A month or so back, I received an email from a former colleague of mine in the publishing industry. Would I consider meeting with her son, she asked. He’s trying to break into the marketing field. I said yes, of course, feeling uneasy about what I could possibly do to help. Entry-level marketing jobs are at something of a premium these days. Turns out, he already knew that.
We met on Friday. I’m not going to share his name because he’s considering a Q&A with me on his experiences looking for work. I suggested he sleep on it before becoming internet famous for being young and unemployed.
I was impressed. He has all the things I look for in a recent graduate: good education, strong communication skills, organized and presentable. He’s also surprisingly experienced, having spent the last couple of years temping and volunteering for a number of organizations.
Such is life for the class of 2008. I’ve been thinking about that a lot since our coffee. I remember how overwhelmed I felt coming out of school: breaking into the job market felt like trying to land a spot on Broadway.
I left Ryerson Polytechnical Institute (Ryerson University now) with an undergrad degree in journalism and my heart set on a gig at CBC. I’d been taught radio by Stuart McLean and television by Peter Mansbridge. I thought I had it made.
I was introduced to one of the department heads at CBC Radio. He liked me. In fact, he told me he wanted to give me a job as a producer – a step above entry-level – because of some experience I’d gained hosting a show at CKLN-FM. I was 21 years old, and felt like everything was falling into place.
There’s just one thing, the CBC executive said a bit awkwardly. The corporation was in the early stages of cutbacks in the radio department, and they couldn’t bring me in. Please stay in touch, I was told. I did, for a couple of years. But the cutbacks kept coming. To this day, I think about what a career at CBC might have been like.
The truth is though; the class of 1988 (of which I was a member) has nothing on the kids that followed 20 years later.
Here’s what my new friend has been through. He had to leave Vancouver, where he’d hoped to start his career. He had to move back in with his family because he couldn’t afford to pay rent. He has successfully completed multiple internships, only to be told that he is being replaced by a new intern because it simply doesn’t make sense for the employer to pay him for work they can have done for free.
It was humbling to hear him tell that story. He is, like thousands of other young Canadians, experiencing an introduction to the workforce unlike any seen since the 1930s.
My story was supposed to show him that a career often takes unexpected turns, and that what we think we want in our early 20s often changes with time. I think what he heard was another story about how hard it is to get a career started.
I don’t blame him a bit.