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One of the best jobs I ever had

 

Dress for the job you want, not the job you have can be laughably out of step with reality for those who wear a uniform to work. Another old adage that seems eyeroll-worthy is work hard and have a good attitude at whatever job you can get.

If you must work a terrible job that you feel is beneath you, isn’t a heavy chip on your shoulder proof you’re not a failure? Doesn’t commiserating about the misery of your shared hell with co-workers prove it’s only temporary?

We are living in a brave new world when it comes to job availability and opportunities, not only much different than what our parents faced, but even compared to the experience of older siblings.

The work hours aren’t always traditional, the benefits don’t always exist. Tantalizing dreams of a side-hustle taking off, and the promise of virtual workspaces giving us the independence to travel the world are the reward for being unable to afford a mortgage like previous generations.

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to teach a woman the first formal English classes she had ever taken. She came to Canada for freedom as a Vietnamese boat refugee, and my classes were her first time to learn after decades of factory work. I was proud to teach her basic grammar skills, and see her writing, reading, and speaking improve so dramatically in a few months, and the pride she took in her hard work.

However, I wasn’t really suited for teaching. I needed a change, and wanted to try something new. I didn’t put any attachments or expectations on outcomes. I told myself that I would immediately move on when the time came.

The job I took was some called brand ambassador or hawker, I prefer newsie. I took a job handing out newspapers in front of the subway. I had had articles published in a paper before, and tried not to think of it as a downward step. One of the first surprises about the job is, that it actually paid the same as my other job teaching English as a Second Language.

I got up before the sun rose, put on my green apron, and did my best. A younger me would have hid behind sunglasses or scowled. I said good morning to every person who passed by, and was determined to hand out my quota of bundles.

On my first morning, I wondered what my co-workers would be like. I worked with a group, I stood in the middle of three fellow newsies. They were approachable and funny. Some were actors who appreciated the flexible schedule. Everyone had multiple creative projects, bands, and auditions.

There were people who walked by or got off the bus that I looked forward to chatting with every morning whether they took a paper or not. I learned I had a nice smile.

I was outside in winter in temperatures so frigid my hair froze, but I also got to marvel at some of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen.

When the job eventually ended, I don’t think the job of handing out a newspaper even exists anymore, I knew more about my preferences. I could be an early riser, and I liked being a teamplayer.

We can embrace the future or fight it. A lifelong career at the same workplace may no longer be possible, but it isn’t necessarily a punishment. It is practical to be open-minded. Instead of justifying all the reasons why something isn’t the right fit for you, or how a job doesn’t match your career plan, just gather experience without judgement, and be open to what can happen.

Ontario tries to empower women, but ends up with stale report

Engaging empowered women in Ontario is getting more political airtime, with more focus on the “status of women” in legislature. But will it have the desired impact of actually helping women in Ontario?

The province released an engagement paper on June 9 that describes the ways in which the government wants to increase women empowerment and close the wage gap. The paper includes a survey with questions about youth, economic opportunities, social attitudes, and leadership. These are significant issues for women and addressing them is important — as long as it is for and about the women in Ontario, instead of an election issue to win votes with no real purpose.

The survey asks Canadian citizens what they believe is the most important component to women’s empowerment via a series of detailed questions. The issue with the survey is that it offers several reasons why women don’t have complete equality in Ontario and doesn’t mandate the survey-taker to choose which issue is the most important on every question. This allows the people taking the survey to choose every issue and not specify what subject matters should be tackled first. It is fairly obvious that each of the four goals specified in the report is important, but asking if all of them are important is redundant. This is often seen in government surveys and makes a democratic and potentially helpful questionnaire essentially pointless.

Though Ontario is making strides with women, the efforts thus far is limited. For example, the province has committed to help 100,000 children obtain licensed child care over the next five years, but the subsidy waiting list in Toronto alone is 18 months long. There are also efforts to help 1700 low-income women gain financial literacy training, but there are thousands of women who still need help to gain education and training to move up in the world. Needless to say, more is needed and it shouldn’t be based on fulfilling commitments five years down the road, but should be fulfilled now.

The report is well-minded, but still lends itself to words such as “encouraging women to explore different careers”, and “supporting continued career progression”, but lacks specific goals with targeted language. Though it is important to “encourage” and “support”, women need action and specific goals with a ready-made budget instead of a tentative report and survey. Often, talking about women empowerment is seen as enough action when credible and supported goals need to be met to actually close the wage gap and promote women equality.

Women’s economic empowerment is a primary concern in Ontario and needs to be addressed with affirmative action as soon as possible. Between reports, surveys, and loosely mandated changes, there remains a gap on giving childcare to all women who need it so they can work. Pay wage gaps must also be addressed immediately, and board positions should be mandated to have 50/50 representation.  The engagement paper is yet another shining example of the government using ‘status of women’ to appease female voters — what will it take to get the real support and action women need?