Matthew Edwards Andrew Meade
Thwarted by the experience barrier
Landing a career isn’t the same as landing a job. Matthew Edwards knows that; he’s one of the thousands of young Canadians working at whatever job they can – if they’re working at all – while they find a way to do what they love.
The Trinidad native finished his business degree at Fredericton’s University of New Brunswick in May, hoping to get a job in marketing. He didn’t. Instead, he works in retail.
It’s a job, like so many others, but it’s not his dream. He could go back to Trinidad for work, but he’s not prepared to do that quite yet. He wants to stay in Fredericton, then move to Toronto to try the big-city life. “I wanted to get away from home, get some outside experience,” he says, “Job experience. Life experience.”
Mr. Edwards wants to take advantage of the opportunities Canada has to offer, but when there are even jobs around, he finds himself underqualified once he’s applied. He wants to be creative, but he can’t even get a start – employers want to hire people with a few years of experience for even the lowest-rung jobs.
There is one upside to his economy-driven career prospects: He’s now considering breaking into the comics industry, after years of thinking it wasn’t a viable option. “I never pursued it,” he said. “It was a bit of a risky thing to do. But I’ve been doing it more and more.”
Colin Finlay John Woods
Surviving the seniority bump
“It all started near the end of 2008 when things started hitting the fan, and that was the first time I got structured out of work.”
For Colin Finlay, it would happen twice more, each time struggling to find new work. He has been in his current job as a human resources professional at a local Winnipeg college since February.
The 36-year-old says he put a lot into his first supervisory job, so much so that his first marriage failed. Then he moved on to the University of Manitoba, and, as seniority goes, was bumped out by someone else who was losing a job.
Then it was on to a human resources consulting company, but that was when other companies were holding back on consulting services, given an uncertain climate.
“Although, yes, I did have success [finding a new job each time] I wouldn’t say that it was easy,” Mr. Finlay says. “My family and I were one foot out the door from Manitoba. We were ready to sell our house and move to Alberta in order to find work.”
Mike Keilhauer Moe Doiron
Adapting during hard times
When the world caved in in 2008, capital budgets were among the first things lost in the scramble. This did not bode well for the furniture business.
Keilhauer, an award-winning office furniture designer and manufacturer in Toronto, watched as its entire market changed. “We’re in the capital budget of every company,” president Mike Keilhauer says, “so our entire industry took quite a hit.”
The family-run company has been around for 30 years, but nothing shocked Keilhauer like the hit in 2008. Waiting it out was not an option, so the company literally turned to the drawing board.
Clients’ budgets were frozen or slashed, but they still needed furniture – so Keilhauer designed an executive chair with a cautious market in mind.
Vanilla was born. “We tried to get more for less,” Mr. Keilhauer says of the company’s low-cost upholstered conference chair. The company kept its penchant for award-winning design in mind, but found efficiencies in its materials and engineering.
At a different price point – as low as $800, compared to a usual starting price of $1,300 – Vanilla was launched in 2009, offering executives luxury seating in an age of austerity.
“It’s a straightforward product,” Mr. Keilhauer says, “but still beautifully designed.”
Vanilla helped keep the company’s books in good shape until furniture sales began returning to normal in 2011. It’s called Vanilla for its simplicity, but the name mirrors its luck on the shaky market. “It hit a sweet spot,” Mr. Keilhauer says.
Evelyn Schellenberg Rafal Gerszak
Pay cuts and battling for interviews
Evelyn Schellenberg is now earning about a third less than before she lost her middle-management job in Vancouver in late 2009.
She only just found work, and it has been a tough haul, despite a generous severance.
“I would say in the first year I sent out maybe 600 résumés, and I would say I went for maybe 10 interviews.”
Interviews were tough to get, with several hundred applicants for each job.
“I’ve always been offered every job I’ve ever interviewed for, and interviews were few and far between.”
Still, she managed her way through, with help from her family, and now she has cut back
“I owe about $10,000 on a line of credit, I owe my brother about $7,000 for paying my mortgage, I don’t have quite $5,000 on a credit card.”
When she was finally offered her current job, she was told the money wouldn’t be near what she had made before the recession.
“But I was just happy to be working, earning an income.”