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

File photo
Alberta’s central zone has 670 active cases

301 new cases identified Sunday

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

4-H Alberta Logo
Rimbey 4-H Club holds virtual public speaking event

Club members submitted their speeches and performances in video format for judging this year.

Alberta Health reported two new COVID-19 deaths in Red Deer Friday. (Image courtesy CDC)
Two more deaths linked to Olymel outbreak in Red Deer

Province reported 356 additional COVID-19 cases Friday

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

Annual spending on debt interest is closing in on $3 billion

People line up outside a vaccine clinic as seniors wait to get the COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton Alta, on Friday February 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Health Services head sorry for glitches in vaccine booking system for seniors

AHS president said technical issues have been fixed and a virtual waiting room is in place

Vandalism is shown on Alberta NDP MLA Janis Irwin’s constituency office in Edmonton in this handout photo on Saturday, February 27, 2021. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney quickly condemned vandalism at an Opposition legislature member Janis Irwin’s Edmonton office after the MLA posted pictures showing her front window spray-painted with the words “Antifa Liar.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Janis Irwin *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Alberta Premier slams vandalism after slur painted on MLA’s office window

Edmonton MLA Janis Irwin posted pictures showing the front window spray-painted with the words ‘Antifa Liar’

A helicopter flies past a mountain near McBride, B.C., on Saturday January 30, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Avalanche warning for backcountry users in North and South Rockies

Avalanche Canada is urging backcountry users to always check their regional avalanche forecasts

Supporters pray outside court in Stony Plain, Alta., on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, as a trial date was set for Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church. He is charged with holding Sunday services in violation of Alberta’s COVID-19 rules and with breaking conditions of his bail release. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Trial date for jailed Alberta pastor charged with breaking COVID-19 health orders

The court says it will reconvene with lawyers on March 5 for a case management plan by teleconference

A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
Canada approves use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

The country joins more than a dozen others in giving the shot the green light

Emily Keeping of Wetaskiwin, Alta., was last seen at 4:20 p.m. on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin. Supplied/ Wetaskiwin RCMP.
UPDATE: Wetaskiwin RCMP seek assistance in locating missing 11-year-old

Emily Keeping was last seen on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin.

Sylvan Lake's Winter Village lured many visitors to the town this winter. The town has launched a new contest to attract a new business.
(Black Press file photo)
Sylvan Lake offering rent-free storefront space to lure new businesses

Winning business proposal will get a storefront space rent-free for a year

Most Read