As it turns out, if you want to live in Toronto, you’re going to have to work in Toronto. And not at one of these 16 hours a week, give shifts away so you can go to the beach, minimum wage, ‘I sort of work here but really I’m an artist/writer/street performer’ kind of jobs. If you want to live and pay rent and eat and enjoy yourself in Toronto, you better werk. It took three months of me completely decimating my savings for me to realise that this was the case but now that I have there ain’t nothing going on but the rent.
My fall-back plan and the reason I’ve been able to travel so much in the last few years is copywriting. After a month of being completely incommunicado in Cuba I managed to get back in touch with a few of my clients and picked up some work, which was great, but to be honest copywriting is both a pleasure and a pain. I enjoy all of the work I do but struggle with working alone all the time and because I don’t really put the hours in I never make a great deal of money.
Within a few weeks I had gotten into a routine of going to the beautiful Toronto Reference Library to work each day then meeting my brother and boyfriend in the evening to drink beer and watch people exercise in the park. Once they both got jobs whole days would go by during which I didn’t speak to another soul and when I finally did see my brother or boyfriend I would be irritable, like I was annoyed that I had to talk out loud after spending the whole day inside my own head. I knew that if I was going to make Toronto work for me I was going to have to get out there, mix it up, meet new people and get myself a proper job.
I had been applying for jobs since I arrived, we all had, but they were mostly what I like to think of as ‘aspirational’ jobs. Jobs I knew I had a pretty slim chance of getting because I haven’t quite got the experience they require and there are too many people in Toronto who have. The dream is to get a part-time curatorial position in a museum or gallery and write part-time – essentially exactly what I was doing in Newcastle. And writing this now I realise I’ve never thought about it like that before. What does that mean? That I have the same aspirations but have simply taken them to a new place?
Thinking too hard about your ideal future is like trying to look directly into the sun. It’s only going to leave you dazed and blinded. Far better, I think, to let your hopes for the future cast their light and warmth onto your day to day life, gently illuminating and guiding you towards whatever it is you think you want. Spoken like a true factotum.
Fast forward a month and I now have two jobs. Two amazing, exciting but temporary jobs, one as a box office agent at Cirque du Soliel and one as a box office agent at the Toronto International Film Festival. For the Cirque job I went to an ‘open day’ at Adecco employment agency (FYI: ripped jean shorts and Birkenstocks are not suitable attire for an ‘open day’. I thought it would be a laid back affair, pick up a few leaflets, fill out a form, that kind of thing but no, it was an actual interview. I could have died.) Jean shorts notwithstanding they offered me a job in the box office the very next week. TIFF was another right place, right time situation. I didn’t hear back from my original application but someone dropped out at the last minute and they emailed me to see if I was still available. I couldn’t be more available for the Toronto International Film Festival and so here we are.
I might as well take this opportunity to say that everything you’ve heard about Canadians being incredibly friendly and apologetic is true. Every time I perform the most basic function of my job I am showered with gratitude and verbal high-fives. All of the stuff I should be saying, all that ‘have a great day’ and ‘thank so much for your time’ stuff, people say it to me instead. I’m waiting for the day that someone comes to my desk and asks if they can help me with something. And even if something goes wrong it’s like you Canadians don’t quite know how to complain. Even when you’re mad you say sorry and it’s more like you’re mad at yourself than anyone else. Where is your sarcasm? Where is your festering rage? Where is your sense of impotence in the face of higher powers that eternally work against you? Working in customer service in Canada is hardly work at all. You’re all just happy to be alive and why wouldn’t you be, you’re Canadian and you live in Toronto.
Both of my current jobs are temporary so the job hunt continues but I’m not worried about it. Right now I’m having a blast and getting a new job in a big city is a bit like going to prison, I think, the more times you do it, the easier it becomes.
Job sites I check every few days include www.workinculture.ca, www.rcip-chin.gc.ca (Canadian Heritage Network) and www.indeed.ca. The Bunz Entrepreneurial and Jobs page on Facebook has some good leads too. If you’re interested in museum/gallery work be sure to check the webpage of the institution itself as they often don’t advertise eg Art Gallery of Ontario and Royal Ontario Museum.
I was recruited for the Cirque du Soliel job through Adecco and saw the advert on www.indeed.ca
The TIFF job was posted on www.workinculture.ca