Jo-Annie Castonguay

Overcoming the Challenge of Finding the First Job

Emmanuel Israel, originally from Nigeria, came to Ottawa in 2012, after studying in Cyprus for five years.

When he began his Master’s Degree in Education at the University of Ottawa, the soft spoken young man didn’t know anyone in his new city and needed to begin a job search.
He went to the Vanier Community Service Centre where he met Jo-Annie Castonguay, an Employment Ontario Services counselor. “Jo-Annie assisted me in understanding the barriers to getting a job and how to overcome them,” said Emmanuel.

The outgoing and energetic employment counselor interacted with Emmanuel informally at first during a job fair, then she formally registered him as a client when he came to the Employment services at the Vanier Community service Centre. “There is really no typical type of client or situation in my line of work,” said Jo-Annie. “Emmanuel was a very easy client to help, as he presents himself well and just needed encouragement and moral support.”

“Jo-Annie went out of her way to help me for close to three years, said Emmanuel. “She’s friendly and jokes a lot, which made me feel at ease, but most importantly she became my advocate.”

For Jo-Annie, it’s very important to get to know her clients as people so that she can better direct them to other services in the community. This familiarity also helps with their social integration as newcomers. “I tried to go the extra mile for all my clients including Emmanuel,” added Jo-Annie. “I referred him to a couple of services that he didn’t know about. I kept telling him that he can do it and not to give up.”

Jo-Annie assisted with practical things too, like editing his resume, formatting his cover letters and sent him countless job advertisements. She even encouraged him to change his LinkedIn profile picture and learn French. “It’s important for immigrants, who represent about 70 per cent of my caseload, to understand that all of these steps matter in the long run,” remarks Jo-Annie.

Initially Emmanuel found a six-month contract job at McGill University, Montreal. After the contract ended, he moved back to Ottawa –the city he loves – and was quickly hired at a coffee shop.

Emmanuel breaks into a bright smile as he shares the best news that it wouldn’t have been possible without Jo-Annie’s support – he starts a full-time federal government job in a week!