My Red Blundstones
In Bolivia, Camila Uriona worked in advertising, but any job is almost impossible to find in Canada. She sends her resume to a bank, then withdraws it because she has no experience in banking. It is a turning point. Her honesty and sense of herself land her a good job. With her first paycheck, she buys red Blundstones, her reward for pulling herself up by her bootstraps.
Until I moved to Canada, I couldn’t afford expensive things. I got my stuff at the local market in the uphill streets of La Paz, Bolivia.
But here I was admiring red shoes in the window of the Blundstone store on Queen Street West in Toronto, my new home. The price was $250. No way, I said to myself. These are too expensive. I walked away, but after a few minutes, I came back. I thought yes! It was time to reward myself.
When I decided to get married, I had a plan. First, move with my husband to a new life in Canada, then go to school or find a job, and then get pregnant. But things did not work out that way. After two years, there I was: an unemployed landed immigrant, not going to school, and not even pregnant.
From other Spanish-speaking immigrants, I heard only discouraging comments about how you are a nobody when you move to Canada and that you must settle for any job to get the famous Canadian work experience. I said, “How are you going to get it if no one gives you the chance?” I turned to my own community for help. But that can be tricky. You might get some, or you might get none.
Through a new Bolivian friend, I learned about a free ESL program for professional newcomers. I enrolled, and right after, I started an internship at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga. Although I loved it, it was unpaid. What now? I thought what could help was having a network. I volunteered wherever I could to grow my incipient contact list. I did some small jobs. I worked as a consultant doing market research. I even played an Easter Bunny at a restaurant. Then I started babysitting for a family I had met through my community.
It turned out that my employer, who was Bolivian, came from a family I knew. Once, he suggested that if I cleaned up the house, his wife could help me get a job. But that wasn’t what I was hired to do. I felt manipulated. I did my best, though, but didn’t get any job.
Time passed. I got depressed. If an internship, networking, or my fellow Bolivians weren’t the solution, what should I do? I started to send my resume out wildly, everywhere I could.
That’s how I applied for a position at a bank. My background is in communications, and I had never worked in a bank in my life. After I pressed ‘send’, I felt embarrassed. I didn’t have the required certifications. I immediately wrote to the people at the bank and withdrew my application, saying I wasn’t qualified. They thanked me for my honesty.
And that was the turning point. The next morning my phone rang. Telemarketers, I thought. I was not going to answer. The phone kept ringing. I picked up. The executive director of a non-profit organization introduced himself. He said he had gotten my resume from someone at the bank. The next day he interviewed me. By the evening, I had a job. It was not directly in my field, but close enough. I still work there and in my field.
So, it was not any of those other things—but my honesty and my insistence on being who I am—that got me the job.
After I received my first paycheque, I bought the red Blundstones. They are comfortable and simple in design. That’s their best quality. The leather looks hard, but it turns soft after you wear them for a couple of days. They have gotten their own faded, but still attractive, red. They have bootstraps that make the Blundstones easy to put on. When I wear them, I think they are the reward for pulling myself up ‘by my own bootstraps’.
CAMILA URIONA is from La Paz, Bolivia, where she worked in advertising. She moved to Canada in 2009 and now works in the not-for-profit sector at 8 80 Cities, where she works as the Administrative & Communications Manager. Camila is also a storyteller and a published poet. In her free time, she designs and makes jewellery.