Rural Alberta is a great place to work and live. The province's smaller communities like ours offer many advantages, including a slower pace, family-friendly activities and wide-open spaces.

You may already be living in a small community and need a job that allows you to stay there. Or you may be moving to a rural area as a result of your spouse's job or for personal or family reasons.

Although your work search in rural Alberta will rely on the same proven techniques you would use to find work anywhere in the province, these tips will help you adapt your work search to a rural setting.

Building strong relationships

Relationships are very important in a rural work search, especially when you're applying for positions with smaller, local businesses. Use the following suggestions to build and maintain relationships:

Network. Networking may be even more important in a rural work search than it is in an urban one. People in a small community know each other, so word of mouth is a very important communication link. 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 will build your network and enhance your goodwill in the community.

Try cold calling. Cold calls, when you don't personally know the employer you're contacting, work well in a rural setting where you'll very 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 within a reasonable commute. Drop in for a chat and let the employer know you're looking for work. If you don't know the employer, introduce yourself. This will help you get a feel for the business and make an impression. Dress appropriately, always be courteous and be sensitive to the employer's time.

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.

Use a tailored approach

While a personal, more casual approach can be effective with local small businesses, you need to be able to use formal work search techniques effectively when you're looking for work with larger companies in the area. 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, cover letter and references
  • present yourself well in an interview
  • make effective use of the Internet to search job banks, apply for work on-line and set up an e-mail account for your work search. (Keep in mind that the Internet is only one of many work search tools you can use.)

Staff at your local AEII service centre can help you with formal work search tools and techniques. Some local AEII service centres can also:

  • provide access to use of the Internet, fax and phone for work search purposes
  • sponsor job fairs and employer's corners where you can meet and talk with employers
  • provide access to specific programs for youth, Aboriginal job seekers, career changers and others.

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Respond to the local labour market

Rural communities in Alberta have historically developed around primary industries such as agriculture. As Alberta's economic base has widened, other industries, such as petroleum refineries, manufacturing and tourism, have gained importance in communities.

Depending on the community's economic base, the positions available may be limited to a specific range of work opportunities within a particular industry. As a result, jobs that reflect your training and experience may be harder to find in the community.

How can you make the most of this challenge?

Upgrade your skills. Taking some upgrading or short-term training can improve your chances of finding a job if you don’t have a high school diploma or if you’re looking for something other than seasonal work. Funding may be available through your local AEII service centre for short-term courses (e.g. Microsoft Office or standard first aid) or job-specific courses (e.g. oilfield and construction safety courses). Your AEII service centre has information about colleges and private training organizations that offer programs in some rural communities, as well as courses on-line.

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?