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Lesley McDougall profile

Lesley McDougall

“Contact North is something I’m going to use as a resource in the future, even once I get full-time employment, to grow my knowledge. There’s so much to learn.”

Online Learning Centre
Cornwall, Ontario

Area of Study
Marketing Specialist

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Finding her feet after a mid-life career switch

As the pandemic steamrolled economies in virtually every corner of the globe this past year, few sectors were harder hit than the travel industry.

Lesley McDougall was a travel agent in her mid-40s when she was laid off, and although she hadn’t been considering a mid-life career switch — she was just looking for another job — circumstances set her on a learning journey that she now sees as a win-win.

“You’ve got to look at the job market but you’ve also got to do something that interests you. Contact North will help you figure out where your skills and interests are and steer you toward those courses. There’s truly something for everybody. You’re going to realize, ‘I can do this.’ ”

“At that time I was really kind of lost, wondering how long I was going to be laid off,” says Lesley, who lives west of Cornwall.

“Then I kind of realized maybe I could look at Second Career (the Ontario Government program that helps laid-off workers get back to work). I started looking at what skills I do have, and if I was to start from scratch what would I truly want to do and what am I passionate about?

“I was introduced to Contact North and Barb Matthews, who is wonderful. I started taking generic courses so that when I was looking for jobs I could build my resume. Through Contact North, I had access to more resources and courses I could take for free quickly — tools like Excel and PowerPoint that I had used for years but had never actually taken any formal training in.”

Now enrolled in the Marketing Specialist Certificate program at Sault College, Lesley looks forward to seeing how her learning journey will help shape her next career.

“Contact North is something I’m going to use as a resource in the future, even once I get full-time employment, to grow my knowledge,” she says. “There’s so much to learn. The fact that these courses are out there and a lot of them are free is great.

“Barb was always checking in to say, ‘What do you need? How can I help you?’ I don’t necessarily need the check-ins because I’m very motivated but for people who struggle with that, that resource is there. It’s about taking that first step.

“You’ve got to look at the job market but you’ve also got to do something that interests you. Contact North will help you figure out where your skills and interests are and steer you toward those courses. There’s truly something for everybody. You’re going to realize, ‘I can do this.’ ”