I took a pause, and reconnected with myself. - Monica Gutierrez
I would like to start telling you a little bit about myself. I'm an Environmental Engineer from Colombia that just recently moved to Toronto to start a new life. I chose engineering 9-years ago instead of journalism or biology (my other two options) mainly because I thought I would have better job prospects and a more comfortable lifestyle. Currently, I am settling down in Canada, doing a volunteer job and looking for the perfect career opportunity. The path I have chosen is challenging and I'm still working hard on figuring it out. But since I like challenges, I'm enjoying every second of it, and that's why I decided to share it with you.
Have you heard your family telling you that it is important to work at a multinational corporation or some recognized company? Well, I heard that back at home a couple of times until I convinced myself of that idea. I remember my parents telling me that it was better to work at that kind of organizations as it was going to enhance my resumé and with that, I would have a better job and salary.
The fact is that my parents were right. I ended up working for those companies and had financial stability, met interesting people, learned about how business is done and did good networking. I even got a leave of absence to visit my boyfriend (who later became my husband) and came to study here in Canada, which was a very uncommon reward given to employees at the company I was working for at that time. However, when I went back to Colombia, I wasn’t happy and didn’t feel professionally satisfied. I was working over 40 hours a week, doing the same type of things I did before I came to study project management at Ryerson University, and wasn't seeing tangible benefits and impacts resulting from my work. It didn’t feel rewarding.
Fortunately, I found a parallel job during weekends. I started to give horseback riding classes at an academy for kids and it was there that I felt again happy and satisfied. It simply didn’t feel like a job. I didn’t care waking up on a Saturday morning and not partying on Fridays because I knew I was doing something good for someone else and for me. By that time, the contract with the company I was working for was terminated, and so I decided to come back to Canada and look up for new opportunities. I knew this was the perfect moment to start a new life and seek the perfect job I was after. I was sad because I was leaving home and family, as well as the horses, but at the same time I saw a great professional opportunity here, and needed very badly to be with my husband. I knew that here I would find a broad variety of job positions that you can’t find in Colombia and could find an opportunity to redefine my career path. But before I started my job “research” and apply to as many jobs as I could, I took a pause, and reconnected with myself.
Reconnecting with myself
I wrote down all my characteristics, my passions, my fears, my hobbies, and my skills and visualized how I pictured myself in a couple of years. I thought about what kind of lifestyle I wanted and how I would like to spend my free time and savings. After reconnecting with myself, I heard that “inner me” wanting to do social work, communicating things of social interest and wanting to develop and exploit my creativity.
Once I was conscious of who I was and where I wanted to go, I started my job “research”. I researched on job portals to see what was on the market, what type of jobs were available and what qualifications I needed to have in order to successfully apply. From that exercise, I realized that as an immigrant I need “Canadian experience” and so, in that catch-22 situation I looked for volunteer opportunities. I found a very interesting one and the next day I arrived here, I had the interview and started.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I’m currently volunteering for a conservation non-profit organization, attending to sustainability and environmental events and doing as much networking as I can. I think I'm still in the path of a professional and personal transition as I'm in a new country, with different traditions and culture. But the important aspect is that I'm happy. I listened to my internal voice and I'm determined to find a suitable and fulfilling job for me.
I strongly believe that self-awareness, strength, perseverance and patience is all that is needed to successfully transition careers. For those who are on the same page, I wish you good luck!
Monica Gutierrez is an Environmental Engineer specializing in project management, with work experience in environmental management and Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in the oil & gas, mining, manufacturing, and food & beverage sectors. She is presently exploring opportunities in environmental sustainability and volunteering for a conservation non-profit organization.