Open Door Society job fair invites job seekers to nurture their mental health

Saskatoon Open Door Society's WeConnect job fair brought together 30 employers and hundreds of job seekers Thursday - many of them newcomers to Canada.

30 employers and over 1,000 job seekers turned up for WeConnect at TCU Place

Sumetha Geevarghese is an engineer who came to Canada from Bahrain. She's seeking an entry-level job while she settles into Saskatoon. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

Saskatoon Open Door Society's WeConnect job fair brought together over 30 employers and hundreds of job seekers Thursday — many of them newcomers to Canada.

Sumetha Geevarghese moved to Saskatoon from Bahrain over the summer, and has been searching for an entry-level job, despite her qualifications as an engineer.

"I tried applying for Saskatoon Polytechnic because my background is also in teaching," she said

Geevarghese handed her resume to the school, and to several other employers looking for administration support.

To prepare for the job search, she took a course through the Open Door Society to familiarize herself with Canadian workplace culture.

"It's totally different," she said. "In Bahrain, it's a little more strict. Here it is more laid back and you can call your employers by their name, or Mr. or Ms. instead of sir or madam."

Psychotherapist Giti Caravan says newcomers need mental health support during their move to Canada, and for several years afterwards, while they put down roots. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

Healthy mind, healthier workplace

Geevarghese counts herself lucky — her job search has been relatively short so far.

"It's just been four months and I came during the summer season, so I'm fine. If I came during the winter, I might be in a depression," she said

Others are less fortunate, and may spend several months looking for work, all the while trying to acclimatize to a new culture, sometimes speaking a language completely foreign to them.

The job fair featured, for the first time, a "de-stress corner," open to job seekers and employers.

"Most people are looking for jobs and they become so sensitive, and they start to focus on lack, they start to focus on rejection," said Giti Caravan, a psychotherapist assisting at the fair.

Caravan emphasizes the importance of a healthy mind throughout the job search, and tries to encourage newcomers to focus as much on themselves, as on employment.

Most people are looking for jobs and they become so sensitive, and they start to focus on lack, they start to focus on rejection."- Giti Caravan, psychotherapist

Many newcomers, however, are overwhelmed.

"When someone moves from one place to another, they go towards the basics, and basic needs like living, and finding a job," said Caravan

An exhibit at the WeConnect job fair encourages job seekers to strike a pose like a super hero and display their confidence. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

"Immigrants need to take care of their mental health, but there's stigma and it's taboo."

Employment counsellor Lavin Saleh recognized a need for further mental health resources for her clients, as well as in her own office, and was the driving force behind the job fair initiative.

"I wanted to incorporate mental health into job seeking and employee satisfaction. I wanted to spark the conversation and really have our newcomer clients and the general public be aware that it's a critical factor in well-being," she said.

Saleh set up bristol boards with helpful tips on beating anxiety and focusing on mindfulness.

The "Strike a Pose" booth encourages job seekers to pose for a photo.

"A study found that participants who engaged in open poses were more confident and had a higher level of testosterone, rather than a closed, subdued pose," said Saleh

"When you physiologically engage in these behaviours, it can help you mentally."

Matthew Palsich, an Android developer at 7Shifts, says he met several potential colleagues at WeConnect. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

Diversity an asset to employers

One of the employers at the fair, 7Shifts, is a company in need of talented people.

"The company is growing so fast we're tripling, quadrupling in size," said Matthew Palsich, an Android developer at 7Shifts.

The company has offices in Saskatoon and Toronto, and a global client-base.

"We find that we're facing unique challenges and diverse problems. It turns out when you have diverse problems, you need diverse people, with ideas that may challenge my viewpoint, from growing up in one location," said Palsich.

The Open Door Society says 1,500 people in total attended the fair.

About the Author

Bridget Yard


Bridget Yard is a video journalist based in Saskatoon. She has also worked for CBC in Fredericton and Bathurst, N.B.