Jobless Project - Jessica Shields

Jessica's Story:

I have a two year diploma in Tourism and Hospitality Management.  I felt pressured to go to school and thought this to be a well rounded course that I could always find work in. I was particularly interested in Eco-Tourism, and I pursued related courses, as well as those in food and beverage rather than the hotel sector as at the time I didn't see myself in that sort of position.

I have never found a job in the Annapolis Valley that used my Eco-Tourism skills and I only know of a couple companies in the outskirts of the province that make use of this type of tourism.  I have worked in two different bars and restaurants over the last four years.

By the Annapolis river while Caramel and Marley play in the background

I moved to Alberta in May of 2012 with my boyfriend at the time. The relationship ended very quickly and I was forced to leave the province early December (2012). During my time in Alberta I had a secretary position making $18 and hour and also worked at a bar where I would average $150-$700 a shift in tips (plus an hourly wage).  Money masked my pain but home was where my heart was.  

My emotional and physical state needed me to be close to loved ones.  After returning to Nova Scotia I was unemployed for 8 months, and went on a medical EI program due to severe depression. I was not supposed to work for three months but I kept looking anyway.  I applied for jobs until May 2013 when I decided I needed to look out for myself and be innovative if I was going to stay in the area.

Money masked my pain but home was where my heart was.

I looked at my options for starting my own business. At this time, I had been trying to sell Passion Party Products for 6 months and not having much success; I was not making ends meet living in Halifax. So I moved home, back into my parents' house where I hadn't lived for almost 3 years.

I had just received my tax refund of about $3000. I decided this was the money that would change my life, sad as it is that $3000 was like winning the lottery to a 20 year old.  I started looking at property; I had always wanted to own a rental property but had no plan; it never was anything more than a cool idea. I just knew at that point in my life that living with my parents was not working, as much as I love them.  

The riverfront bench, a peaceful and quiet place to reminisce, talk, study or be alone with your thoughts.

I decided to look at houses in the neighbouring village of Lawrencetown since the Nova Scotia Community College Centre of Geographic Science was located there. I picked out two houses that I might just have enough to put a down payment on with my "lottery winnings"  and fell in love with 364 Main Street. It all happened very quickly and I scrambled up the remaining money to buy this place!  I was on EI at the time and had to find potential renters for the next school year in order for the bank to agree to give me my mortgage. I managed to pull through and before the house was even legally mine I had two renters out of a possible 5 bedrooms.

The house had a lot of paint, more sweat, and a lot of tears put into it and I was ready for my tenants by late August. Now I live here with my boyfriend and two dogs, Caramel and Marley, and five other student tenants.

Riverfront Rentals is now my business and my baby. I went into the landlord business foolishly and was far too naïve and nice, which over the year caused me a lot of headaches.  I learned so much about life over the last year and now I'm happy to be  my second year of running my business.

My personal employment as a Kennel Attendant at a local cat and dog boarding facility can at times make me very sad, but in the meantime I am building equity and on my way to a greater goal.

Now yes, I did have some luck but I have paid for it and had a lot of struggle to get to this point, and life continues to throw me curve balls.  I have a $11,000 student loan that's was on hold until this August,  until then I didn't have my head anywhere near to being above water to think about paying more than the absolutely essential bills.

My family has been supportive but I feel they do not always understand the struggle and frustration, they are quick to offer suggestions and instill confidence but to put on a brave face every day knowing you are "disposable" to your employer and you feel as if society doesn't care about you.

[Editor's note - While Jessica talked, I noticed she was playing with leaves, and also noticed the scar on her hand.]

When it comes to the the job application process, I think of rejection. Is basically the best word to sum it up.  You feel like giving up and that you aren't meant to do anything but break your back for other people and collect your 10.25 an hour and go home.   My boyfriend, and parents at times do not see the frustration I have had for the last two years working jobs just to make do, being unhappy in a job as well as being unhappy sending out 10 -20 resumes a month and not hearing a thing back. I have a lot of experience in different fields  (I also volunteer for a company helping people including mentally handicapped adults) and have developed what I believe are a lot of transferable skills. 

Living and having a relationship with so many other people living in such close proximity is very trying at times but I have been lucky enough to be with someone who embraces my journey as ours and we make it work - although there has been enough times where we almost haven't! He has just received a promotion at his work and he has bought his own home so at the beginning of November we will be moving out, however at the new house we will be living with two of our friends, again so all of us can make ends meet and try to get ahead.  My boyfriend and our two friends are in the military and still struggle at times due to various debts! 

A cup of tea in the living room while we talk. 


Tim: I'm still on the lookout for people who would be willing to share their story, please see the blogpost that outlines the criteria at and send me a note.  I would love it if you could help by sharing, retweeting, +1'ing etc.