In the Peruvian Amazon, tribes of native rainforest people hunt their prey using blowguns loaded with poisonous ten-inch darts. Likewise, 5,889 km away in Toronto, educated women are hunting for jobs with a blowgun called the Internet, equipped with ammunition in the form of soft-copy resumes and cover letters. It’s the first world fight for survival, and the pressure is on to land a job that will guarantee a burrito dinner with no regret, extra guacamole.
While the similarities between hunting in the Amazon rainforest and finding work in the Ontario job market are difficult to see at first glance, one thing is for certain: starvation is not an option. With that in mind, here’s what you will need to survive:
An updated resume
The last time I updated my resume, I was twenty and dreamt of being Kate Hudson in Almost Famous. This was also around the time I worked in a hair salon selling shampoo, crunk grinded to dubstep at Mod Club and ate Big Slice pizza for lunch every day. Now I’m using my blurry-eyed university past as a stern reminder to everyone: PLEASE, for the love of Big Slice’s twenty-one-inch Hawaiian Monster pizza, update your resume right now. Chances are your former resume was written by a rainbow-chasing Deadmau5 fan (Sarah Brown circa 2012) and is so terrible that you’ll wonder how you ever found a respectable job in the first place. Next, write a super cover letter to make future employers want to lurk you on Twitter. In the fight for survival, professional lurk-baiting is dynamite.
Applying for jobs on Craigslist is as uncertain as blowing poisonous darts into the trees of the Amazon jungle. Amidst the all-caps postings, namely, “APPLY TODAY, START TOMORROW, FAST CASH!!” and “Looking for Asian, blonde and brunette ladies,” it’s hard to tell if something is a promising offer or a potential kidnapping. Oh, and then there are the positions with little-to-no description that promise a fantastic, life-changing opportunity to work from home and be wildly successful. (Yet another zero-income offer to join a sketchy pyramid scheme. No thank you.)
Then, like a beaming burst of sunlight after a summer rain shower, there is finally a posting that looks intriguing. Wrong again. It’s just another well-worded advertisement to become a sex worker. Alternatively, it’s an eighteen-year-old U of T kid looking for someone to do his “Academic Course Writing” for unspecified compensation. Sorry kid, I’m looking for my next big break, not a book report on King Solomon’s Mines.
Stay alert, and avoid kidnap.
In case you’re wondering about the likelihood of finding a job on LinkedIn, I have no idea. All I know is that nine people have endorsed me for “Photocopying” as a skill on my profile, and that brings me great joy. Do yourself a favour and sign up. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find a job as a professional photocopier!
When I worked in PR, networking felt forced and uncomfortable–like wearing 3D glasses in the front row of Godzilla. After I persuaded myself to think more positively about it, networking became the Iggy Azalea remix of a grade eight slumber party–obnoxiously amusing, with fancy cocktails instead of cold popcorn.
The best way to meet like-minded folks who do interesting stuff in Toronto is by networking. Sure, it’s awkward, but everything is awkward, so force yourself to do it and meet the professionals of all things cool, compelling and magnetic. Why not give it a try? Toronto is, after all, notorious for its FOFs (friends-of-friends), entrepreneurial risk takers and artsy kids.
And if you’re still feeling timid, remember that nobody is “naturally talented” at networking. Most people are just good at pretending they are. Watch what they do, mimic it, and try not to act like Cruella de Vil at a puppy adoption; most people will see that you are overcompensating for something. And if they do catch on to your amateur technique, make a terrible joke, take a whisky shot and Instagram a cool picture of the chandelier. That works, too.
I am the MC of shaky nerves. Last week, I spent three hours researching the new “Middleterranean” food trend that’s hitting Toronto so I could impress the partner of a Queen West food chain with my pocket knowledge about the appeal of stove ovens and the health benefits of raw vegan food. During the interview, I barely said anything related to what I had researched. Instead, I briefly talked about food trucks, my go-to blah blah background experience and why Google+ sucks. So be comfortably prepared, don’t overthink it, and never shake someone’s hand with your left hand. That has happened to me before, and it felt really strange.
Remember: You are not the biggest loser
If you don’t get an immediate response to a job inquiry, don’t be shocked if you feel like a crushed can of beer. After slaving away for hours on end, updating the resume, writing new cover letters and customizing role-specific submissions, it’s natural to think that an employer will respond immediately with an interview or job offer, because you’re obviously awesome. But the truth is that it takes time to get a response. Employers have other demands, and it will take longer than a few minutes to consider you as a possible candidate. Be patient (and please, don’t tattoo those words on your wrist).
Back to the Amazon
Pursuing a new job is like climbing barefoot up a ninety-foot tree to hunt a monkey with a blowgun. It’s hellishly tiresome, and all you’re really thinking about is brunch, the next Raptors game or the cost of almond milk. As hard as you try, and no matter how many darts you blow, you don’t really know what you’re going to hit until it’s within sight. All you can do until that moment is take a deep breath, eat a big slice of pizza, and embrace the scary, exhilarating depths of the unknown. The Amazon ain’t that bad.