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Even in a recession there are still opportunities

February 2009

With Canada and much of the world in an economic recession, things can seem pretty bleak. For those who still have a job, the prospect of future job loss or pay-cuts are a constant fear. Although those working in the manufacturing sector, especially automotive are being hit the hardest, even white collar workers are not immune, as evidenced by the recent announcement by General Motors.

Although the usual government solution of job retraining and placement programs can help, sometimes we have to become the master of our own destiny and develop our own plan. Since graduation from university in 1991, I have once been underemployed (low paying and part-time) and twice been “lost” jobs, so I know how it feels. I managed to get through these rough periods by having a back-up plan and taking advantage other opportunities. Often, these lead to other doors opening.

The first time I lost a job, I turned to my other employer at the time, the Navy Reserve and using contacts that I had, managed to secure a full-time, contract job with the Reserves. Now I know that for most, the Reserves is a part-time job, but over the last 20 years, there has been a steady increase in full-time employment with the military. A significant number of military personnel currently serving in Afghanistan are Reservists. I spent the next 2 years working on full-time contracts, but since there was no guarantee I would get a new contract when the old one expired, I kept exploring other options.

One option was applying to and being accepted by Corrections Canada as a part-time Correctional Officer. I took a 3 month break from full-time military work to attend the Corrections Canada training college in Kingston, then again using my military contacts, secured another full-time contract with the military, while working the occasional shift in the prison. A year later, I was hired full-time by Corrections Canada. Two years after that, I joined the Toronto Police Service.

The second time I lost a job was 3-years-later when I resigned my position with Toronto Police rather than be fired for “failing my probation”. By this time, I was out of the Navy Reserve, so that safety net was gone. However, I did have other options.

The Canadian Corps of Commissionaires is an organization founded on the idea of providing retired military and federal employees with dignified employment to supplement their pensions. I had briefly worked for the Commissionaires in the early 90s, so I was quite familiar with the organization. I approached the Commissionaire branch at CFB Borden and enquired about job openings. What transpired next was the easiest job interview I’ve ever encountered; I was asked how long I had served in the military (at the time, there was a 5-year minimum service requirement), if I had a valid first aid certificate and when could I start? Although my second tenure with the Commissionaires would also be short-lived as I managed to land a job with another police service, it helped me pay the bills during this unfortunate period in my life.

My job as a police officer is now very secure, but that doesn’t mean that I am immune from the effects of the current economic downturn.

During the past six years, I managed to carve a nice side-line job as a freelance writer for various newspapers and magazines. What started out as a hobby (historical research and writing), actually ended up earning me a little money, although certainly not enough to quit my “day-job” However, it now appears that my current contract with my local community newspaper, one of the few that actually paid money for my articles, will not be renewed when it expires. I�ve for all practical purposes been “terminated” yet again, as many others in the print media have been recently, but all is not lost. As luck would have it, I stumbled onto a unique job opportunity with the Navy Reserve writing articles for various military publications and doing special projects involving researching and writing. I know it’s a “cliche” to say it, but when one door closes, another one inevitably opens. Sometimes you just have to look for them.

A friend of mine recently lost his job and hasn’t been having much luck finding a new one. However, about 2 years ago he formed a band and got back into the local music scene playing a few gigs here and there. Loosing his job, while not ideal, has given him the opportunity to devote more time to music and he has seen a steady increase in the number of gigs his band plays. The band recently played two high profile gigs, one that saw them on the same bill as Canadian Idol contestant Drew Wright. Now I don’t know how well the gigs pay (his wife works, so they’re doing ok), but my point is that my friend isn’t simply sitting on his butt; whining into his beer bought with his pogey cheque about how there are no jobs out there. He is making thing happen for himself. I realize that not everyone has the ability, people contacts or job skills to instantly jump into a new job, but there are opportunities out there for those who know where to look. Maybe instead of worrying about your job security, people should be making connections and exploring back-up opportunities for themselves. Networking is a common tactic in the business world to make sales and land those important contracts. Why not use those same networking tactics to your advantage.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/even-in-a-recession-there-are-still-opportunities/

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