Don’t Give Up: Caelan’s Story
Caelan is driven by the ambition to become a licensed psychologist and, one day, open their own practice. They feel that their life has purpose and direction.
But they didn’t always feel this way.
About five years ago, when they were in their teens, Caelan felt very down on their luck. They had dropped out of high school, and their home life was complicated. They wanted a job but were getting impatient with the lack of success: “When I did hear back from employers, they would all comment on my age and ask why I wasn’t still in school.”
Caelan turned to alcohol to help get through the day. “I was really depressed,” they explain, “I didn’t have a great opinion about what my future would be.”
At the time, they believed that getting a job would improve their life immediately. Inspired by their mother, who had enrolled in Causeway’s Job Quest program years earlier, they made an appointment to speak to someone in Causeway’s intake office. Ultimately, Caelan left the meeting, deciding that they weren’t in the emotional headspace to start looking for jobs quite yet. However, they knew they wanted to try again in the future.
Over the next few years, they focused on themselves. They went to counselling, both for their mental health and their drinking. Ironically, the community-based program they enrolled in was in the back room of a local bar, but, as they put it, “it was a good push to walk past the bar and go into the meeting room.”
During this time, they also achieved their GED and took some academic upgrading courses at Algonquin College. Various side jobs kept them busy and gave them valuable experience, including learning basic marketing and product listing by helping their friend with their business.
In 2018, Caelan was ready to try again. They returned to Causeway and were accepted into the Solutions for Youth program.
“I was really excited for Causeway,” they say, “I had been keeping myself occupied while I was at home, and I wanted to find a job.”
Solutions for Youth is a paid 16-week program for persons aged 16-29 that supports participants in developing the skills and work habits to find employment or return to school.
For the first four weeks, Caelan participated in the in-class portion of the program. This involved a series of workshops that helped with job readiness and developing life skills. Some workshops included resume writing, interview techniques, stress management, budgeting, and building self-esteem. By the end of the in-class, participants will have assessed their skills, identified their barriers and set goals for themselves. Together, this helps them find jobs or go back to school.
Caelan loved coming into Causeway. They describe the environment as friendly and welcoming. “Any time you walk in the doors,” they recount, “you can’t help but smile.”
Their experience with Solutions for Youth was nothing short of positive. “The staff were always great and encouraging and would take the time to learn about you,” they explain. “It felt like they were your friends, but also, your mentors.” Because others in the program shared similar goals and aspirations, it was easy to develop long-term friendships. “It’s great,” Caelan laughs, “You not only get job experience [from Solutions for Youth], but you make friends too.”
When it came time for their 3-month placement, Caelan was hired at Shoppers Drug Mart as a Merchandiser.
“Applying for Shoppers was nerve-wracking. I had applied before, but I didn’t have enough experience at the time.” Luckily, their side jobs over the past few years helped them apply this time around because they had a basic understanding of the software.
When their placement came to an end, Shoppers hired them permanently, and they just celebrated their second work anniversary in January. Since then, Caelan has been promoted to keyholder and has some supervisor shifts. Like all jobs, working has had its ups and downs, but overall, they describe it as a positive experience.
“When I first came back to Causeway, my only goal was to find work,” Caelan says, but their experience inspired them to do much more.
Caelan speaks fondly about all Causeway’s staff and all their fellow cohort members, but they credit their Solutions for Youth Facilitator, Peter, for encouraging them to return to school.
“I was talking with Peter, and he said that I would be good in counselling and helping people,” they recall. The more they thought about it, the more they were drawn to the idea. “I had a lot of awesome counsellors that were very patient with me when I wasn’t very patient with myself. It’s sort of a way to give back, but also, I feel like it’s the right path for me.”
Last year, they enrolled in Algonquin College’s Child and Youth Care program. “Things are going pretty great.” Caelan is excited for what the future holds.
Looking back, they admit that they could have been more patient and not so hard on theirself. “I would beat myself up for not having the experience, but it was also my own fault for not sticking with things,” Caelan says. It can be hard to know what you need to help you move forward, and there are many resources out there ready to help people find their way. Their advice for people who are struggling to find a job? “Don’t give up and keep trying.”
Employers also have a role to play, and Caelan hopes they would give more people a chance. “Even if someone doesn’t have the experience, don’t necessarily write them off. If they have the drive and they want to work, then they’d be a hard worker.”
To Caelan, #WorkRegardless means working regardless of your boundaries. Work gives someone a platform to not only work but to live.