Canadian unemployment is near record lows, but several recent high-profile restructuring announcements may leave many wondering about their own job security.

In the last three months alone, Bombardier Inc. announced its decision to cut 3,000 positions in Canada. Meanwhile, General Motors Co. unveiled sweeping restructuring plans that have put 14,000 jobs and seven factories on the chopping block globally, including the plant in Oshawa, Ont.

Stanley Ho’s experiences may provide lessons for workers at GM and Bombardier. Ho was a product manager at BlackBerry Ltd. for six years, when he, along with 40 per cent of the company’s workforce, was laid off in 2013.

“Being laid off or getting a [severance] package regardless of whether you know it’s coming or not isn’t going to feel good,” Ho told BNN Bloomberg in a telephone interview. “Naturally, you start looking at the types of jobs you could do, so you start to see where you can transition those skills.”



Ho has worked for several companies since BlackBerry, but is now a product manager at Rogers Communications Inc. Being in the tech sector, Ho knew he wanted to stay in Toronto, but said others may want to consider whether or not they can relocate.

“I took a little break, and I wrote down what companies I wanted to work for,” said Ho. “Then, eventually, I made the goal of everyday I will apply for five to 10 jobs. Even if the job doesn’t seem right, or I didn’t match the qualifications, I always put my name in the hat.”

Alan Kearns, a career coach and founder of CareerJoy, said the key to protecting your future is about what skills you have to offer, not who your employer is.

“Your security lies in the adaptability of your skills, your ability to market yourself in a changing marketplace, and also your willingness to create rather than wait,”  Kearns said in a telephone interview.

Mature job-seekers with specific training face bigger challenges, however, according to Kearns.  He said an autoworker raised and trained in Oshawa, for example, should consider what else the local economy has to offer a worker with that skillset – and that it’s also important to consider whether going back to school is an option, or if you are prepared to relocate.

A labourer facing a crossroads with sufficient savings might want to consider entrepreneurial opportunities, Kearns added, like starting a business based off skills acquired in the workforce, or to purchase a franchise.

Welder makes career change from oil patch to cannabis retail

Jason Marshall is a former welder who left the energy industry during the 2014 downturn in Alberta. He's now the president of Green Earth Cannabis, currently Calgary's biggest pot retail store.

One such success story is Jason Marshall, a former welder with 20 years’ experience working for Alberta’s Precision Drilling Corp., who came to find his career on the line just three years ago.

“[Oil] prices started to slide a bit, but this one seemed to be one that was going to last a while,” Marshall said in a television interview with BNN Bloomberg on Thursday. “Come March 2015, the yard I was working at closed down so I was faced with a choice of trying to find another job in the same industry or start to keep my eyes open for a new business idea.”

Marshall said after he and his wife attended a franchise show, they invested in a cannabis license.

“We knew there was going to be huge interest in this venture,” said Marshall, now the president of Green Earth Cannabis, Calgary’s largest cannabis retail store. “We wanted to get into the industry early, and we wanted to have a large location.”

Most workers who come to find their career in jeopardy may not be as fortunate as Marshall, who had invested more than $300,000 in his business prior to the store opening its doors on Oct. 17.

But how can an employee know it’s time to prepare for a pivot? Alison Sullivan, a career trends expert with Glassdoor said knowledge is power.

“If you’re currently in your job and you’re unsure of the prospects of your job going forward, knowing what’s going on at your company is really key,” said Sullivan in a telephone interview. “That means attending to company meetings, reading department newsletters, talking with coworkers, making sure you understand what’s going on so that should there be potential layoffs in the future, you can be prepared before that.”

Sullivan added even if an employee is happy with their company, is finding success in their current role and the company seems to be growing, it’s important to be ready for that next step – and that means making sure your resume is up to date, and your skills are where they should be.

“It’s really never been easier to retrain yourself, at any stage of life,” she said.  “There are courses online, like Coursera or Udacity, or even classes on YouTube where you can learn some applicable skills.”

Both Kearns and Sullivan acknowledged that having an online presence on platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter is important in today’s tech-oriented jobs landscape, but Kearns says you can’t overlook who you know.

“I still think the best and fastest road to opportunity is within your network, and your network’s network,” said Kearns. “Who do you know, and who can you have coffee with, and who do they know that they can introduce you to.”

Both career experts pointed to growth and moderate employment security in the technology, ecommerce, cannabis and healthcare sectors, but acknowledged that disruption can occur without notice in any industry.

“It’s not about what industries are futureproof,” said Sullivan, who emphasized the importance of retraining and staying ahead of the latest technology trends. “But about how you can futureproof yourself.”