From Invisible to Unstoppable
Leandro Rocha’s determination gets him past barriers to the right job
Shortly after arriving in Canada in 2018, Leandro Rocha entered into a typical job search process with some initial success in early phone interviews. But second stage, in-person interviews were a different story.
“One time, I was in the reception area waiting to be called in,” he recalls. “I was the only one there. A man came out, looked around, and then asked the receptionist where the job candidate was. I was right in front of him, but he didn’t see me. The wheelchair got in the way. I didn’t get that job.”
Injured in 2004 during an MMA championship competition in his native Brazil, Leandro managed to slowly improve his mobility from quadriplegia to paraplegia. Once his recovery had stabilized, he set out to find work in his field. With an undergraduate degree in accounting, an MBA and a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) certification, Leandro had no difficulty landing a job. But that changed when he moved to Canada.
“People here seemed to be afraid of my wheelchair,” he says. “My education and experience are excellent, and I always did well on the phone. But once I showed up for an interview, people seemed shocked. And they expressed all kinds of concerns about my ability to do the work. I didn’t get any offers.”
Leandro realized he would have to change his approach. Through a Google search, he found Spinal Cord Injury Ontario (SCIO) and connected with Employment Services. He then availed himself of the workshops and individual supports on offer. He revised his résumé, practiced new interview skills tailored to a Canadian job market and learned how to introduce his mobility limitations on the phone. He also attended job fairs and was coached on where to send his application.
Eventually, he received a job offer from Apple Canada in retail sales at the Fairview Mall store.
“That’s not my area of expertise, and I was reluctant to do it. But the people at SCIO pushed me to go ahead, and I’m glad they did. I got valuable work experience and was challenged in a new environment. Plus, it was great to see that there are places like Apple Canada where a disability doesn’t mean being invisible. That was good for my confidence.”
With a move from Toronto to Windsor on the horizon for family reasons, Leandro started a second job search. He was determined to succeed in his field and developed a strategy based on what he had learned from Employment Services.
“I was more open about my situation before arriving for a live interview. I was also very intentional in discussing accommodations. None of that was necessary in Brazil, but it was needed here. The coaching and support I received at SCIO made me an attractive candidate.”
Leandro now works as an Assistant Controller at Global Excel Management, a travel insurance company. He relocated to Windsor to work with them and has progressed to his current role in less than two years with the company. He says the greatest factor in his decision to move and join the company was the amazing attitude and accommodations the company has provided. Leandro says, “I feel their embrace and I’ve received a lot of respect since my first day.”
Leandro encourages others to persevere while on the job hunt. On his journey, he states “It’s harder to get hired with a disability, but it’s important to never give up. I really want the challenge of learning and growing every day in my field, and now I have that.”
It may be one of our best-kept secrets, but it shouldn’t be. We have a team of employment experts on staff to share best practices in job search and employability skills. We can also connect job seekers to jobs and work with businesses to help round out their staff needs entirely free of charge through physical locations in the GTA. You can also attend one of our Skills for Success workshops to pick up some helpful tips to help in your job search.