Andre Mazerolle sits on a Harley-Davidson FLHXS -Street Glide Special motorcycle at Mackie Harley-Davidson in Oshawa on Friday January 15, 2021. Mazerolle was laid off from his marketing job during the pandemic and has since made a big switch to selling motorcycles for Mackie Harley-Davidson. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Andre Mazerolle sits on a Harley-Davidson FLHXS -Street Glide Special motorcycle at Mackie Harley-Davidson in Oshawa on Friday January 15, 2021. Mazerolle was laid off from his marketing job during the pandemic and has since made a big switch to selling motorcycles for Mackie Harley-Davidson. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Canadians launch new careers, return to school as COVID-19 rages on

As the economic downturn continued, more people were ready to consider bigger moves on the job front

When COVID-19 swept across Canada last year, Andre Mazerolle’s 25-year career in marketing ground to a halt as he was laid off from his job.

Gutted, the Oshawa, Ont. man poured himself into his motorcycle hobby while he tried to plot the next phase in his working life. Then a chance conversation with a friend made him realize there was a way to do both.

“She said, ‘Hey, I got laid off too and I’m working at a motorcycle store selling parts and accessories….You should come and work with me,’” Mazerolle recalled.

“A week later, I was at the motorcycle store … doing something I was passionate about.”

Faced with hiring freezes, wage cuts and layoffs forced by the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadians like Mazerolle are making dramatic career changes. Others are seeking skills upgrades or shifting their hours after realizing their current jobs don’t offer the stability and flexibility they need to raise kids or care for immunocompromised family members.

An online survey of 3,000 Canadians that Morneau Shepell released in November found 24 per cent say the COVID-19 pandemic led them to consider a job or career change.

Makenzie Chilton, a B.C. woman who runs career coaching company Love Your Mondays, said people around the world have been reaching out to her throughout the pandemic.

As the economic downturn continued, she said, more people were ready to consider bigger moves on the job front.

“Initially everyone was worried about their jobs because in March nobody knew what was happening … (by) June, it was just an influx of people looking to create a change,” she said.

Educational institutions are seeing an uptick in interest too. Ryerson University’s Chang School of Continuing Education, for example, said enrolment for spring-summer courses in 2020 grew by 15 per cent when compared with 2019. Particularly popular were certificate programs in disaster and emergency management, advanced safety and health studies, it said.

Jennifer Hargreaves says that isn’t surprising.

The owner of Tellent, an organization that helps professional women find flexible work opportunities, said COVID-19 has triggered a “big pause” for Canadians juggling work, social calendars and kids, no matter what their plans looked like a year or two ago.

The pandemic pushed them to slow down or stop, she said. Many women even decided to make their career a second priority because daycares closed or their kids moved to virtual schooling.

“It sucks and it forces you to re-evaluate where you are and what you want, but I think that’s a silver lining and a bit of a blessing for some people,” Hargreaves said.

That slowdown came in March for Kristin Hoogendoorn of Milton, Ont.

Hoogendoorn has built a travel business over the past four years, and running it became her passion.

When the pandemic started, she cancelled more than 100 flights for clients and found herself worrying about her husband’s work too because he’s employed by an airline.

After more than a decade of self-employment, Hoogendoorn hadn’t job hunted in years and her self-confidence was wavering, but she knew she had to do something.

“I thought, ‘I can’t live on no income anymore’,” she said. “I just don’t know how we are going to get out of this.”

She eventually sat down with career coaches who boosted her morale and helped her plot her future.

She’s now seeking a part-time job, ideally something in sales or technology that’s relatively pandemic-proof. She’ll hang onto her travel business, but will keep it on the back burner until COVID-19 subsides.

“If I let it go completely I would be giving up and doing a disservice to (my clients) after everything that we’ve been through together,” she said. “It’s too hard.”

Mazerolle, who moved from the first motorcycle company that hired him to working for Mackie Harley-Davidson in January, was quicker to make the career switch, but agreed it was an emotional process.

