While Kate Brunger arrived in Canada in 2014 with two degrees, as many professionals from abroad have found, it wasn't easy starting a new career in a new land.
After eventually getting a work permit in 2016, the New Westminster resident still found the adjustment of going from "100 to 0" a challenge, after running her own tutoring business in the Philippines.
She had the education, with degrees in nursing and political science, but she lacked the confidence and found it difficult to get traction for a successful job hunt in her new home.
Taking an administrative assistant course in 2017 helped considerably and helped get her appointments for three job interviews. While taking the course, Brunger heard about Dress for Success and decided to ask for help to get ready for those interviews.
Dress for Success is a women's networking group that gives support, networking and the appropriate clothes and confidence needed to join the work world.
"I didn't feel that I had the right clothes to present myself in the way I wanted to present myself," Brunger said Thursday, Nov. 9.
She added she found it hard to reach out for help because she didn't feel she deserved it or she worried she was taking away help from someone else.
"I was received so warmly," Brunger said.
Dress for Success volunteers found her the clothes that suited her and the work world and helped her feel good about herself.
"When I looked at myself in the mirror, I felt that that was who I wanted to be."
She wore her new outfit to those interviews and within a week she was looking at three job offers.
"Some would say I was very lucky, but I felt the outfit gave me the courage and confidence," Brunger added.
Sticking with her adjustment to a new land has earned her this year's Inspiration Award from Dress for Success, where she now helps out as a mentor.
Success though wasn't all because of the dress.
The three-month administrative assistant course offered by SuccessBC gave her a Canadian credential that was missing in her resume.
Volunteering with the Canadian Mental Health Association thrift store in New West did the same by providing Canadian experience and helping her feel part of the community.
She soon accepted a job with the City of Burnaby and worked her way up from receptionist to administrative officer in 2019 in the city's licensing department. She’s now an IT consultant for the city.
Brunger notes though that her experience is a common one and advises other women in the same situation to take advantage of programs offered by Mosaic Settlement and Employment Services, WorkBC, or SuccessBC. Volunteering can also help newcomers become a part of the community, she added.
"The support of Dress for Success Vancouver set me on a path of self-discovery and self-development that I couldn’t have imagined," she said in a news release.
"I am honoured to be accepting this award at the upcoming Success Luncheon. Dress for Success is a sisterhood I am so proud to be part of. I want all women to have the opportunities they have given me."
This year, Dress for Success Vancouver is hosting its 11th annual success luncheon, Nov. 21, at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver.