Small-town Alberta can be a great place to work and live. The province's smaller communities offer many advantages, including a slower pace, family-friendly activities, and wide-open spaces. And with the growth of remote work, a rural lifestyle is an option for even more Albertans than ever before.
You may already be looking for work so you can stay or move back to the rural community where you have roots. Or your spouse’s job may mean a transfer to a small town. Whatever the reason, these strategies will show you how to adapt your work search tools and techniques to a rural setting.
Build strong relationships
Relationships are crucial in a rural work search, especially when you're applying to local businesses. Use the following strategies to build and maintain relationships:
- Network. Networking may be even more important in a rural work search than in an urban one. People in small communities know each other, so word of mouth is an effective tool. Tell everyone you know that you’re looking for work. Let them know what you can do. Local employers tend not to advertise positions—they "put the word out" and expect the information to circulate. You'll hear about work opportunities from people in your network.
- Shop locally. Use local businesses as much as possible, especially if you're new to the area. You’ll build your network and increase your goodwill in the community.
- Make cold calls. Cold calls, when you don't personally know the employer you're contacting, work well in a rural setting where you'll likely have a friend or an acquaintance in common.
- Try canvassing. Visiting or canvassing employers also works well in rural Alberta. Spend some time checking out businesses in your community and in neighbouring communities. Drop in for a chat and let the employer know you're looking for work. If you don't know the employer, introduce yourself to get a feel for the business and make an impression.
- Use local references. When applying for a job with a local employer, include a local reference if you have one, such as a previous supervisor, a landlord, a neighbour, or a respected person from the community.
Tailor your approach to match the employer
A personal approach can be effective with local small businesses, but if you're looking for work with larger companies in the area, you’ll need to use formal work search techniques. For example, when you're applying to an employer in the oil and gas industry or to a large retail business, you need to be able to:
- Provide a resumé and cover letter or email
- Present yourself well in an interview
- Search employer websites and job banks and apply for work online.
Respond to the local labour market
Rural communities in Alberta have developed around primary industries such as agriculture, mining, and forestry. As Alberta's economic base has widened, other industries, such as petroleum refineries, manufacturing, and tourism have gained importance in some of these communities.
Depending on the community's economic base, the range of positions available may be narrow and limited to a specific industry. As a result, jobs that fit your training and experience may be harder to find. Use these strategies to make the most of this challenge.
- Upgrade your skills. If you don’t have a high school diploma or if you’re looking for something other than seasonal work, upgrading or short-term training can improve your chances of finding a job. Find out about distance learning courses and programs.
- Be flexible. If you can't find a specific position such as a gas utility operator or law office manager, what other kinds of work could you do? What other ways could you apply your skills? If you can't find full-time permanent work, would you consider a part-time or short-term position? Could you boost your skills and experience and expand your network by volunteering?
- Be creative. Consider starting your own business. For example, could you provide a needed service such as day care? If you have construction skills, could you partner with the local building supply company to offer your services? If you've already established a work history with an organization in a larger centre, could you telecommute or set up a virtual office for that organization?
Consider remote work
Remote jobs have always been available. But since the COVID-19 pandemic, employers and employees are more familiar with the idea of working from a home office. If you’re moving to a small town, develop a business case for remote work that identifies the benefits to your current employer, including not having to train a new employee. Be aware that your salary may change if you switch to remote work.
Call your local Alberta Supports Centre
The career and employment staff at your local Alberta Supports Centre can help you with work search tools and techniques. They also know the local labour market and will help you access:
- Information about local employers
- Local job banks
- Local newspapers and newsletters that may contain job leads
- Other local job seekers you can trade information with
- Other providers of career services in your area.
Some local Alberta Supports Centres will:
- Sponsor job fairs and employer events where you can meet and talk with employers
- Provide access to programs for youth, Indigenous job seekers, career changers, and others
Find the Alberta Supports Centres nearest you for details.
Take care of the basics
Staff at your local Alberta Works/Alberta Supports Centre can help you overcome barriers to employment and may be able to refer you to a life skills or job preparation program.
- Housing: Whether renting or buying, finding a place to live in some rural communities can be a challenge. Use your network for leads, plan as far in advance as possible and find housing before you move for work.
- Child care: It may take a while to find child care in the community, especially for children under 19 months.
- Transportation: If local public transit is limited or unavailable, or if you have to travel a long distance to work, you’ll need both a valid driver’s licence and access to a vehicle. Some large employers provide transportation for employees.
Find the job you want in rural Alberta
Raising a family in a smaller community, knowing your neighbours, or returning to your roots are just some of the many wonderful reasons for living in rural Alberta. You may need to adapt your work search techniques to land a job in a smaller community, but local information, personal contacts, and a flexible attitude can help you find and keep work that fits your rural lifestyle.