A “Patch of Uncertainty” Fuelled This Career Counsellor’s Career Change

By Jodi Lastman

In my current Career Counselling practice I ask people: “When you were young, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?”

My answer to that question is interesting. I said that I wanted to create female mannequins that more accurately depicted real women.  I’m not exactly sure where I got the idea (I think I saw a news piece on someone who was doing this). What I glean from this early answer is that I wanted to do something meaningful and disrupt the status quo.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the interest in women’s representation, I ended up majoring in Women’s Studies and English at University of Western Ontario. I liked Women’s Studies so much that I ended up doing a Master’s at The Ohio State University.

My Master’s was the greatest two years of my life. But this blissful period came to an abrupt end as soon as I started to consider my “real world” options. The end of my Master’s was quickly approaching and I didn’t know what to do next. 

So, I did what any respectable person in my position would do...I went to Law School. Wait, I should rephrase that. I went to Law School for one semester. I left in a blur of anxiety, disappointment and utter confusion. What followed was a three year period in which I did the following:

  • Worked at The Volunteer Centre of Metro Toronto
  • Completed a certificate in Arts Management (including 2 internships)
  • Completed two years of a PhD in Film Studies in Pittsburgh
  • Quit the PhD and came home to Toronto

Behind all of the bouncing-around was a longing to do something good and meaningful in a world that seemed to be all about selling consumer goods that I had no interest in peddling. I had an existential angst that I couldn’t shake. I wanted to contribute but didn’t know how.

I articulated this to a Head-Hunter who specialized in the ad agency world. I plainly told him “I think I want to be in advertising, but I don’t want to sell soap.” His eyes lit up. That’s when I first discovered how powerful it can be when you can clearly articulate what you want. If you can’t say it, how can you hope to get it? A new path opened up and I’ve followed it for the last ten years.

The Head-Hunter helped me land a job at Manifest Communications, a Social Marketing agency that works with non-profit clients in Toronto. After my second daughter was born, my husband coaxed me into joining his marketing company, Hypenotic,  as General Manager.  I’ve been at Hypenotic for the past five years. Together with our awesome team, my husband and I have developed a really robust client base of incredible people from places like MaRS Discovery District, The Gladstone Hotel, Toronto Public Health, Fiesta Farms and others. I lead research and strategy with these values-based clients and project manage both on and offline projects that help them amplify and spread the important issues they represent. Hypenotic is also a B Corp. That means we’re certified as a “good company” based on how we treat the environment, community and our employees. In short, it’s a company I’m proud to be part of.

Two years ago, however, I circled back to the perennial question everyone asks themselves; “What kind of work would I find most meaningful?” In thinking about this I considered what I liked best about the last ten years in marketing. I realized that it is meeting clients and helping them transform information into insights. I also revisited that painful three-year period in which I struggled to find work that I found meaningful. Finally I thought about my brother and other people who I’d known who’d experienced painful struggles to be happy in their careers. And, I decided to make a change.

I’m now in the final stages of becoming certified as a Career Development Practitioner or what's more commonly known as a Career Counsellor. I’ve taken one day a week away from Hypenotic to do my coursework at Conestoga College and I’ll be a Certified Career Counsellor in January. I’m at the tail end of my practicum which has confirmed that this is a great line of work for me.

Working one on one with clients to make sense of their career and life stories is a great use of the skills I honed working in marketing for the past ten years and it’s meaningful work that makes a tangible difference in the lives of others.

It turns out that three-year patch of uncertainty had a much bigger impact on my life than I could have ever imagined. It was a difficult time but it would have been much easier had I realized that something so good would come out of it. Career change is an interesting process. When you’re calm and clear headed enough to articulate what you want for your career, and life, pathways start to open up. This is what I hope to help my future clients understand.

In the meantime my career and life continue to be a living experiment in what can happen if you face uncertainty with courage. I believe that the trick is taking a little bit of time (it only takes a few hours to get clarity on this stuff and we spend 8 hours A DAY at our jobs) to articulate what you want for your career so you can courageously move in that direction. My work is a work in progress, but I kind of figure it’s a process that won’t ever end. And I’m starting to get used to that idea.