I must have been 20 years old when I first started to work. I remember my mix of fear and excitement at the prospect of going to work in Paris. Coming from a small village on the west coast of Ireland, Paris held the promise of adventure, a chance to practice my French and build a career. I had a job lined up and the promise of accommodation, or so I thought. Once there, the reality turned out to be quite different. I had to find alternative accommodation within the first week and navigating the local administrative hurdles was an education in itself. Où est votre visa Madame? the police agent asked, looking at my EU passport, when I attempted to register as a new arrival. I was far from home, alone and starting my career in a new country.
New colleagues face similar challenges. We can all remember what it feels like to start out and we can empathise with colleagues whose contracts are fixed with no guarantee of renewal. The isolation of the first months can be tough at a time when you most need advice navigating the new work environment and the local administrative paperwork. Feelings of uncertainty, the stress of not knowing if you are going to cope.
Having access to a network of people willing to advise you is essential and it is what Union Syndicale is all about.
My experiences led me to become a member of Union Syndicale. I keep with me my memories of what it was like starting out, the difficulties encountered the deep friendships built along the way but also the richness of the experiences to which I have had the privilege all because I took the road less travelled.