My One and Only Pair of High Heels
In July 2010, I was a newcomer to Canada looking for my first job. Speed mentoring was a great opportunity to find a job, I was told. For that special occasion, I wore a power suit and bought my first pair of high heel shoes. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out as I had intended. My counsellor’s mistake triggered a series of funny events one hot summer day. I ended up in a different workshop where I made an unusual friend.
The job counsellor offered me an opportunity to take part in a speed mentoring event. There was a dress code to follow, business clothing and footwear. I was supposed to bring my resume, and I would have two minutes to promote myself to mentors, who were lawyers. My counsellor had convinced me that for newcomers like me, mentoring was a chance to get a decent job in my field as a librarian. I was very new. It hadn’t been even six weeks since I received my Permanent Resident status in Canada.
Although it was a really hot summer day, I wore my dark brown business suit, and for the first time in my life, chocolate brown, high heel shoes. It was attire more suitable for mid-October than for a July scorcher. I wore make-up, and my hair was styled. I did not feel comfortable, as I hated putting things on my face, and I was clumsy styling my hair. I remember I dropped my hairdryer into the toilet bowl. I was lucky I was not electrocuted.
I was told to be at the office at 10:00 sharp. On stiff legs, I entered the office at 9:45 and introduced myself to the receptionist. She gave me a strange look and informed me that the mentors were almost finished since they had to be back at their offices at 10:00.
My jaw dropped. All my preparation and stress, my sleepless night, would go for nothing. I couldn’t believe it! The counsellor tried to blame me for being late. Thankfully, I had a voicemail recording with the date and hour clearly stated. Eventually, she apologized to me for the misunderstanding. As compensation, I was allowed to watch the final ten minutes. I went into the room.
A terrible noise filled my ears. Ten mentors were sitting in a row. Participants were talking all at once. Every two minutes the bell rang. That was a signal for people to leave one mentor and approach a new one. It seemed to be a lot like speed dating.
Afterward, as further compensation, I was invited to take part in a workshop on job interview techniques. In the classroom, about 20 people were sitting on chairs arranged in a circle with the facilitator in the middle. All the participants wore tank tops, shorts, summer dresses, and flip-flops. All of them, except me. I spotted a chair in the corner, said hello to everybody, and reached my hiding place as fast as possible. My refuge did not last long. The woman facilitating the workshop asked me to come forward and introduce myself. Using me as an example, she explained the meaning of ‘professional attire.’ I felt my face burning from the unwanted attention. My make-up must have been smudged all over it. On top of it all, I was terrified that I would trip in my high heels.
We worked in pairs practising job interview questions. I was working with Julie from France. Soon our interview practice changed into a private conversation. I learned that Julie was a highly skilled professional—a biotechnologist. Julie confessed to me that she had faced a dilemma: to continue her career in Switzerland and give up on a relationship that meant a lot to her, or give up her career and follow her boyfriend to Canada. She chose love. The problem of finding a job in her field made her very depressed, so she asked me if I knew of an anti-depressant sold over the counter. I could help because I had used some to treat my insomnia.
During the lunch break, we left the workshop for the day. I took Julie to Shoppers Drug Mart, where she got her medicine and a bottle of mineral water. She must have been depressed, as she took the tablets right in the store. Then we went to a restaurant to have lunch. It must have been peculiar to see Julie and me walking together. She was wearing shorts, a tank top and flip-flops, and carrying a bike helmet and a bike seat. I was carrying my briefcase and walking as if my knees were in a cast. My feet hurt so much, and I was sweltering in my power suit.
Late that afternoon, we said goodbye to each other. I desperately wanted to go home and get rid of my high heels. I never met Julie again, and I don’t understand why she opened up to me. I was just a stranger to her.
IRENA RODZIEWICZ was born in Poland. As a certified teacher and librarian, Irena worked for 15 years in a school library. In 2010, she moved to Toronto and became a permanent resident of Canada. She enjoys improving her language skills and exploring Toronto’s physical and cultural landscape.