Samantha Daroga

Samantha Daroga

Today marks my one-year anniversary at my job and I am brimming with a sense of accomplishment.

My trek to permanency was not easy and many life lessons were learned, the greatest of which was self-acceptance. Allow me to walk you through the darkest moments of my life and unveil strategies to obtaining gainful employment.

Without apology for her tardiness, she began, “The company is restructuring and our project in Trinidad will be finalised end of month, when unfortunately, your contract ends.”

Instant shock gripped me—you would imagine the scenes that littered my imagination.

I journeyed home that day with colliding thoughts. There were only 29 days left in August-2016, and I had no job prospects in sight. Life at the company I was employed with was promising; an energy-based salary and two contract renewals—now this! “At least, I have no debt and not with child,” I tried to convince myself of the positives.

It took 15 days to reveal the news to my family, as I scoured every job platform, newspaper and company website but nothing surfaced. My mother, being spiritually-minded, said, “Trust in God. He will not bring you this far to abandon you now.” Little did I know those exact words would have profound effect in the coming months.

The days drifted and depression flooded the interstices of my mind. There was neither a desire to engage with friends nor to apply make-up. Why should I? I had nowhere to go! Obsessed with monitoring my bank balance as it was being depleted by mere survival, I became an actor to those showing concern. In the midst of despondency, I continued to pray.

On a typical Monday, when all of Trinidad pulsed with vitality, I peered at her for the first time in weeks. She stood uneasy as eyes, unafraid to capture the reflection of a broken woman, flickered off in shame. Lost in a gaze and without warning, limbs cracked under mounting frustration and I crashed. It was a cleansing like no other. A watery outburst that welcomed introspection.

I began to question my role in this play titled “Life”. Thoughts shifted from, “Where had I gone wrong?” to “What can I do differently?” The answer was located in a deliberate question. I asked myself what skills have I obtained between jobs, thus far? There began the evolution of my job hunt.

Being an intrinsic note-taker, I populated an Excel workbook with each job application and follow-up call inclusive of telephone extensions. Interlinked tabs represented job boards and resumes delivered. I had built a comprehensive tracker of HR contacts and potential employers.

Notice was taken of social media and I felt compelled to create a LinkedIn profile, only as an appetiser to my CV. Profilers were drowning their accounts with volumes of content; laborious to the eye of recruiters. Facebook messenger via corporate pages became my hotspot for obtaining the email addresses of HR managers.

I kept focused through Positive Distractive Activity (PDA). PDA was a concept I created as a coping mechanism. The mind is kept positively distracted by involving one’s self in activity like exercise, sun exposure (helps with depression), voluntary projects, journaling and keeping abreast of country affairs.

Employers were busy with Christmas, not with hiring, so I decided to switch gears. Following deep contemplation, I emptied my bank account and embarked on a mission to complete ACCA level (2), and enrolled in classes.

“Did I still possess the mental fortitude to pass these exams?” I recalled the words of a lecturer, “To get a different result, one must work differently.” So, I altered my mindset. “Do not doubt the abilities God has blessed you with,” was my daily mantra. For me, mental health is the origin of all health. Prayer is the foundation.

In 2017, I poured into my studies and failure was ousted from my vocabulary—there was a drive that ignited confidence. The ultimate display of PDA. By January 2018, I became the proud recipient of ACCA’s Advanced Diploma.

Success, however, was not without its side effects. I had subjected myself to an injustice by not living holistically. The absence of a social life and intense studying led to mental exhaustion and mild anxiety. In updating my résumé, I also had to update my perspective of myself and acknowledged the distance covered in this journey. There was a mental migration from being self-critical to appreciating the person I had evolved into. This was yet another credit obtained through life experience.

The new year supplied a hope like that found in the crisp breath of morning and soon, calls turned into interviews. Questions were approached with calm confidence supported by company research whilst smartly decked. It was in crafting yet another “Thank you’’ email, when I got the call.

The next six months was spent learning the workings of an innovative company and inevitably, I landed on payroll’s permanent list. Tackling projects out of my scope unearthed skills unknown to me. Unemployment taught me to not fear uncertainty but instead embrace the excitement that follows it.

The intention behind this piece is to provide solace and direction to those currently in the throes of unemployment. Be not ashamed of your employment gap as these are the months that test the mettle of one’s character.

Own your experience. Do not let it own you.