Lissa Maria Hernandez Moya is 21 years old, Colombian-born and raised and since 2018, she has made Montreal her home. Back in 2018 at the age of 17, Lissa decided to pack a 23-kilo suitcase and go in search of opportunities in Canada. Today, with countless experiences and stories to share, she can say that everything was worth it and that she is grateful for that decision and her journey. Currently, Lissa Maria holds down a degree in Business Administration, works in accounting, and most importantly, she is proud of everything she has overcome and achieved since she arrived in Montreal.

YES: What were some of your goals when you started and how did you achieve them?

Lissa Maria: I was looking for an opportunity, an open door. I have always thought that “starting” is the most difficult point and that was where I was. My main goal when signing up with YES was to challenge and expose myself to the workforce. Facing insecurities, weaknesses, language barriers, and incorporating new habits were the means to overcome that self-sabotage. Something that I have discovered through participating in YES’ workshops is how persevering and determined I am. As time has passed and as I kept applying myself, it has been easier to gain confidence in myself and in what I can offer to others.

YES: What stage are you at now? What have been your greatest achievements?

Lissa Maria: Enrolling in the Youth on the Rise project allowed me to land my current job as an accountant clerk. Youth on the Rise is an employability skills training program that helps you to get employment-ready and assist you when applying for jobs. I attended workshops focused on Microsoft Office, Excel, job research strategies, resume writing, cover letter and interview preparation. These types of topics are not usually explained in school, but they are essential when it comes to finding a job. Likewise, the program does not leave aside the essence of us as people and includes the importance of self-care, work etiquette, and managing interpersonal relationships, stress, and time. I feel that these core values, both professionally and personally, are what make YES stand out as an organization. After completing it I was hired by an accounting firm in Montreal! All the preparation and training made it possible for me to venture into this new stage of my life. I feel myself growing professionally, learning, and gaining experience. Every day I have more confidence in my abilities, in sharing my ideas, in raising my voice, in my trilingualism, and in general, in myself.

YES: What were/are your biggest struggles?

Lissa Maria: Despite having completed my internship back in college and receiving my diploma, I felt unprepared for what it meant to enter the workforce. How do I look for a job in my area of study? How do I make my CV stand out? And what experience do I write about? What am I supposed to say in an interview? All that uncertainty made me hesitate to apply for jobs because I felt like I just did not have a chance. I also feel that the fact of being a woman, young, and an immigrant further reduced my opportunities to stand out from everyone else. My time at YES made me see that all those insecurities were really qualities that made me special, and that I should reshape them in my favor.

YES: What was the problem you were experiencing before you came into YES?

Lissa Maria: Since my arrival in Montreal, I have worked in the restaurant and customer service sector. My jobs during college included food preparation, waitressing, and serving customers. I did not have any work experience in the administrative sector and therefore, when I graduated, I spent several months without being able to carry out my degree. Going from college to work was overwhelming. I also felt that the pandemic limited hiring and that my lack of experience did not make it easy at all.

YES: How did YOTR help you get to where you are today?

Lissa Maria: Being a part of YOTR, I was able to get support for the transition between school to work, expand my network, improve my CV and professional profile. The tutors and program facilitators were always very encouraging and open to helping me and advising me on how to reach my goals in a realistic way. I learned a lot of information that I previously did not have access to or know about. That made me feel empowered, more secure, and less lonely when it comes to landing a new role.

Information is power and that is something valuable that the program offered me. Enrolling to Yes Montreal and YOTR are choices that I am incredibly grateful to have made and to have been a part of! Thanks YES!