Updated June 27, 2012
While shopping at the local Save-on Foods I picked up a card-brochure of the Service Canada Centre for Youth (SCCY). To find current youth employment resources, visit the main Youth Canada site). This program, under a different name, helped me find my first summer job in 1986. All my friends were working at McDonald’s for $2.85/hour. I was making a whopping $5.00/hour as a bookkeeper for a vitamin wholesaler. I was a junior “professional”. This job paid me enough to explore Expo 86 in Vancouver, buy new clothes, and date the receptionist. I didn’t save a dime that year.
Job hunting had never been easier in my life. I knew how to write a resume and a cover letter, but all my so-called “work” experience was as a volunteer. While I had done some freelance work as a cartoonist, illustrator, and graphic designer, I felt that experience was inadequate for the job market (little did I know back then). On a lark, I scanned the job boards at a nearby branch of the Canada Employment Centre for Students.
The only requirement for the bookkeeping job was the ability to use an adding machine by touch. I had just finished taking Accounting 11. At the time I could type 90 wpm. And my blind keypad speed was exceptional. I went up nervously to the service counter, with the job card in my hand, and spoke to a nice lady, herself a university student on a summer gig, and she coached me through the process of applying for the job.
She told me what to say, and dialed the number. I held the phone, still unsure of myself, and asked the receptionist if I could speak to the person hiring for the position. Within 30 minutes, I had taken a bus from the centre to the employer’s office, and took part in my very first interview, that went something like this:
My first job interview
Q: Can you use an adding machine by touch?
A: Umm… yes.
Q: Do you have a resume?
A: Umm… no.
Q: Can you start tomorrow?
A: Umm… yes.
Q: See you tomorrow at 8 am.
Advice for youth looking for work
My advice to someone with my artistic interests would be different now than when I was in the situation myself. Because I already knew what I wanted to do when I “grew up”, my best course of action would have been to research companies in my chosen field and build a network of potential employers and clients under whom to sub-contract. Most teenagers aren’t this well-directed in their career path, and I was no exception.
Since 1968 this program has help employers to find temporary staff during May through August. Employers can sign up to participate in this program by visiting servicecanada.gc.ca, while students can view job postings at jobbank.gc.ca.
I benefited from the experience I gained through the process, and from working at that first job. If you’re a student, why make life difficult for yourself by trying to forge your own path? In the midst of all the things we can complain about what the government does, it’s nice to see that this program still manages to do some stuff right.