The Story of Kathleen Hughes

19 July 2019
In December of 2016, the company where I had been working for the last 23 years suddenly went bankrupt and closed its doors forever. Losing one’s job, especially a long-standing one, affects a person’s life in ways that I could not have imagined.  Being gainfully employed plays a major role in a person’s identity. Not having one creates confusion, anger, frustration and financial anxiety. All of these feelings left me exhausted and my self-confidence shattered. I had to make a decision on how to proceed and decided to turn this negative into an opportunity for change and betterment.
I threw myself into working with my former colleagues by organizing a support group. This helped me get through the anxiety. By keeping a positive attitude for others, I was able to keep my spirits up and see there was a future for me after my previous employer. I helped workers through their Employment Standards applications, signing up for Employment Insurance (EI), bankruptcy claim forms, Wage Earner Protection Program (WEPP) applications, and by counselling distraught and angry co-workers. I arranged information sessions with Service Canada to help guide people through the turmoil and uncertainty. Through these sessions, I was introduced to WorkBC and the services offered, and became very hopeful about my employment prospects.
I began applying for positions where my customer service experience and communication skills could be optimized. Concentrating on the public service, I was able to apply and was accepted into the Clerical Inventory for the BC Government where I was given access to many entry-level job openings. My first application was with Elections BC and success occurred immediately; I was hired as the trainer/facilitator for the May 2017 Election polling staff in Surrey Newton. This was only a five-week contract, but the work was challenging, fast-paced and rewarding. Teaching and inspiring came to me easily, and I began thinking, “This is what I should be doing!”
Then the frustration started, after many hours of searching and applying for jobs, I was getting very few interviews. When I did get an interview, and thought that it had gone really well, I was not getting the position. I found myself questioning my strategy, “Should I just focus on finding a job or should I be concentrating on taking this opportunity to start a career where I could make a difference?”
Having taken advantage of the services at WorkBC and gone through the many classes afforded to me, I kept thinking back to the Career Exploration Assessment, where my strongest areas were Social Services and Education. In order to achieve this goal, however, my work and life experience would not be enough. I would need to enhance my education. Thus, the Career Development Practitioner Certificate would enable me to combine my skills with the education required to begin my new career.
With the support of my WorkBC case manager, I quickly put together my application for funding to go back to school. It was a daunting task but I was able to complete it in record time so as not to miss the course start date, where acceptance had been approved by Simon Fraser University. The funding was approved and I started on my new journey to become a Career Development Practitioner.
University was difficult, but I enjoyed the challenge every day. The opportunity to meet new people and learn new things provided more stimulation than I expected.  I flourished in the university environment and grew as a professional and person through my experience.
Looking back now, I wonder what took me so long to find my “thing”. Career counselling when I went to high school was never available to us. Without the assessments and guidance that I received at WorkBC, I would have never found the opportunity to work at something that I love doing.
I have found my home, working with youth and empowering them to go after their career dreams. Getting the opportunity to organize job fairs, meet employers from the Metro Vancouver Area and develop new relationships within the industry are all a part of my everyday life now. There is something different every day. I get to go to work and make a difference – just as someone did for me!
If you too find yourself looking for your “thing” in life, do not hesitate to contact your local WorkBC Centre to get the help and support you need. Good luck!