Moving from Edmonton to Toronto without any connections

How does a designer make the move to a different province without any contacts? I’m a recent grad from Edmonton, Alberta. I work in graphic design and illustration. I’m going to the Design Thinkers conference in Toronto and want to start making connections to potentially move there in the near future. I wouldn’t want to make the move without a job lined up so I’m trying to figure out how to make some connections. The difficulty for students is so much of their network is established where they did their program since there were 4+ years to develop it.

Coming to Toronto for the conference is a great opportunity to network, and it’s good you’re thinking of this already. Talk to as many people as you can at the breaks and cocktail hours and let them see you as an interesting and enjoyable person to be around. If you have a couple days in Toronto before or after the conference, reach out to people or agencies you like over email or LinkedIn and ask if you can buy them a coffee and have a chat about your work. It’s a great way to make connections and get advice on your work and your career.

Don’t discount your Alberta connections though! People move around Canada all the time, and it’s completely likely that people you know in Edmonton have contacts in Toronto that they can introduce you to (this will likely be your teachers or other designers working in Edmonton, less your classmates). One of the worst things anybody can do when networking is only focus on a contact’s current role, and disregard their work history, or possible future. They might not be at an agency/in a city you want to work at right now, but maybe they were two years ago and still know some people there. Or they might be working as an Art Director now, but used to be an Illustrator, and still have connections. Or maybe they’re a classmate in the same position as you, but in a couple years they’ll get a job at your dream studio, and you’ll want a referral. Careers can vary wildly and unpredictably, so it’s best to not take people or their careers at face value.

As for getting a job in Toronto before moving here… I have to admit, that can be pretty hard to do, especially when applying for junior roles. It’s certainly not impossible, but when hiring it’ll be an extra small point against you that could be the deciding factor between you and another candidate. You’d need time to move here before starting, but somebody local could theoretically start tomorrow. When interviewing, it’s easier to get a read on somebody in person than over Skype or the phone. It’s not a deal breaker, but it can be a factor, and the competition for junior roles here is high. If you don’t have a timeline for moving, do your best to network and apply from afar and see what happens. But if you want to move here sooner, you might be better off saving your money so you can move here first and job search for a few months in person, as making personal connections is probably the most helpful thing you can do right now.

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