His anxiety was high and because of strict lockdown restrictions, he felt isolated and missed work.

“When I was let go, it was like I had lost this wonderful umbilical cord attaching me to all the people in my organization, and now they’re gone too,” he said.

Finding a new job was a chance to leave some of those hardships in the dust, but it came with a learning curve, even for a motorcycle lover like Mazerolle.

Now he is constantly learning about parts and accessories, getting excited about innovations Harley-Davidson is working on and talking to customers who love motorcycles as much as he does.

“It is kind of like a dream coming true, and don’t we want our dreams to come true?”

READ MORE: Non-essential travel ban would violate Constitution but courts might allow it: expert

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The concept design for the spray park and playground in Pogadl Park. (Photo Courtesy of Canadian Recreation Solutions)
Sylvan Lake spray park tentatively scheduled to open next year

Sylvan Lake Town Council approved the tender of the spray park and playground in Pogadl Park

Alberta's chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says Albertans need to keep making safe choices to start bending the curve back down. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
One new COVID-19 death in Red Deer, 257 additional cases province-wide

Red Deer sits at 459 active cases of the virus

One of the oil paintings stolen from a season home near the boat launch on Kuusamo Krest. (Photo Submitted)
Sylvan Lake RCMP search for paintings stolen from vacation home

Three original paintings were reportedly stolen from a seasonal home

A lone skater practises his shot on a melting outdoor rink recently. As of March 2, all outdoor skating rinks, including the ones on the lake, are closed for the season. (Photo Submitted by Town of Sylvan Lake)
All outdoor skating rinks in Sylvan Lake closed for the season

The Town announced Tuesday morning the rinks on the lake were also closed due to the warm weather

A health-care worker looks at a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Palais de Congress site as Quebec begins mass vaccinations based on age across the province, Monday, March 1, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Nearly 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses arriving in Canada this week: Anand

Anita Anand says she’s received assurances from the vaccine manufacturer

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

hands
The call is out in Rimbey to sign on with a group that is all about building connections

‘Already, we are building a network where we can rely on each other and help each other out’

FILE - Dolly Parton arrives at the 61st annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Grammy-winning singer, actor and humanitarian posted a video on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, of her singing just before getting her COVID-19 vaccine shot. Parton donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee for coronavirus research. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
‘Vaccine, vaccine’: Dolly sings ‘Jolene’ rewrite before shot

The Grammy-winning legend turned 75 this year

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland speaks about the Fiscal update during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday November 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
COVID-19: Wage and rent subsidies, lockdown support to be extended until June

Chrystia Freeland says now is not time to lower levels of support

Many rural seniors are having to travel a long way to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Stettler residents are being told to go to Red Deer, Drumheller or Camrose. (Black Press file photo).
Rural central Alberta seniors have to travel far to get vaccines

Stettler residents are being directed to Red Deer, Drumheller or Camrose clinics

Samantha Sharpe, 25, was stabbed to death at Sunchild First Nation on Dec. 12, 2018. Chelsey Lagrelle was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for manslaughter in a Red Deer courtroom on Tuesday. Photo contributed
Central Alberta woman sentenced to 4 1/2 years for stabbing friend to death in 2018

Chelsey Lagrelle earlier pleaded guilty to stabbing Samantha Sharpe during argument

Calgary police say they received 80 hate crime complaints between January and November 2020. (Pixabay)
‘Racism is a real problem:’ Muslim women fearful following attacks in Edmonton

So far in 2021, three of seven hate-crime-related investigations have involved Somali-Muslim women

Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro speaks during a news conference in Calgary on May 29, 2020. Shandro says Alberta is considering whether to extend the time between COVID-19 vaccine shots to four months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta may follow B.C.’s lead on faster rollout of first COVID-19 dose

Tyler Shandro says a committee of COVID-19 experts is analyzing emerging data and a decision is coming

Most Read