In 1997, I flew to Guelph, Ontario, to live for 7 months. I had just finished a fantastic contract in Clayoquot Sound. With a team of two others, I had been flown and dropped off in various beautiful locations—dense old growth rainforest, alpine meadows with last year’s crusty snow. I made $200 a day. Too bad it had been such a short contract.
My arrival at my new home in Guelph was shocking. My boyfriend had rented a suite in suburbia, where every yard and home looked alike. It was the opposite of wild and alive.
I began looking for work as soon as I landed. I applied at the Bookshelf, an independent bookstore downtown that was hiring. Barbara interviewed me and asked me to write a book review. I had just finished The Vinyl Café, so I spun a review while sitting in the Bookshelf’s busy café. She offered me the job right away.
"That would be great!" I replied, and my honest self added, “And I’m leaving at the end of April.”
I heard screeching brakes and crushing metal and then the sound of a bumper hitting asphalt. Metaphorically. Apparently training a professional bookseller was a big deal, and 6 months of my employment wasn't worth their investment. I completely understood.
I continued my job search, but things were getting desperate. Chapters was going to hire me for part-time work over Christmas in the Special Orders Department, but I needed money to get me to Christmas, work to fill in the gaps, and a job for the new year. The money from my Clayoquot Sound contract had dwindled, and December’s rent was nearly due.
Then I sucked up my pride. For the first and only time, I tried to receive welfare. But I was told that my boyfriend, who was living on student loans, should support me. That was not an option, and I would never expect it to be. I was responsible for getting myself into this position.
It was time to investigate the sign in the window of a downtown business:
My inner pessimist, who had recently grown louder, groaned. Was I going to need special skills to sort garbage? But my truthful reply was “Yes.”
“The last time I checked it was 73 words per minute.”
Her eyes flashed. “Have a seat!” she said.
She ushered me to a station where I was given test after test. Many of these were meant to test my ability and speed at finding anomalies in data and text. Apparently I did this quite quickly and accurately.
I was then told it was a temp agency, and they’d love to train me on all of Microsoft’s software—Word, Excel, and PowerPoint—and send me out to work for Human Resources Departments and other work that came up, which I did for 6 months.
Although dressing up for an admin job was definitely not for me, I am still incredibly grateful for all the free training I received from Kelly Services nearly 20 years ago. I didn’t even know what a temp agency was at that time. I had spent my entire adult life up to that point studying in university, working for the government on commercial trawlers, or tromping around the forest.
Those tests and the subsequent training were the basis for the work I do today as editor, writer, instructor, and doer of many computer-based tasks—in my comfy home clothes. My responsibility has simply been to keep up with technological advances and to hone my natural skills.
Moral of the story? Rock bottom is a good starting point.
Meet the Editor
I'm Coreen, and I am a copy editor, writer, instructor, digital marketer, and student of PR and Communications for organizations doing positive work in the world.