Dress for Success Vancouver, I was immediately struck by her positive energy and exceptionally welcoming presence. Even after a long day of work, June was enthusiastic and happily shared her story of settling into her dream life after a decade of working menial low level jobs.
How did you get involved with Dress for Success Vancouver?
It happened 3.5 years ago. When I was going to school I was collecting EI and the student loans office introduced me to the Face of Work program (FW), which had a case manager to help you with your resume. When I had an interview, the FW program put me in contact with Dress for Success Vancouver where I got my first outfit for the interview. I didn’t get the job but I didn’t stop. I did it for 7 months.
Can you share a little more of your back story?
Originally I’m from Hong Kong where I was a secretary, but it was hard to get into the same field here because they wanted local experience. I had all the certificates from Hong Kong in hand but they were all looking for local courses, certificates, and experience, I almost wanted to ask “if you don’t hire me how will I get the experience?”
When I first came here I didn’t have any plans for my career, I just wanted to learn everything. I went to school and took english classes as well as BCIT to take interior design and graphic design. I took criminology too but my english wasn’t good enough yet so I took 3 years to finish my english program.
I had no problem getting a cashier or sales job. I was working at the Salvation Army as a cashier and sales associate for 3 years before I had to quit and go back to Hong Kong. I went back to visit my mom because she was sick. After she passed way, I took 3 months to take care of her things.
When I came back to Vancouver I started thinking about what I should do because I had already been in Vancouver for 13-14 years when I left (it will be 20 years this year in May). I thought ‘what would I need to do if I want a clerical job?’ I made a decision and took Business Administration at Sprott Shaw College and got a certificate. It wasn’t easy!
What happened after?
I didn’t dream about getting a job right away because I needed local experience. I stopped applying for cashiers and lower lever positions because even though I would be able to do the work, I wanted an office job. After 7 months I had to repay my student loans so I got a job at Target. I worked there for 4 months in the back room doing physical work. It motivated me to think "I can get the job I want." My mom wanted me to be happy so I kept thinking “now that I have my certificate I cannot give up.” When I got home from work I worked on my resume.
After 7-8 months of doing this I kept thinking “don’t think about the time or how many resumes I’ve sent out, one day it will work out.” I know what I want at my age, I want a stable job. I can be a stable cashier but I wanted to use my knowledge and do something that I love.
If I gave up I would’ve gone back home but I love living here so what could I do? I just did my best. I didn’t want to be a cashier or go back on EI. I wanted to work in a bigger and better place. It took me a couple more months but it’s okay, I got what I wanted.
What gave you the motivation to keep going and not give up?
I grew up with a single mom who always said if I’m not happy then she won’t be. My mom knew that if she asked me to stay in Hong Kong I wouldn’t leave, but she knew that if she did that I wouldn’t be happy.
Sometimes after work I would cry and talk to my mom and she would say “just keep looking, you’re working right now.” In Hong Kong I never worked that hard. Sometimes I would cry at work but I was never late or missed any work. If I can’t be serious in a small job, I can’t be serious in a big job.
I didn’t think it was a waste of time, I thought of it as training for my patience, for my strength, and for my whining. It wasn’t easy.
What do you do now?
I work in Accounts Payable at a property management company.
Tell us about your new job
In January 2014 I got a call from a property management company for a support administration position on a one year contract, of course I said yes! It was the base job - uploading documents and some mailing in the afternoon. I did my best and my boss appreciated it. When she hired me she asked why I was right for the role, I said “I’m not looking for a job, I’m looking for a career.” It made her think that this is the lady who she was looking for.
In September, I received an email from HR about a permanent position in Accounts Payable. Since I had my certificate and experience working in the accounting department in Hong Kong I thought “it’s nothing new if they don’t hire me” so I just sent my resume. After a few days they contacted me and asked me to come in for an interview.
Everything started from a contract position to a permanent role which I started in October. It’s been 5 months and I’m learning a lot of accounting suff. I’m learning all the programs, how to do payables, and doing the cheque run every week. It's quite challenging.
How do you feel now that you have a permanent job?
Settled is the feeling that I have; I don’t really need to worry about losing the contract or wondering where I’ll be. I haven’t stop learning, I feel that I still need to learn because I’m learning at the job but I feel settled.
Did Dress for Success Vancouver help you with your job search?
After they found out I had an interview they said ‘bring your resume’ and they helped me look at it. All the tips they gave me were so helpful. The mock interview felt real, I was so nervous. It took a lot of practice until one day I just felt comfortable going to interviews.
How did you end up joining the Professional Women's Group program?
Lucia asked me if I wanted to join the PWG program because I had just gotten a job.
What has your experience with the PWG program been like?
I didn’t know what to expect, the second week in I went on a picnic. Every week they have career boosters like how to deal with displeasure or how to use colour to match your clothing. Another time they had a workshop on how to use a computer and taught us how to manage our time.
When people were sharing their stories at PWG they don’t attribute it to religion but they’re so thankful and grateful, it’s very inspiring. These women say during their whole life they fail, they feel used until they got to DFS Vancouver. They can face all the sadness and failure because so many people were there before and went through that and now they’re successful. That time made them even stronger.
How has Dress for Success Vancouver helped you get to where you are today?
When I hear so many positive things, words, and people who appreciated me, it gave me great confidence. I don’t know the people at DFS Vancouver but they trained me to speak to people at work and it helps me get along with people much easier.
What’s one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from this experience?
One thing I learned is patience, patience will build confidence. When I got the job I was nervous and scared because everything was brand new to me. But because I had patience built up from my search I just picked up everything because I really concentrated.
What advice would you give someone else struggling?
Don’t put yourself into a negative spot because there are so many choices in life. I thought “If I cannot get there, I can still work but I might not be in the career I want,” which is okay. You have to say something to yourself that’s positive, you can’t say ‘if I don’t get a job my life is finished.” Positive thinking is very important.
What really helped you through the rough times?
I have my religion, I pray all the time but sometimes sharing is good. Telling other people “I’m upset right now because the interview i just went to I really want the job, but they’ll probably turn me down.” Let it out, when you get release you can start over again. Just don’t give up.
I went to interviews and heard no 10-20 times, if I gave up I wouldn’t be here.
What do you want people to know about Dress for Success Vancouver?
The clothing is a really small part of DFS Vancouver; It’s really about the people helping you look for a job, the specialists - the people who spend time practising your interview with you. The interview and resume practice were more important. It’s a consistent program, you just have to put down your name to join and it’s very helpful.
They helped me figure out how to send out resumes. The specialists understand the market and how to help. They said that by putting 80% of my resumes in receptionist positions, I wasn’t getting a broader variety of job offers.
Any last thoughts?
My office used to be on Hornby St. but we recently moved across the street from Dress for Success Vancouver! I just got married, and I feel settled.