Last week Ian Thompson, associate publisher of the Chronicle Herald (Halifax's daily newspaper), wrote an editorial titled: "Are Nova Scotians ready to rise to the challenges?" In it, he lamented Nova Scotia's opposition to innovation and risk, and how this costs us opportunities and drives young, educated people out of our province. I offer myself as an example.
When I was 19, I left Nova Scotia for Toronto. I studied journalism at Ryerson University, graduating in 1992 when I was 22 and eager to come home to begin my career. I launched an extensive job search and applied for every entry-level print and broadcast job that opened in Halifax. There weren't many—it was, and continues to be a tough market for journalists here, and I had no contacts. I never got an interview despite some newsroom experience, great marks and a willingness to work hard for peanuts. So I stayed in Toronto, and built a career there. I was associate editor of a magazine, freelanced for several years, and then went to work for Rogers Publishing. There I gained my best professional experience, writing and editing for national magazines, was nominated for a national award, and took on special projects like chairing a professional development committee.
I still wanted to come home, however, so in 2007 I did, with my family in tow. My husband and I, both university-educated and ambitious people, felt confident we could transition our careers. Looking back now after five years, I have no regrets but can say it hasn't been easy.
A friend warned me that the only thing worse in Nova Scotia than a come-from-away is a come-back-from-away, and I believe there is some truth in that. In the first few years, while freelancing, I looked for a part-time or contract position in journalism, book publishing or public relations (I also have a degree in PR and several years experience in organizational communications). I was offered one job I declined. Twice I was short-listed for jobs I badly wanted. Both times another candidate won out and both times I asked the interviewer for feedback as to why I wasn't selected. I was told it was because I came from Toronto. I decided I would be better off committing myself 100% to freelancing.
Since I made that decision and launched this web site, my life has taken a different course. I have new clients, more interesting assignments, and greater job satisfaction. (Much of my work is still assigned to me out of Toronto, however.) I returned to school and am about to finish my Masters degree. I started writing fiction and published a children's chapter book that became a local bestseller. I branched out to teaching, which I love, and I do more volunteering. I am editor of my university's alumnae magazine. I'm doing better than okay, because I dug in and charted my own course, blocking out the voices like that of a headhunter who told me my resume lacked experience with a blue-chip Nova Scotia company. He told me I'd need to work for Bell Aliant or Emera if I ever wanted to get ahead in this province.
Ian Thompson hit it bang on. More opportunities in Nova Scotia mean more people stay and new people arrive. I LOVE this province. I've travelled a fair bit, and think the landscape, lifestyle and people here are the best in the world. I want to live and work here. I respect the government's plan to attract and kept people in Nova Scotia through JobsHere. But if employers don't collectively get behind such workforce strategies they are ineffective. My experience is that such opportunities must be largely self-created.