In April 2014, I was depressed. It had been more than a year since I had been employed. Seeking employment is often twice as hard if you’re a person with a disability. Fortunately, there is a program that has helped me get back on track.
The Workshop Essential Skills Partnership (WESP) program is an initiative of the Canadian Council of Rehabilitation and Work (CCRW). Held at the Canadian National Institute for the Bind (CNIB) in Toronto, WESP is for people with various physical disabilities who are either struggling to find work again or are looking for the first time. I had heard of WESP through a friend who had gone through it about five years ago.
I had been accepted into WESP four years ago but dropped out due to coming down with a sudden illness. When I recovered, I managed to find employment again on my own for a while. At the beginning of this year, I looked at WESP again, hoping it would help me rebuild my sagging self-confidence, and give me a fresh perspective on the types of careers and jobs I should be pursuing.
My professional background includes the journalism field, as well as office positions involving data entry, information and referral and web design. My main goal in WESP was to find a position that would complement one or more of my varied skills sets and talents.
In March 2014, I was re-admitted to WESP the same day I had my intake interview. It was one of the happiest days of my adult life. My program began in April, for four weeks. In those four weeks, I learned (or re-learned) how to write effective resumes and cover letters that conform to today’s expectations from working professionals. I was also enlightened on preparing interviews and doing mock interviews, networking, labour market trends, and got tips on how to stay motivated in the job search.
One of my favourite activities during my time at WESP was doing an informational interview. I did my assignment with an acquaintance who works as a social media specialist for an organisation that provides rehabilitation services for children with and without disabilities. During my visit with him, he told me that having something that stands out will often get you a job. For him, it was podcasting, writing a book and hosting an online support group for people who stutter. He also said that, if possible, taking courses to upgrade and advance your skills and knowledge (in a relevant area) will help your professional development.
There was a total of 12 job seekers in the group I was in. Two of them were lucky to find employment before the program ended. When we started I didn’t know any of the other job-seekers. Since then we have managed to keep in touch and update each other on our respective journeys. The three main workshop facilitators were always kind and helpful and made themselves available for questions and one-on-one consultations.
I learned a lot in my four weeks as a WESP participant. Here are some important pieces of wisdom that can help anybody regardless of where they are in their journey:
- Believe in yourself
- Never give up
- Make realistic goals, but anticipate changes, and be open to them
- Don’t take rejection personally (I’m still working on that one)
- Don’t be scared of the future, because you don’t know what it will bring!
- The past is in the past–let it go!
- Keep in touch with your references periodically
Since my WESP term ended, I have managed to find employment again. I worked as an Information Officer for the Ontario election, and also for a federal by-election under Elections Canada. At the end of July, Toronto Staffing Solutions hired me as a part-time data entry clerk, where I still work today. I also have work lined up as an Information Officer for the upcoming Toronto municipal election. Things are looking up! Meanwhile, I still look for other opportunities, and keep in touch with the WESP staff, including their job developer.
WESP is a worthwhile program for any job-seeker with a disability. Though WESP does not guarantee employment by the end of the program, it does empower people to keep active and informed in the job-hunting process.
To learn more about WESP, you can contact them directly at 416-486-2500 x8605 or firstname.lastname@example.org.