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

COVID
Red Deer down to 313 active cases of COVID-19

Alberta reports an additional 411 COVID-19 cases

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alex Panetta
Economists “cautiously hopeful” for economic recovery in Alberta

Charles St. Arnaud says Alberta’s recovery will rebound along with roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw acknowledged that Friday would be one year since the first case of COVID-19 was identified in the province. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Three more Red Deer COVID-19 deaths, 331 active cases in Alberta

Red Deer is down to 362 active cases of the virus

Image curtesy Metro Creative Connection
County of Wetaskiwin addresses unpaid oil and gas taxes

The County of Wetaskiwin is addressing unpaid oil and gas taxes and… Continue reading

Caitlin Kraft, the sister of Jeffery Kraft, stands third from the left, holding a sign calling for the maximum sentence for Campbell, who is charged with manslaughter. (Photo by Paul Cowley)
UPDATED: Judge again rejects submission of 7-year sentence for slaying of Kraft

Tyler John Campbell charged with second-degree murder for December 2019 homicide

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

A decommissioned pumpjack is shown at a well head on an oil and gas installation near Cremona, Alta., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. The Alberta Energy Regulator says it is suspending all of the licences held by an oil and gas producer with more than 2,200 wells and 2,100 pipelines after it failed to bring its operations into compliance. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta Energy Regulator suspends licences of oil and gas producer that owes $67M

The company is being asked to comply with past orders to clean up historic spills and contamination

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Seniors in the 65-unit Piper Creek Lodge are among those waiting for COVID-19 vaccinations. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Central Alberta senior lodges anxiously waiting for COVID-19 vaccinations

“Should be at the front of the line, not the back of the line”

Pictured here is Stettler’s Jenner Smith with a guide dog from Aspen Service Dogs. An online auction will be running soon to help raise funds for Jenner to receive his very own service dog later this year. Jenner, who is four years old, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2019. photo submitted
An online auction is planned to raise funds for a service dog for a Stettler family

Jenner Smith, four, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2019

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

This Dec. 2, 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of its Janssen subsidiary’s COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Johnson & Johnson via AP
Canada approves Johnson & Johnson’s 1-shot COVID-19 vaccine

It is the 4th vaccine approved in Canada and the 1st that requires just a single dose

Most Read