Survivor Report: The Womyn’s Career Search Workshop

As some of my loyal readers know, I’m looking to change up my work a little bit this year, after a 12-month drubbing at the hands of Miss URGENT and others like her. To that end, I’ve been talking to career counsellors and “networking” (buzzword alert) with people in my current industry in order to get a better sense of where to point myself.

As part of all this, I registered for a “Getting Started” workshop at a nonprofit women’s employment/career search organization here in the city. (I will not name them here, for reasons that will momentarily become clear.) I had my misgivings about it, chief among them the fact that I am not a big fan of gender-focused anything, except maybe washrooms.

Oh, I just know this is going to be good!

Oh, I just know this is going to be good!

But I am (despite appearances to the contrary) somewhat of an optimist: I believe in giving most things a chance, and I’m looking at lots of options right now, and hey, you just never know.

Also, and I can’t stress this enough today, I am at heart a Polite Canadian and thus feel duty-bound to stay through dubious things including bad relationships, crappy movies with “Rom-com” or “heartwarming” on the back of the DVD case, and meals in restaurants where there is fist-fighting.

So it was with a curious mix of heavy heart and faint hope that I set out this morning for the organization’s downtown office.

And it was with unalloyed horror that I fled an hour later at the break. Fled, I tell you. Passengers on the Titanic probably moved more slowly than I did at 11:01. I actually cracked a sweat waiting for the elevator to come, frantically pressing the button like an insane person, looking wildly over my shoulder and fearing that they were going to come & haul me back in again and do something to me involving Velcro wrist-straps and Thorazine.

That's me in the first lifeboat, there.

That’s me in the first lifeboat, there.

I probably will not answer the phone or the doorbell for a few days…. Email or text me if you need anything and I will reply from an undisclosed location, using an assumed name.

To sum up:

  • Instructor: uncontained back fat; yoga-/sweatpants; camel toe; plastic sandals with socks
  • Decor: mid-70s government leftovers. The legs on the coffee tables were broken.
  • There were COFFEE TABLES.
  • There was, of course, a Judith in charge. There is always one named Judith. I would almost rather take career advice from someone called Kayleigh. Almost.
  • The strident “No perfume” policy. Mentioned incessantly on their website and in every phone convo/reminder. This is actually a plus for me. Most perfumes and colognes would gag a buzzard. But is it preferable that 80% of the attendees smelled like stale cooking & unwashed genitalia? Slap some Estee Lauder on that shit.
  • Name tags. Made with coloured markers that smelled like fruit. Really? NO.
  • Fifty-something giggling woman with phone numbers and faces drawn on her arm in ballpoint pen: “Can someone help me make a photocopy of this? I’m just no good with these photocopier thingies.” Um, I think having a uterus is probably not the primary cause of your unemployment, dear.
  • Huge happy emphasis on all the “sharing” and “group work” we’ll be doing, and more “sharing” and “helping” and then more “sharing.” Eventually I fear we were all going to be handed plastic speculums and mirrors and told to lie on the floor….
  • Instructor pulls out sheet of paper and, getting a bit misty, says “I’d like to share [yes] a ‘Dream Day’ exercise written by one of our previous workshop participants.” This woman’s “Dream Day” (in a Career Search workshop, mind you) was to “wake up with the rooster, in a community powered by a wind farm, spend her mornings  drinking organic tea and eating wholesome food and maybe writing for a newspaper or a magazine, and her afternoons making jam and meditating, followed by an evening of sitting around the fire with family and friends or maybe teaching a workshop.”  Hey, Judith — the 70s called and they want your participant back.
  • The dismaying number of participants who actually nod and agree that that sounds like their “Dream Day” too. At this point, my own Dream Day is starting to include fire, as well, but probably not in a good way.
  • Instructor asks if anyone has a business card. Three of us put our hands up. Instructor asks one woman for hers. It is passed around the room like the Hope Diamond. Jesus wept….
Good news -- we have the results of your career aptitude test!

Good news — we have the results of your career aptitude test!

At the risk of “sharing,” here, I confess that I feel a bit guilty writing any of this up at all.  It feels cruel, like stepping on kittens or pushing wheelchairs into traffic. I mean, they must do some good for someone, somewhere, right? Otherwise, they wouldn’t keep getting government funding, right? (Right??? HAHAHAHAHA… sorry…)

And to be fair, who knows — they may have had something better to offer after the break, like maybe a couple of months of free Zoloft prescriptions and perhaps some calendars to help keep participants firmly anchored in the twenty-first century.

But I seriously doubt it, given that what I sat through was their welcome/intro/top-hat-and-cane/”Hey, look at the great things we have in store for you!” extravaganza.  I guess I will never find out.
Jesus Alice. Surely to god we, as Utero-Canadians, can do better than this???
That is all.
–Smiter over to liquor cabinet, and out.


  1. Omg, this was so funny. Well written visit to hell, or heck, or at least a wind farm & wholesome food. And your description of Judith, awesome!

    • Lol… thanks. I confess I have my qualms whenever I post something as acerbic as this (feeding the “black dog”, if you will) but it definitely helped take the edge off the experience for me. As I said, I’m sure their approach helps *some* people (although to do exactly what, I’m not certain…) but I am absolutely baffled by the assumption that women love to do things in groups and that “sharing” somehow leads to good things. As my friend J. once said, “Remember ‘The Collective’?”
      Yeah, baby. 🙂
      –Dr. S.

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