Get a job, they say

Competing for employment in Kawartha Lakes

By Lisa Hart

Even applications for customer service positions I felt perfectly qualified for were leading nowhere.


There is nothing quite like the feeling of being underemployed. It can make you sensitive about being judged by others. It becomes a dirty little secret you hide from the people who comment about the declining work ethic in society today. 

I had my own reasons for working from home as a freelance writer during the pandemic – namely, the two seniors who I shared a home with, who I loved dearly, and who I wanted to protect if possible. My choice left me ineligible for any form of government assistance. My income was unpredictable and often meagre, but I felt my parents needed me, and time proved the wisdom in my decision. After they died, I found myself in need of a more traditional and dependable source of income.

The job search would not be all that hard, I reasoned. The current opportunities in Kawartha Lakes appeared to be abundant. That was about the time Premier Doug Ford was making comments about being able to “walk down every street in this province and find a job in every single sector. Unfortunately, I was about to face the reality of just how hard I would have to work to compete for one of those jobs.

When I first updated and polished my resume, I attempted to create a document that uniquely represented me to a potential employer. It highlighted my many years of experience in customer service, my competency in communication, as well as my budding skills in marketing and public relations. It showed my organizational abilities, creativity and desire to learn.

Then, filtering through the many online postings, I tried to come up with an answer to the question everyone seemed to ask – what kind of job was I looking for? Since I wanted to keep my options open, I identified decisive factors to use in my job search rather than focusing on any particular type of position or title. Naturally, a living wage for a single income household topped the list. Preferably, the job would be in Lindsay and, because of long-term effects from a car accident, involve a minimum of heavy lifting. I knew I wanted a job that would offer some challenges to give me a sense of professional pride, and likewise where my dedication and loyalty would be appreciated. Ideally, I hoped to work in a creative team environment.

My first few applications were unsuccessful in opening any of the doors to those jobs supposedly lining the streets. A closer inspection of the additional information provided by the employment search engine, Indeed, revealed a troubling trend. It dumbfounded me how many times my application was one of 50 to 150 applicants vying for jobs in Kawartha Lakes. Considering the reports about a shortage of workers to fill job vacancies, I was left to wonder just who these other candidates were and what skills they were offering that I was not?

Disheartened by a continuing lack of response, but still considering myself a skilled candidate with years of experience to offer, I researched the online application process more closely. That research uncovered a dark side – it is called the Applicant Tracking System (ATS). It appeared in many cases I was sabotaging my own job search efforts. My nonconforming resume template was actually increasing the chances of my application ending up in the virtual trash before a human ever saw it.

Modern ATS software tools can scan resumes in milliseconds using keyword technology, filtering for only those envisioned to be the best candidates. Online articles recommend pulling the keywords from job postings and weaving them appropriately into a customized resume. That left me with only one question – which words are the keys?

Even applications for customer service positions I felt perfectly qualified for were leading nowhere. Forget my initial sensitivity to being underemployed, I was quickly slipping into feelings of shame about being unable to better my employment situation.

Someone asked me if I felt I was a victim of ageism? I did not have an answer for them. With 30 years of job experience listed on my resume, it would not take a mathematician to figure out I am no longer a woman in my 20s or even 30s anymore. I have never knowingly faced discrimination, so I feel uncertain how to factor in this possibility.

Some of my friends and family began to recommend cold calling businesses I thought I might like to work for. It was a stressful avenue for me to take personally, and my baby steps in this direction were met with mixed reactions. Oftentimes, the personal approach did not get me any further than an online application. On occasion, I even left the encounter feeling guilty for interrupting the employer’s business activities.

I decided to register at Victoria County Career Services (VCCS). I sought to find – if nothing else – an unprejudiced evaluation of my skills, a sounding board, a cheerleader and maybe a refill for my dwindling sense of hope.

Their job board appeared small compared to the likes of Indeed, but at least it was being administered by humans. My counselor encouraged me to attend a VCCS job fair for an opportunity to engage with some local employers face-to-face. Arriving at the event early, I was once again surprised by the number of attendees, considering the supposed lack of workers. I uncovered a couple of leads among the generous selection of general labour jobs and seasonal positions. I actually left feeling somewhat encouraged.

I am still on the hunt for a full-time job. Regardless of what those on the sidelines might say – the process of applying for work can leave you discouraged, frustrated and potentially lead you to doubt your own abilities. There are no shortcuts. The only secret to getting through may be in finding an individual (or better yet, a network of individuals) who believe in you and what you can do, even when you can’t.


  1. Lance Mitchell says:

    Thank-you for sharing your employment seeking journey thus far. I have often heard that there are tons of jobs out there, but still a lot of unemployed who do not want to work. Your story is refreshing because there are people, such as yourself, who are actively doing the best they can to find the employment that is so needed and desired. All the best as you persevere in your continued search.

  2. Lisa Hart says:

    Thank you for your kind words of support Lance!

    • Catherine says:

      Lisa, thanks for the insights your article provides. My daughter, a recent university graduate, is also looking for work using Indeed and LinkedIn and has not had any requests for interviews yet. I find the ATS information fascinating and discouraging. There’s nothing like the human touch. I wonder if mailing in a resume would have any better result? I’ve also always thought that utilizing networks of people, a warm lead, was best. As a woman in my 50s, I would not want to bee looking for work right now. Good luck with your search.

  3. Lisa Hart says:

    Thanks Catherine, I wish your daughter luck too. Waiting and hoping to get a call for an interview has always been a stressful part of the process. I agree that there is nothing like the human touch so we keep changing things up, searching out new leads and experimenting with different ways to approach employers. We have to keep believing in the value of the product we are marketing – ourselves!

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