“You guys have been great – especially Nancy. I wouldn’t be where I am without Job Quest, [but] I’ve got to take some of the credit too”
Darren is a participant in Causeway’s Job Quest program where, with the support of his Employment Support Specialist, Nancy, he is on the path to reach his goals and find a job. Despite enjoying years of employment and building a successful career as a technician and in sales, Darren came to Causeway for employment support after an accident, and experiences with depression and alcohol addiction led to challenges to finding rewarding work.
When you meet Darren, one of the first things you’ll notice about him, besides his long and flowing hair that he grew out during the pandemic, is how easy-going he is. He’s not shy to tell you about his children and his grandchildren, and how much he enjoyed working on vintage cars and gizmos and gadgets. Reflecting on his almost 40-year career history, he credits a lot of his interests and skills to his own father who was technically inclined and an entrepreneur. These were passions they shared together and it helped to shape his career path.
“I was always a techie, even when I was a kid,” explained Darren. Darren’s passion for working with his hands and tinkering with all things mechanical was a natural fit for a career in a technical field. He got his first job as a technician for Office Analyst, repairing typewriters before moving into sales at Sharp. For many years, Darren worked for companies like Sharp and Canon doing technical repairs, working in customer service, and managing a team of people. He was even recognized in Sharp’s President’s Club, where the top 10% of salespeople in Canada were celebrated for their achievements.
As a seasoned technician with an interest in entrepreneurship like his father, Darren decided to go into business for himself and ran 3 successful enterprises, including a non-profit that refurbished used computers and donated them to low-income families. “There was a lot of people that needed them,” Darren recounted.
Another one of his businesses involved installing cable, internet, and phone receivers for people in the Renfrew region. It was while he was working on a receiver tower to move an antenna that Darren had an accident that would significantly impact his life. His hand was crushed and he suffered a fall that fractured his hip. The nature of his accident meant time away from work while he recovered. As a result of his injury, Darren sold his half of the business and decided to move to Ottawa while he was unable to work.
It took about a month for Darren to recover from his injuries and he slowly transitioned from a wheelchair, to a walker and then to crutches. Over the next while after his accident, Darren experienced episodes of depression and turned to alcohol as a coping mechanism. It was a dark time in his life.
“I was basically drinking myself to death in my apartment. I had no motivation or anything…I was just vegetating. I couldn’t wait until the liquor store was open the next day. That went on for a couple of years.”
Before Darren could think about going back to work, he needed to seek help for recovery from his addiction to alcohol and find a stable place to live.
When Darren first moved back to Ottawa, he was in contact with the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre where they supported him in finding community housing and eventually, when he was ready, supported him in finding a recovery program through the Shepherds of Good Hope. Soon after it was recommended to him to come to Causeway to begin his journey back to employment.
STARTING AT CAUSEWAY
In the summer of 2022, Darren joined one of Causeway’s employment programs and got to work with Nancy, his Employment Support Specialist. A big motivation for him to find work has been to earn enough money to find a place of his own and live more independently.
“My first goal was part-time, so I could ease myself back into it…eventually full-time when I can handle it and then get my own place.”
Darren and Nancy quickly got to work on updating his resume, putting together a cover letter and looking at various job opportunities. They even went shopping together so Darren would have some clothes for interviews.
To Nancy, it’s only a matter of time before someone like Darren finds work.
“He’s incredibly persistent! He has applied for so many jobs, gone to so many interviews and hasn’t found the right job yet…but he doesn’t give up!”.
BARRIERS TO EMPLOYMENT
It’s not uncommon for people in Causeway’s employment programs to have trouble landing the job. For Darren, because of his years of experience working in a more specialized field, he was able to find quite a few job opportunities and even some offers of employment.
“I’ve said no to a few jobs… [some of them were] hardhats, and steel toes, and – I like people. Dealing with people, being in sales and customer service.”
When it comes to accepting a job, we all consider how it aligns with our interests, meets our expectations, and fits in our lives. Sometimes there are additional barriers that can dictate what type of job you can accept. Barriers like transportation, hybrid work requirements, stigma about his age, and having gaps in his resume all play a part in Darren’s employment journey. Causeway’s role is to make sure Darren has what he needs to overcome some of these barriers. Nancy has helped to coach him on how to explain to employers the gaps in his work history during interviews, and provide recommendations to employers that advocate for Darren as a qualified candidate despite these barriers.
While Causeway is a great resource for Darren to address barriers to employment, he also takes great care to consider what type of jobs will work best for him.
“A lot of [jobs] are work from home,” recalled Darren. Darren is currently in community-based living, which makes it difficult to have a job that requires a quiet place to work with a strong internet signal. Until Darren is able to move into a place that would allow him to have an effective office setup, Darren is looking for a job that is in-person.
In addition to finding a job that works with his living situation, Darren must also consider transportation. Since coming to Causeway, Darren has been to interviews almost every week, but one major requirement for many of the job opportunities is having a driver’s license.
“A lot of them is that they want a driver’s license, which I don’t have because after the accident I just let it expire.” Darren’s mental health played a role in his decision not to renew, but he has since gotten the driver’s handbook with the intention of getting his license back and purchasing a car.
Until Darren is able to drive, the location of the job impacts where Darren would prefer to work. He relies heavily on Ottawa’s public transportation to get around, so having a job in a more central location in the city is ideal.
While the challenges along the way of Darren’s employment journey have certainly created obstacles, Darren is optimistic for his future. Especially since he knows that Causeway will be there as a great resource to help him navigate challenges and continue on his pathway forward.
SEEING YOUR STRENGTH
When it comes to finding work, the key is to focus on what makes you a strong candidate for the job and how your experiences are strengths. Darren is confident that he has the knowledge and skills to excel at work. His time at Causeway helped him put those strengths to paper to create a compelling resume and cover letter that has interested employers around the city.
When asked about what he would want employers to really know about him, Darren didn’t hesitate to share what he thinks his biggest strengths are.
“I get along with people and I’m very patient, and I’m friendly and personable. I work hard, so I always emphasize that. [I’ve] got a lot of smarts”
Throughout his career and employment journey with Causeway, Darren recognizes his gifts and can see the potential he has to continue a rewarding career further his legacy as a techie, and a people-person.
For Darren, ‘Work. Regardless.’ means persistence. When working with people, you have to listen and problem-solve in order to find solutions.
“There’s challenges almost every day.”
Nancy believes in Darren and knows that his positive attitude and hard work will pay off soon.
“We have been working together for a few months now, and despite the ups and downs, and challenges he faces along the way, Darren never gives up or even waivers. When one direction doesn’t work, he comes with a new idea or lead to take. He just keeps trying! It’s pretty inspiring.”
It’s what ‘Work. Regardless.’ is all about.