How to Grow Your Career in a Small Town
As more and more of your friends leave big cities for small towns, making the move yourself can be a tempting option. However, for many, moving to a rural locale feels like a risky change: sure, you may actually be able to buy a condo (or a whole house)— but will your career take a big hit?
We chatted with Powell River’s own Caitlin Bryant, who after several years in the big city, has moved back home—and seen her career in arts and community development flourish. Her inspiring story may just be the reason you decide to make the big move to a small city.
Where did you get your career started in Powell River?
“I have to be honest, work was my number one concern when I moved back to Powell River from Vancouver… but this town has a way of keeping you on your toes.”
I work in arts and culture and community development and I wasn’t looking for a career change. Initially, I got a great part-time job as Operations Manager for the Pacific Region International Summer Music Academy (PRISMA) but I needed more work.
I started chatting with people who were doing neat work to find out more about what they needed. I am now freelancing full-time and I have four main contracts, working with an international orchestral music academy, a community development firm, an education services society and a concert promotions company.
I also sit on the board of the Powell River Historical Museum and Archives and have a few side projects on the go, including a multidisciplinary art exhibition here in Powell River.
It’s a lot, but it’s all where my experience and passion is, and it’s all in Powell River.
That is a lot! What inspired you to follow this career path?
When my family first moved to Powell River from Vancouver in 1995, I was thirteen and it was a really hard transition for me. I was very shy and had a hard time making new friends, not to mention the culture shock of moving from Commercial Drive’s “deep urban” to the “deep bush” of Upper Lund Heights (shout-out to the 5 people who get that reference).
Thankfully the Lund Community Society took me under their wing, and I got to work at community events and at the Lund School. I started with small tasks and they continued to mentor me, giving me more responsibility as I grew. That was my introduction to event management and community development, and its where I learned that I want to be of service to my community.
What is it about Powell River in particular that you find encouraging as a place for advancing your career?
I really didn’t expect to move to Powell River and advance my career, but it is happening! It’s overwhelming at times how many fascinating projects are on the go here and there are a ton of amazing mentors in town–which is the trick to fast-tracking anything you’re working on.People here have built whole programs or organizations from the ground up or have had exciting, high-profile careers elsewhere and made the choice to call Powell River home.
We seem to strike this incredible balance of having small-town costs in terms of rent and goods and services, while having a huge appetite for new projects or ways of thinking that you see in urban centres. Because we’re marooned on the top of the Sunshine Coast, we have to develop it ourselves and I think that is part of what makes us so unique and entrepreneurial.
Of course it is true that there is a lot of interesting work in an urban centre—I had a total blast living and working in Vancouver, but in my field, more than 100 people would be applying for a any single position. Whereas I felt lost in the crowd in the big city, here I get to carve out a life for myself.
What advice would you give to someone considering a move to a small town but concerned about how it could affect their career?
Call me! Or call someone. Powell River is such a supportive and inspired town.
It’s all about making connections: and it’s such an exciting time to be here. Old projects are revitalizing and new projects are popping up all the time. The City of Powell River has a creative, engaged Council who care deeply about shared values and are working hard to develop our potentials.
Don’t wait to find your dream job before you come: you need to be here to create that. Find an anchor point to cover your expenses and come with an eagerness to build a life.
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