*This post was created in partnership with The North West Company. But as always – all experience, thoughts, opinions and commentary are completely my own.
If you’re interested in a unique career in the north, feel free to learn more here.
The decision to move to a new place and start a new job is not a simple one.
The number of unknowns are intimidating – whether it’s the seasonal weather and environment or the culture and vibe of the local community. Yet moving for a career opportunity is always exciting and rewarding.
Interviewing seven North West Company employees on their experience living in the north, I asked them what tips they would give new employees planning to move into a remote community for the first time. Here is their best advice:
Research the location in advance.
Remote communities are often small – usually only a few thousand people live in the entire region. Aside from material provided by the North West Company, there isn’t always a lot of information to access online about each town. Checking community websites or Facebook pages can be useful. Calling the store manager before arriving is helpful when learning what to expect in advance.
Researching the geography around the community is also important.
For General Merchandise Manager Trisha Miller, learning about the environment in Garden Hill, Manitoba was key. After moving with her partner to help manage the Northern Store, she quickly discovered how muddy everything became after a heavy rain. Despite being a shoe addict, she never owned a pair of rubber boots while living in Edmonton. But in the north, the boots were necessary. She bought herself a fashionable yet practical pair, perfect for walking from the boat dock to the store on rainy days. It’s often little details that help make the transition into a new community easier.
It’s important to be open-minded and ready to learn about the culture and history of the community.
“Each community is unique” says Kelley Thomas, Administrative Manager at the Northern Store in St. Theresa Point. Having spent five years with the North West Company in nearly half a dozen communities, her advice comes from experience.
“It’s always the person entering the community that needs to learn to change and adapt to the culture and customs in the community.”
Kelley’s husband and Northern Store Manager Murray Thomas recommends listening carefully and taking time to understand the different nuances in how people communicate.
“Sometimes,” he cautions, “a question asking if you know how to do something is a polite warning that you’re missing an essential step. It’s important to listen carefully, ask questions and have candid conversations.”
Local events are the ideal opportunity to get to know the community. Even better than attending events and activities is offering to volunteer and help out.
Bernie Miller, Store Manager at Garden Hill often speaks at the local school during career days. He’s also an avid fisherman in his personal time. He enjoys joining fishing derbies and getting to know the community through the sport. “It’s about being of service to the community and talking with people and getting to know them” says Miller.
A positive outlook and an openness to the adventure of living and working in areas of Canada few people get to experience is just a part of what makes working with the North West Company in a remote community a rewarding opportunity.
For more information on careers with The North West Company, check out their website here.