While many Canadians are being called back to the office this fall, some have decided that four walls and a laptop no longer suit them. After reassessing their careers during the pandemic, workers are trading in the 9-to-5 grind for less traditional jobs working on their feet, in the great outdoors or with a whole new skill set.
Name: Sarah Oehm
Previous job: Digital marketing for Mountain Equipment Co-op
Current job: Program manager at Soaring Eagle Nature School
After 3½ years working at the headquarters of one of Canada’s most well-known outdoor gear companies, Sarah Oehm, a nature lover and resident of mountainous North Vancouver, B.C., had a realization: “I thought I was in the outdoor industry, but actually I was behind a screen all the time,” she said. Last summer, Ms. Oehm took a leap: She swapped her office for the open air, moving to a job running programs for a nearby children’s camp where she spends several days a week helping kids connect to the natural world. “It’s been a saving grace, not only for my mental and emotional health, but for my quality of life in general.”
Name: Christopher Caira and Lorraine Sit
Previous jobs: Interview coach and art director, respectively
Current job: Co-founders, the Maker Bean Cafe
After working for 15 years in various corporate roles in technology and art direction, Christopher Caira and Lorraine Sit left their desk jobs to open a novel business venture in Toronto: a café that doubles as a maker space, where they offer access to 3-D-printers, laser cutting tools and children’s technology classes. Mr. Caira said they were inspired by the creative technology companies they encountered during a year-and-a-half trip through Asia. When they returned to Toronto, they searched for a way to integrate art and tech into an everyday business. “We examined what brought us energy, and asked ourselves: If it was Monday morning and we could be anywhere, where would it be?” The answer: with a cappuccino – and a laser engraver.
Name: Noah Fung
Previous job: Head of workplace transformation, Bank of Nova Scotia
Current job: Hockey coach
More than a decade ago, at 28, Noah Fung picked up a pair of hockey skates for the first time. Despite feeling a connection with the sport, he had his hands full. He had just moved across the country to Ontario from B.C., and was juggling his hockey hobby with a “more-than-full-time job” as a bank executive. Recent years brought new responsibilities, as Mr. Fung helped Scotiabank design its hybrid and return-to-office system. But he won’t be returning himself. Since retiring in May, Mr. Fung has started a business working as a hockey coach, helping others who, like him, came late to the sport. “I’m focused on adult instruction – the people who never gave it a shot as a kid.”
Name: Cathy Giblin
Previous job: Registrar for the College of Registered Nurses of Alberta
Current job: Founder of Organic Gardener and Co.
When Cathy Giblin left her three-decade-long nursing career in 2018, she was burned out and in need of change. “I was physically unwell, and I didn’t realize until I was away from it,” she said. Seeking a way to restore balance in her life, she said, she took the master gardeners program – planting being a lifelong interest – in her spare time and was inspired to start her own small business caring for gardens full-time. “Soil, insects, plants, the weather … all appealed to me as more relevant and essential than the focus of my previous working life,” she said. Her past four summers have been spent nurturing flowers, bushes and trees across Edmonton, alongside half a dozen employees. “I have dirt under my fingernails, I’m wearing steel-toed construction boots, and I love it.”
Name: Georelle Mendoza
Location: Woodbridge, Ont.
Previous job: Parks, Forestry and Recreation employee for the City of Toronto
Current job: Tattoo artist at Elite Ink Collective
At 18, Georelle Mendoza was already envisioning the tattoo shop that she hoped to open one day: something unlike the grungy, metal-music parlours she had known. But at the time, she was busy with school and her part-time job with the City of Toronto, where she worked in the parks department. After a decade at the municipality and some lockdown-driven introspection, Ms. Mendoza said she knew it was finally time to move on. After a one-year stint as a property manager, she decided to dive into her teenage dream. In May, 2022, Ms. Mendoza gave up her 9-to-5 job to pursue her career as a full-time tattoo artist, and now specializes in fine-line art and permanent makeup. “Work doesn’t feel like a job,” she said. “I’ve become my own boss.”