Finding Your Calling: With Anisa Mottahed

Finding Your Calling: With Anisa Mottahed

By: Jien Hilario | SFU Alumni
  2180 reads

As a person with a mental health condition, I am afforded the luxury of having access to a mental health team in my province. Included in this mental health team is a Vocational Rehabilitation Counsellor. Anisa, my Vocational Rehabilitation Counsellor, has helped to condense my resume so as to make it more succinct and visually appealing for potential employers. She is also helping me apply for jobs and helping me discern the legitimacy of certain employers.

I sat down with Anisa to pick her brain about a variety of topics, including how she became a Vocational Rehabilitation Counsellor and the barriers people with disabilities face in today’s job market.

When I asked Anisa, “what exactly does a Vocational Rehabilitation Counsellor do?” She told me that there are generally two definitions, one of which is the general description  and the other definition being specific to each organization that employs Vocational Rehabilitation Counsellors. Anisa works for the Canadian Mental Health Association or CMHA. According to Anisa, the CMHA’s description for what a Vocational Rehabilitation Counsellor does is someone who is part of a mental health team that uses a psychosocial rehabilitation perspective to help clients achieve their employment goals.

Anisa also mentioned that the CMHA follows the Individual Placement and Support or IPS framework. The IPS model is a philosophy that empowers the client and gives them hope and insight. This is the model she has been using with me, as I am one of her clients, and I quite enjoy the client-centred approach the IPS model yields. The IPS has been the most successful model, according to Anisa.

When I asked Anisa about the barriers people with disabilities face when it comes to finding employment, she mentioned four words: fear, misunderstanding, misconceptions, and discrimination. Anisa mentions how it is hard enough for a non-disabled person to find a job and when you add a disability or mental health condition into the mix, there is an added layer of challenge. One study conducted by Stats Canada found that “[a]mong Canadians with a disability, 12% reported having been refused a job in the previous five years as a result of their condition.”  That percentage rose to 33% among 25 to 34-year-olds with severe or very severe disabilities. 

Another topic I asked Anisa about was if there were any differences in the application processes of applying to a temporary position versus a permanent position. Anisa conveyed that the application processes were, for the most part, the same. A company expects the same level of aptitude in terms of your cover letter and resume whether you are applying to a permanent or temporary position.

Anisa mentions that temping for a company or organization is a great place to start. Once you have shown that you are capable and have initiative, you can begin to work your way up. Anisa mentioned the example of Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs dropped out of school and slowly built his company until it got bigger and bigger. The moral of the story is that you need to be open to every opportunity and all possibilities. You need to be prepared to do the “grunt work”, as Anisa would say.

One last thing I spoke to Anisa about was her personal career journey. She finished her General Arts degree in English Literature and Hispanic Studies and, after graduating, did not know what direction she wanted to move forward to in terms of her career. She worked in customer service, at first, and realized it was not the career for her. Then, she spent two years in the finance industry. Those two years she spent in finance prompted her to go back to school.

Anisa returned to school and studied Social Service Work. When she was in the program, she had a light bulb moment and was able to say, “this is my calling”.

Anisa’s first job in the social service field was working for PLEA as a Youth Development Worker, specifically in their Onyx program, which helps youth who are being sexually exploited, or are at risk of becoming sexually exploited. Then, she worked as a Coordinator for The WISH Drop-in Centre in the Downtown East Side. Eventually, Anisa became an Employment Counsellor. Afterwards, she also held the position of Victim Service Worker at WAVAW and the Manager position at the UBC Sexual Assault Centre. Anisa, then, found her way back to employment counselling and is now a Vocational Rehabilitation Counsellor with CMHA.

My personal career journey is in its beginning stages. I finished my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology recently and am trying to find my calling. So far, I have worked for SFU as a Writer/Researcher, for a Montessori school in their Admin department, for a tutoring franchise as a Tutor, and most recently, for a software company in their Admin/HR department. I am hoping that, one day, I will have that light bulb moment like Anisa had and will be able to say, “This is my calling”. 

Image Credit: Career Addict  

Jien Hilario is an SFU alumna. She has written multiple articles about volunteerism, rights, abilities and disabilities and is passionate about sharing her story about personal and professional development. 


Beyond the Article 

Posted on June 01, 2018