Twenty years ago, I was a young woman in the midst of the biggest transition of my life. I was newly arrived in Canada and a single mother whose greatest fear was I would not be able to provide for myself, and more importantly, my son.
I was penniless, unemployed, and my family had all but turned their back on me. My fear turned to desperation. I realized that if my situation was going to change, I was going to have to change it. I was determined to prove to my family and myself that despite everything, I was capable of providing for my son and giving him the life he deserves.
I took faith in myself and went back to school on a student loan. After completing my program, I attended a job search workshop through the YWCA which referred me to Dress for Success (DFS). I was told that it was an organization that gives women free interview clothing. And to be honest, all I heard was free clothing. I did not expect that I will receive a lot more value by going to that one appointment.
The experience I had on my first visit at the DFS store was unforgettable. The volunteer consultant assigned to me made me feel so important and special. She made sure that I got all the appropriate clothing and accessories for my upcoming job interview. The boost of confidence started seeping within myself and hope for the future became a lot brighter. But that’s not the end of my journey with DFS.
When they asked me if I would be interested in participating in their pilot program called Professional Women’s Group I was hesitant. As a single mom with a new job I really did not have time to commit myself to attending workshops and networking but decided, why not? I might learn something that I could use to become more successful.
I met with my mentor Maggie Neilson. She was partnered with me because we had a lot in common. She inspired me, motivated me, and made me realize that through hard work you can achieve what you set your mind to.
Maggie was a single mom too. She had gone through what I was going through. She went back to school to get her degree and worked different jobs while doing it. When she graduated her children was so proud of her. She met her husband, got married, found her career, and become a successful person. She was my mentor and my inspiration.
But PWG is more, much more. Workshops and training become tools. For example, how to keep your credit ratings in good standing or financial budgeting for your family. Both of these have helped me to become financially stable and plan for my family’s future. I still remember before PWG that I couldn’t get a credit card or apply for a loan. I had to send $200 as a security deposit for a $75 credit card. I took what they taught me and applied it to my day to day life.
One of the workshops I attended asked us to set goals. We were told to write them down on a piece of paper and seal it. We were told not to open it and keep it somewhere safe. Years later, I happened to come across it. I opened it and read what was written.
My first goal was to find a career. The second was to become financially stable. The third to buy a house, fourth get married, and lastly, finish something that I would be proud of.
All of these goals I’ve attained in the last 20 years. I have a career. I work as an accounting manager for a multimillion company and I have my own business providing accounting and computer services. I’m financially stable. I have my own home and purchased a second house two years ago. I met my husband and have been happily married for the last 14 years. And most importantly, I completed a Business Administration certificate program from Capilano University which I am very proud of.
Looking back from where I started I couldn’t have dreamed that I would be where I am right now. DFS and PWG helped me believe in myself. The coaching I received made me focus on my goals and realize what I’m capable of. They gave me confidence and told me I could do it. I become a success by my own definition.
And sharing my story is my way of giving back. If today I am able to help influence even just one person to believe that there is a promising future ahead if they apply themself and give it a chance, then I will truly feel successful!
A few things I learned through my life. Always look forward. Plan ahead. Set goals. Throw away all the negative in your life or turn it into a life learned lesson. When you receive good advice, take it, keep it, and use it when you need it.
And most important of all, believe in yourself. No one else will make your future a success unless you believe it too.
Partner with Dress for Success Vancouver to empower more women to achieve their goals.
Photo: Broda Photography