I consider myself to be a pretty smart fella, but sometimes it takes awhile to get things through this thick skull.
I've been getting thoroughly exasperated and frustrated by the lack of decent paying jobs in this area. Employers around here are famous for wanting top-notch skills and extensive experience, but expect to be able to pay peanuts for such expertise. (Often under $10 an hour) In part, they get away with this because the area is so attractive to those looking for an outdoor lifestyle. Many workers will accept the low wages in order to live here for year or two to indulge in their passions. I've finally realized that the only times I've made decent money in the six years I've lived here have been when augmenting my income by freelancing in either computer consulting, photography, or any of several other of my areas of expertise.
I've also realized that a big part of my quest for full-time employment has been a desire to finally have it easier for a change. Having been self-employed for so many years, I really wanted to be in a position where it was someone else's responsibility to make sure there was money to pay me at the end of the month, to pay for benefits, and little luxuries like paid stat holidays and two weeks of time off a year. I'm finally having to accept that’s simply not going to happen here.
The problem with trying to survive on just freelancing here is the fact that most of my potential clients are directly or indirectly involved in the tourism industry, and that industry has been incredibly volatile for the last several years here. The combined effects of 9/11, the Mad Cow scare, Avian flu, the SARS epidemic, and last season's extensive forest fires, have led most businesses to cut way back on anything that can be considered an optional expense. This makes surviving on freelancing an incredibly dicey proposition. Because of that, up until now I had been concentrating on trying to find a full-time position.
Then things got interesting.
I got wind of a three day a week communications and marketing position, and put in an application. Surprise, surprise, I actually got an interview. (Yes, interviews have been few and far between the last couple of months.) The initial interview went quite well, in large part due to the fact that I had actually worked for a year in the Photo Services Department of this organization 2 1/2 years ago, so already knew an extensive amount about them.
The interview included a short editing test, and halfway through I started laughing, because it felt like just like editing one of my blog posts. I've done plenty of writing and editing for publication, so I breezed through the two selections quite quickly. It was fun to see the surprised look on my potential boss's face when I handed the stuff back in just a couple of minutes.
I was told that the decision would likely be made the following day, but instead got a call to attend a second interview with the Director of the Communications Division. I didn't understand this, as it seemed like overkill for what was essentially a part-time position. I was really conflicted about whether I even wanted the position, because the money wasn’t great, and three days a week certainly wouldn't be enough to live on. I’d also been badly screwed over in my previous position with the organization, but that was with a completely different division. On top of all that, they wanted to start the position at a lower wage for its probationary period, which was going to last a ridiculous six months.
There was no reason not to go to the second interview however, so I had a nice sitdown chat with the Director of Communications. Having learned my lesson in an interview for a previous job, as soon as I recognized that this was turning into another one of those ‘social chat’ interviews, I made a concerted effort to steer the discussion in the direction of the demands of the position and my skills and background which would be appropriate to the task.
The upshot of it all is I'm finally employed again.
When they called to offer the position, they said they were impressed with my background, and my high level of experience with the organization, so my prospective boss had asked for and obtained permission to offer the higher rate of pay immediately, and to essentially eliminate the probation period. I now suspect that was the reason for wanting the second interview. Even though it's a part-time position, they also specified it as a salaried position, which means I qualify for prorated benefits! I've never had a job that included benefits before.
Once I got over being disappointed that this wasn't a full-time position, it finally occurred to me that it might be possible to make this work. It could be the best of both worlds. I have been holding back on pushing for new long-term freelance work, because I didn't want to leave potential clients high and dry if I was able to get a full-time position. But now that I know that I’ll also be depending on the freelance work long-term, I'm going to put renewed effort into some ideas that I've been rolling around in my head. Since I've always enjoyed having a variety of challenges in my working life, this could work out really well, as long as I can actually make enough money to live on, and hopefully start paying off some of my debts.
The gig also comes with some great perqs. Because I’ll be coordinating the marketing for the shows and concerts the organization presents, I'll be expected to attend many of the performances. That'll include everything from Jazz and Ballet Festivals to top acts like Ani DiFranco, Stuart McLean, (of CBC’s The Vinyl Cafe) and Dido, among others. I also get dirt cheap access to the fitness center, which includes a really nice pool, climbing wall, and gym facilities, as well as subsidized meals. I'm also looking forward to the social opportunities that working in a larger organization again will present. That sense of isolation is one of the many challenges of been self-employed. I’ll be working in Banff again, so that will mean a commute, but once the weather warms up a little more, I’ll be able to commute by bike. I don’t start until 10 am, there are full changeroom facilities in the fitness centre & dress is casual so the logistics’ll be simple.
So it's not going to be easy, but at least I feel like I have a fighting chance of making it work. I really want to thank all of you who have continued to express interest in and concern & support for what was going on with my employment situation. I've been at my wits' end a couple of times, and you've pulled me through. The thoughts and prayers have been very much appreciated, and obviously did a great deal of good.