– Aarti Sharma –

In February 2019, Tapaswini Mohanty, a mother of a 6-year-old, was about to finish her internship in software testing. Mohanty had not worked in Canada since she moved here in 2016. However, the effort she was putting into her internship made her optimistic, and that with the blossoms of the spring, her career would bloom too.

Mohanty recalls, “I was so ready to leap into the job market. But the lockdown locked the doors to my aspirations. For six months, my full-time job was to apply for jobs. I was desperate. I would stay up till 2 to 3 am in the night and apply for jobs. Each day was getting more frustrating as I would never get an interview call. Sleep and employment, both were strictly maintaining a social distance with me.”

With a sigh, Mohanty adds, “I was even ready to volunteer as a software tester for free. At one point, I even started to look for administrative jobs. But it seemed like the concept of isolation was being extended to people with no work experience.”

When the outbreaks in their area were causing anxiety among Mohanty’s neighbours, her husband was more worried about Mohanty’s recurring anger outbreaks. Mohanty says, “While other families were monitoring the symptoms for Covid-19, my husband was keeping a tab on the symptoms of depression that I was exhibiting. I felt helpless. I had become very negative, and it started affecting my family.” 

After six months of persistent yet futile efforts, in the fall of 2020, Mohanty decided to self-isolate from job hunting, and she put her dreams on hold. Spending more time with her kid was therapeutic for her.

While Mohanty was dealing with mental stress, Sudha Mishra, a part-time employee at a leading pharmacy in Canada, was navigating both financial and mental issues.

Mishra recalls, “Pre-pandemic, I was regularly getting working hours at the store. My goal was to jump to my well-deserved promotion soon. However, during the pandemic, my weekly working hours were reduced to nearly half due to reduced store timings. Country-wide lockdowns were prompting store closures too, and employees were losing jobs.”

“Being a part-timer, I was anxious about job loss. So, I had to cool down my blazing career goals, and I diverted my efforts to get as many working hours as possible. Our family is used to a certain way of life, and with reduced hours, we had to compromise on many things. You feel disappointed in yourself when you have to turn down the innocent wishes of your kids. Financial and emotional stress was having a compounding effect on my mental well-being. However, thanks to the Canadian government, who came to relief and supported all those staying on this land,” she says.  

Mishra also reveals, “My husband was working full time, so we could still sail the waves by sticking to needs and keeping recreation at arm’s length. However, some of my colleagues were single mothers who were so stressed that they had to turn to counselling.”

With the lifting of pandemic restrictions, the job market is bouncing back. Mohanty has recently landed a job as a processing clerk with a leading bank, and Mishra finally got her long-awaited promotion. Expressing her concern about how the job market will look post-pandemic, Mishra speculates, “I think many people are getting used to ordering online. In addition to being safer, it saves time too and hence can become a lifestyle soon. The number of walk-in customers has dropped. Some people even prefer to self-checkout even if the cashier is available. It concerns me if there will be enough jobs for workers. We may have to learn new skills and even change occupations.”

Concurring with Mishra, Mohanty adds, “We do have to invest in upgrading our skills all the time. I know it will still be challenging for me to enter into the field of my choice. I am keeping the spark of my hope alive.”