Me unemployed in Calgary? That's unpossible!
July 19, 2007 8:58 PM   Subscribe

What should I be doing to find a job in Calgary's supposedly "hot" economy? I just finished a Master's degree in the social sciences (interdisciplinary, but focused mostly on anthropology of science) and my job hunt has been terribly unsuccessful so far. Are there career opportunities I'm not seeing? Am I out of luck unless I'm an IT person or petroleum engineer?

After much thought I find myself looking for a job in Calgary (I have family here), which everyone seems to be saying is undergoing tremendous growth. Still, the pickings seem slim from where I stand. There are occasionally job postings on my undergrad uni careers website that look good, but I have little substantial work experience, and have not gotten an interview in my month or so of trying. I have a varied and (I think) interesting academic background, which I think could be of use in fields like marketing, product development/design, or policy/government relations. I've been told that I'm a strong writer, and I think I have a talent for research. I'd love to work at a newspaper or magazine, but it looks like a tough area to get into, especially because I don't have a strong background in journalism. (I have one published piece in the local free city paper.) I'm about to start applying to burger joints and the like, because funds are running low, but I feel like there is some brilliant opportunity out there that will pop up the moment I start training at Burger King.

Is there anywhere else I should be looking? What's the best way to present a social science background in a city that has tons of oil money flowing around? Should I be cold-calling CEOs and telling them they need someone like me? Am I out of luck unless I know how to put in a pipeline, or serve the coffee of someone who does? Help!
posted by mariokrat to Work & Money (10 answers total)
If you can outline some of your work experience, that may help. It sounds like you might be a good fit for entry-level marketing or perhaps entry-level technical writing. If you're got some non-academic-sounding writing, experience as a TA, and experience doing research, you might be able to shop that around for those roles. Technical writing might be easier. You might want to pick up an evening or weekend course. Check your library (or bookstore) for Making Money in Technical Writing.

Entry-level freelance tech writers made $35 an hour when I started out as a freelancer about 10 years ago -- I'm not sure what they make now. Entry-level jobs probably pay around $30k-$40k a year, but you can move up to the $50ks after a couple of years. With your potential teaching experience, you might be able to move into training, too.
posted by acoutu at 9:10 PM on July 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

An MA in anthro means you have good qualitative research skills, right? You should be checking out market/social research firms. Ipsos and Environics (among others) have Calgary offices and they hire our MA grads all the time (I'm a sociology prof at the U of C). My partner has a small marketing research practice and is always looking for assistance, if only project to project.

Writing for ffwd (the free weekly of which mariokrat speaks, I am assuming) is a great foot in the door, by the way. Writing is a rare skill.

Consider the incredible number and breadth of temp offices around town (especially downtown). This is not only a good resource to make some cash in the short term, but you'll also get to know whom to "cold call." Then, when you know who the contacts are, cold call until your phone breaks.

You will do FINE here. The LAST thing to worry about in Calgary is finding work. You'll do fine. Welcome, and do make some time to check out the Folk Fest next week!
posted by ethnomethodologist at 10:10 PM on July 19, 2007

Want to teach?
posted by blue_beetle at 10:37 PM on July 19, 2007

Living in Victoria, which has the lowest unemployment rate in Canada, I would still say that a lot of the jobs are located in construction, services (Starbucks, Safeway) and engineering.

Contributing to the knowledge on labour trends is part of my job, and I interact with HR managers, CEOs and university/college recruitment people from all over Victoria.

So, I'm not sure if there are a lot of easy-to-find opportunities for MAs. I second the suggestions for research work (that's what I did with my Creative Writing and Education degrees), but unless you're willing to be entrepreneurial, it may be a bit of a slog. Maybe move to Edmonton and work in government? You would get a job in a flash.

It sounds crazy, but the nature of the job market in Western Canada right now is a lot of low-skilled stuff and then skilled stuff. I do know that oil companies pay good money for people to drive a truck and monitor stuff.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:47 PM on July 19, 2007

Alberta Public Service job search page.

You can even sign up for job postings notifications by e-mail.
posted by hangashore at 7:31 AM on July 20, 2007

Keep your eye on the Calgary Health Region's Management and Other Exempt job listings page . I have my BA in Political Science and am working as an Analyst in the Advanced Technologies portfolio. The Region is the largest employer in Calgary so the opportunities change constantly.
posted by saukrates at 8:32 AM on July 20, 2007

Thanks for all the feedback so far. If nothing else, it's given a bit of a boost to my search.

acoutou: I've actually applied for a couple of technical writing positions here, but I don't think I quite fit the profile of what employers have been looking for. I don't have quite enough experience with the apps they want people to use, and most of the jobs I've found so far seem to want someone with quite a bit of experience. AskMeFis from the past on the topic have been helpful though, so I'll keep exploring this.

ethnomethodologist: I looked into Ipsos before for a position in Toronto but didn't hear back, but it looks like Environics is hiring right now in Calgary so I'll definitely get in touch with them. Are there other companies I should be looking into? Here again, the main issue seems to be my lack of experience.. Thanks for the encouragement though. (And your guess about FFWD was right.)

Kokuryu: What I've been coming up with so far seems to fit what you say about Western Canada in general. I've been thinking about looking more at Eastern Canada, but is the situation much different there? (And I'll definitely look into the alberta government. It looks like there are a couple of openings that might fit me right now.)

saukrates: I'd been looking at CHR but a lot of what they're looking for seems to require experience or certifications I don't have. Can you tell me any more about what kind of work you do and what types of positions might be worth pursuing?
posted by mariokrat at 9:29 AM on July 20, 2007

I should have linked to the Advanced Technology listings as well. Although my degree doesn't show it, I have a strong technical background which lends itself to the work I'm doing (software testing and development, web development, database administration & sql; really just about anything these days). I'm not sure where you'd feel comfortable technically, but you might want to look at the Software Applications Tester positions. They would give you a chance to demonstrate abilities that might not come across on paper - that's how I ended up where I am.
posted by saukrates at 10:17 AM on July 20, 2007

No idea about Central and Eastern Canada, and Quebec.

There's always supposed to be plenty of work in TO, but mfg has taken a huge hit in southern Ontario. Waterloo of course is booming, but that's tech, and it will be harder for an MA to get a job there. The Maritimes are experiencing a tech boom, too.

Quite honestly, Calgary (or Regina or Winnipeg or Edmonton) will be your best bet right now.

Among other things, you should look for consultancies that work closely with government.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:42 PM on July 20, 2007

Mariokat, you could pick up a Framemaker course on a Saturday or perhaps a weekend. I'm not even sure you'd need to have that. The apps are not rocket science and a lot of tech writing jobs don't even require them. So do look around some more.
posted by acoutu at 2:36 PM on July 20, 2007

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