Working part-time during the school year or between summer breaks is a reality for many students, as is the ever-present anxiety and uncertainty of job hunting after graduation. With living costs in Toronto being some of the highest in the country, it is no surprise that one of the main stressors on both current students and post graduates are their job prospects. We know that stable, “grown-up” office jobs are becoming harder to come by. Unlike our parents, we are less likely to start out and retire with the same company or organization.
The nature of what it means to pound the pavement has changed too. Online communities like the Bunz Employment Zone are busy hubs to start a job search, and a great LinkedIn page is now as important as a stellar cover letter. Startups, coworking spaces, and work-from-home technologies have changed the playing field as well as the location and timing of an average work day. The use of computer programs that sort through applicants has indefinitely impacted networking, and now it is more important than ever to make your name sit at the top of the pile.
Precarious employment is often painted in a poor light in political and social discourse, and for good reason. Workers of this nature often lack health and insurance benefits, vacation time, stable routine, and long-term paycheck stability. However, there is a case to be made for the benefits and opportunities that come with work that falls outside of the 9-5 office grind. Seasonal, temporary, and contract work can give you an exceptional leg up and a wealth of experience. There are more chances for movement between fields, greater opportunities to network, and the ability to develop multiple hard and soft skillsets.
Over the last four years since moving to Toronto, I’ve been one of those people that routinely changes up their source of income, taking short-term contracts and seasonal work; often combining part-time gigs. I’ve held positions as a tour guide in six different cities, an elf at the Toronto Christmas Market, a youth program coordinator, a dirndl-clad photographer, a red carpet assistant, a web producer for a travel publisher, an independent communications consultant, a brand ambassador, a higher education content creator, and an office manager. These positions have widened my windows of opportunity, often allowing me to get my foot in the door for job offers down the road. My colleagues in these positions have also been some of the most diverse I’ve ever encountered, allowing me to really learn from my peers on both personal and professional levels.
Precarious employment is by no means a long-term solution in a changing job market, but it will often be the reality for many millennials, particularly in the city of Toronto. The upside is that we have a revolving door of events and festivals to be staffed, a bevy of international corporations that routinely hire contract workers, a bustling tourism sector in any season, and a culture of innovation that thrives on short spurts of creativity and long-term planning. It takes a complex system of cogs and gears to keep this city running — openness to opportunities that come wrapped in non-traditional packaging may be the key to finding where your piece fits. Toronto’s job market is changing, and in order to remain here, our career strategies have to change with it.