Helena’s Story: From House to Hospital

Occasionally, I’ll post a profile of a recent immigrant to Toronto (ten years or less), along with stories of their struggles, successes, and advice to newcomers. Here is the first.

Name: Helena

Country of origin: Jakarta, Indonesia

Time in Toronto: Six years

Why did you choose to come to Canada, and Toronto specifically?

Because Canada has the same values that I believe in. Toronto is the money capital of Canada, and my thinking was it would provide more opportunities if we were to start from the ground up.

Biggest struggle you faced when you first came to Toronto?

Trying to break into the job market; I was totally clueless as to how to build a proper resume. I was a homemaker for 20 years before I came here, and was trying to start over with just a high school diploma!

What do you do now?

I am an administrative assistant in a hospital setting. It started out as volunteering as part of my internship for a diploma program I was doing at Herzing College. I stayed for seven months volunteering in various administrative offices when an opportunity broke open. It was a temporary seating for a secretary going on her honeymoon for 3 weeks. She was an assistant to a surgeon.

Office space

So how did you go from there to a full-time position?

I guess it matters a lot when you are not just doing your job because it is required of you, but also to show your dedication and intention to actually make improvements because you care. I gave my best, and the surgeon actually wanted me to stay in their department. Another opening happened to materialize, and I got the interview. It was a part time position, and I got a probationary month. I came in everyday, as in working full time, but was hired part time. I did it because I wanted to get the job done well. I guess the efforts and attitude showed, and by the third month I was offered a full-time permanent position.

From then on, it got busier, I learned more, and another responsibility, a challenging one was added, almost a year into the job. I was assigned to run a sub specialty clinic with 7 doctors in the team. I am into the fourth year now, and am still learning and developing new systems to match the speed at which the clinic is expanding.

How have other members of your family adjusted?

They have adjusted really nicely and quite effortlessly. My eldest is working as a clinic assistant in a community health centre while continuing her French, and her sister is pursuing her master’s degree.

What do you like most about Toronto?

It’s pace and busyness– The sense that working hard will bring results.

Any tips for newcomers coming to Toronto looking to find work?

If I look back now, it was not experience that put me where I am today. It was determination and strong conviction that I could be a great contribution, that I could make things better. The volunteering part is important because you get to know what is required for a job, and of course you have to like the nature of the job.

I guess the key is never to stay comfortable, the challenges you face can be the stepping stones to more success. You also have to be willing to learn and change. Every country has its own culture, so you have to be open to adjust with the existing standards in order to be accepted.