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Working in Canada: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Ottawa, December 2012
Ottawa, December 2012

In December 2011, I quit my position as a managing editor for a Crown corporation to return to freelancing.

People thought I was crazy. Quitting a well-paid permanent position in the public sector to freelance? Giving up benefits, a regular income and a pension plan? In that economy?

Surely, something was wrong with me.

Especially it wasn’t my first time saying “non, merci” to a permanent position. In August 2010, I resigned from my job as a translator for the Liberal Bureau—again to return to freelancing.

So, am I crazy?

Well, maybe. I certainly hadn’t expected to get pregnant a couple of months after resigning from my position—the timing wasn’t great, since I was no longer eligible for maternity leave or other benefits (oh the irony—the first time ever I would have needed them!). But even with a baby in my belly, I wasn’t tempted to look for another position in the corporate world and I stuck to freelancing.

Since my first work visa in 2004, I held various positions in Ottawa and around. First, like most immigrants without work experience in Canada (and little work experience period—I was only 21!), I worked in the customer service industry as a call centre agent, a receptionist, an exam supervisor and a small business employee. Then I taught French as a second language for the Canadian federal government for three years—my first “real” job. In 2009, I returned to my initial area of expertise, translation. I worked as an English-to-French translator and editor at the Liberal Research Bureau and then as a managing editor for a Crown corporation.

And now I’m offering my services as an English-to-French translator, as well as a bilingual copywriter, copyeditor and proofreader.

Being as a freelancer is a personal choice—it works for me, that doesn’t mean I necessarily advocate it.

I like collaborating with different clients with various needs. I feel more efficient when I manage my own workload and schedule. I like to combine translation work, editing, proofreading and copywriting, and freelancing gives me that opportunity.

I sometimes wonder what my career path would have been if I had stayed in France. When I left the country at the age of 18, I didn’t really have a career plan in mind. I loved (and still love!) writing, words, languages and anything artistic. I have a degree in Chinese language and civilization but I was reluctant to use it to get into international trade because business isn’t really my thing. I may have become a Chinese-to-French translator… or I may still be struggling, looking for a job—any job. The economy isn’t exactly thriving in France at the moment.

One thing is for sure, the working world in France (and generally in Western Europe) is very different from the Canadian (and North American) working world. Through the various positions I held in Canada, I’ve seen it all—the good, the bad and the ugly.

These articles explore the Canadian work culture. I hope it will help prospective immigrants and newcomers to understand the good, bad and ugly sides, and any potential challenges they may face in the workplace.

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French woman in English Canada.

Exploring the world with my camera since 1999, translating sentences for a living, writing stories that may or may not get attention.

Firm believer that nobody is normal... and it’s better this way.

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