave me two perfect examples to back up her statement. First of all, the school system gets international students to come from abroad to enrol in their programs. They have pay twice, if not three times, as much as domestic students do, which is a lot in itself already. I personally had classmates I was close with who were international students, and they were forced to go back to their home countries because they couldn’t find the employment that fit their education. Either that or they were employed at minimum paid jobs and they didn’t see the point to stay in a country that promised them better opportunities but gave them the exact opposite.
Our conversation then twisted to our fellow former classmates. My friend mentioned a former classmate who, to this very day, hasn’t been able told down a job for more than a year. He’s had 12 different jobs in 7 years (!). This is not because he’s a bad person who doesn’t know how to hold down a job. He hasn’t been able to hold down a job for more than year due to his religious beliefs that contradict the Canadian employment culture. For instance, he cannot shake hands with the opposite sex, nor can he have any eye contact with a woman. My friend said that when she did her CPR training, she was taught that if she sees someone unconscious or not breathing, not to hesitate to take off or cut off the person’s clothes to save their lives -especially if it’s a life or death situation. For our classmate, however, this would be a no-no situation due to his religious views. Therefore, of course something like this would get him fired. In fact, I don’t think this would get him hired in the first place.
My friend and former classmate reminded me of my own experiences throughout college and thereafter. Looking back, I can honestly say that college, where I was enrolled for a whole 7 years of my life instead of a regular. 4 due to my disability, didn’t prepare me for the real world that comes after at all. I never thought to compare college to a cult like my friend did, but now that I think of it myself, her statement was absolutely truthful. I had literally everyone – teachers, head of administration, faculty, and so on – tell me exactly what I wanted to hear, which was that the real world was waiting for me; that I’d get the exact job that I deserved right out of college thanks to my degree. The only person that told me exactly as she felt was my disability counsellor. She told me that my disability, which was only cerebral palsy at the time, would be something that would hold me back a great deal after college, if I even was to graduate in the first place as my marks weren’t high enough for that in the first place.
The disability counsellor’s words pushed me to do better in school. I increased my grade point GPA by a great deal with the help of my boyfriend at the time, who surprisingly wasn’t my husband. I never looked back and I never went back to the disability centre at the school ever again. He wanted to see me more often than he did, so I told him if he wanted to see me so much, he could come to the school during my hours long breaks to help me with my studies; and so, he did. When a higher level member of the faculty heard of my story years later, that same disability counsellor was fired from her job.
The disability counsellor got fired for not being fake and for saying exactly what was on her mind, which was the absolute truth. Everyone knew that the real world didn’t work that way, but they were just saying what the students wanted to hear because college is a business and the students are the clients that pay the bills. In hindsight, the disability counsellor was the only thing about the school that gave me a glimpse into what the real world after college would be like – complicated and just plain unfair. If I were to see that disability counsellor now, I’d give her a hug and thank her for her harsh honesty. Sometimes, it’s just exactly what you need to prepare yourself for what’s ahead.
My job seeking journey was a total nightmare once I graduated college. It was both due to me having cerebral palsy and me having survived a car accident two weeks before my last exams. I’d go to job interviews where I knew from just the first glance that I wouldn’t get hired because recruiters wouldn’t stop staring at my right arm, which is affected by cerebral palsy. I had one job interview last 7 minutes, which is considered to be a horrible interview as a typical job interview lasts no less than 20 minutes. At another job interview, I was told to my face by a recruiter that she wouldn’t get the job because I have cerebral palsy, and therefore, I wouldn’t be able to type.
My parents immigrated to Canada back in November 2001 partially because they wanted to give me a better life. This country, at least at the time, was all about providing its people equal opportunity no matter the gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, political views, etc. Maybe that was the actual case back then. Now, however, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Canada is the most racist, sexist, and ableist country that I’d ever seen. It’s not just me that had gone through such trauma of not being hired because of something I couldn’t control. I had a friend tell me once that a company she worked at wasn’t accommodating her whatsoever when all she did was ask for a chair to sit on at her work station so that she’d be more comfortable due to her heart condition. Not only the management team didn’t accommodate her, but she was told that she wouldn’t have been hired in the first place had they known that she had a heart condition.
Obviously, we all want to believe in the good in people. We want to believe in what we’re told, and we want to believe that everything that we’re promised will be given to us. Sadly, though, that’s just not the case. My parents initially couldn’t believe that I wasn’t being hired due to my disability, especially considering that in my personal life, it doesn’t affect me much. The right wording would be ‘as much’, but more about that part later. Sometimes, even knowing the right people doesn’t work to your benefit when it comes to getting the job. All I can say that I’ve been lucky that I worked, and still work when opportunities arise, as a freelance writer for so many years. On the opposite spectrum of things, I’d gotten projects and work opportunities in spite of AND because of my disability and illness. At the end of the day, you can’t let society dictate your success. When society tells you you’d fail, make wave for your own opportunities and create them yourself – just like I did as a freelancer and with this blog and shop.