Finding work and Fitting in

I’m not alone in London. There are many people in our City that can’t find work. Some don’t really want to I suppose. Others are seemingly unqualified or have little experience. I haven’t taken a comprehensive poll or anything but unemployment remains fairly high in London. I’ve only been back since August of last year and I didn’t really expect to find anything overnight. Still, it’s sometimes depressing that I have yet to find anything.

I have a University Degree. It’s nothing advanced but a 3-yr BA with a concentration in Political Science and 7 years of work experience at Toronto City Hall which I feel is the equivalent of a Masters Degree in Municipal politics. The number of issues I worked on spanned all areas of municipal governance and like any political scientist would, I endeavored to become an expert in those that I dealt with. Among those I took the most pleasure learning about were Urban Planning and Urban Design, Transportation, Water and Solid Waste.

I also worked for an ITS company that sent me all over North America. I probably attended as many Transportation Seminars in my 2-years with Skymeter as I attended lectures during my University career. Many of those focused on transportation economics, community consultation and other areas of Canadian and US governance. I am very lucky to have had this experience and to have traveled to places like Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, New York City and Washington DC. I love Cities.

So here are two of my big interests in policy: Transportation and Urban Planning. London has such a tiny public/governance sector though so it’s difficult to figure out what to do here. I have a ton of useful transferable skills from these experiences and yet I haven’t been able to find work. I could start my own venture but with my experience and skills, it’s hard to identify and to follow-through on them. What is the demand in London for the informal education that I have in the above-noted areas?

I’ve gone in circles on various ideas. Should I start a non-profit to deal with a) horrible transportation issues b) horrible Urban growth issues c) municipal interaction? Is there a need for a Local Living Economy Alliance group to build support for local shopping/eating/thinking? If the answer is yes to any of these, what is the revenue model to ensure I can eat and perhaps some day live on my own again? What are the projects that such an organization would work on? Is there a constituency of support in London or are people here happy with the City they’ve created? Is it a Membership-driven organization or does it sustain itself doing some consulting work as well? Perhaps think-tank events (also known as camps) create a revenue stream by bringing in top-notch urban thinkers? Do you know of a source of grants for such a venture?

Where is my niche? I don’t need a lot to get by. I’d like an apartment somewhere close to downtown so that I can get around by bicycle. I’d like to eat well and have a little money left for entertainment. I’ve decided I’m much more about relationships and experiences than I am about things. There you have it. That’s my dilemma. How do I dig out of debt (or declare bankruptcy) while also moving forward and working to make the world a better place? Your ideas are welcome.


4 Responses to “Finding work and Fitting in”

  1. 1 Kathy Smith
    March 17, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    There is nothing more isolating than feeling like you/I don’t fit in. I have felt that way in the past and it can lead to negative feelings and (in some cases) a prolonged depression. We all want to feel like we belong and we are valued in our communities.

    Where to start? I wrestled with this when I moved back to London from downtown Toronto. In Toronto, I felt a sense of place and I had a social network. Back in London, I was faced with the daunting task of rebuilding all of my relationships – personal, professional and social.

    I started by asking how I could help others do what they wanted to do. I temporarily put my own needs and agenda on the back burner. When people started to realize I had experience and skills to help them, I started to feel like I was recognized and valued. It took awhile before I could start making the changes I thought needed to be changed.

    The problem is – leaders can’t proclaim themselves to be leaders. New people need to pay their dues which sometimes seems unfair. I realized I couldn’t come back to London and expect people to value me or trust me. Trust and respect are things that I had to earn – all over again. Even though I thought my Toronto experiences could be of benefit – it took a long time before others “got me.”

    I suggest you start by offering your assistance to help others with projects that are already underway. You might not be the leader of those projects but you might be able to assist the leadership. Start your new initiatives on a small scale and work away at them – on the side. When the timing is right, you can bring your own initiatives to the foreground. Patience grasshopper….

  2. March 17, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    Yes. I very much appreciate your comment Kathy. I have volunteered for a number of things. My dilemma however goes more to a need to earn some amount of money more than he $471/month that I get from Welfare to enable me to do much of anything.

    I experience the problem of suburbia. Its extremely isolating out here on the edge. I’m happy personally. Just not fulfilled or feeling very engaged.

  3. 3 Kathy Smith
    March 17, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    Finding work – that’s a tough one right now. Most of the people I know who are getting jobs have a very well developed network. They have established professional relationships with the few people who are hiring – so there is a distinct advantage.

    In tough times, our social and professional networks can provide much needed support and leads.

    My advice is to take whatever you can while you put your longer-term career plan in place. Get an evening job so you have your days available for job-hunting and networking.

    Here at my apartment building, I met a young woman who is working on night security watch while she looks for her ideal job. I really admire her optimism and tenacity. She refuses to give up.

    She is a single mother as well – so I know she is made of steel. I would hire her in a nano second because of her character and commitment. She didn’t complain about her situation to me. She is determined to make her plan work even though she has run into a temporary detour.

    She works from 10 PM to 6 AM. Then she goes home to have breakfast with her teenage kids and get them off to school. She grabs 4 hours of sleep and goes job hunting/networking until 4:30 PM then back home to make dinner and connect with them. When the teens are winding down for the night, she’s off to work. She catches up on her sleep on the weekends.

    She won’t be able to keep the pace up for long, but I know she’ll have a good job very shortly because of her tenacity, belief in herself and work ethic. Right now, this young woman is my hero….

    • 4 Kathy Smith
      March 17, 2010 at 8:43 pm

      I should also say that my son is my hero too. He has taken a job he would’ve NEVER considered in better times. It’s been a bit humbling for him (understatement.) However, he dragged his butt to work everyday during the winter to something he essentially hated.

      He made it through the winter. Sometimes it’s truly one day at a time until a better opportunity appears….

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