POV: Switching Industries Mid-Career Like a Boss

BYO enthusiasm and skillset, says Stephanie Hopkin, because there’s a job in Tourism (with a fabulous work-life balance) just for you
Stephanie Hopkin

Hate your job? Bored in your industry? Looking for a better work-life balance? It’s all about that career pivot. Done right, it’s a life-changer. So why not go where “opportunities are ripe for the taking”?

If you transition into a career in the tourism industry, says Stephanie Hopkin, Senior Coordinator of Product Development, Marketing and Communications at Destination Northern Ontario, you don’t have to start over. “The tourism industry is all about having good relationships with people,” she says. “If you can talk to people, bring people together, make connections? Tourism is your fit.”

She knows from experience. After a few years in municipal public relations, and with a degree in Literature, Stephanie made a mid-career transition to the tourism industry—and is now loving her senior role at Destination Northern Ontario (DNO).

There are so many job options in Tourism

Tourism careers are dynamic and diverse, although sometimes they aren’t that obvious if you’re on the outside looking in. “I don’t think I even knew there was such a thing as a career in Tourism when I was just starting out,” says Mike Jacobs, CEO of digital marketing agency The New Business, who works with Stephanie on many DNO projects.

“What people think of as a tourism job is often in accommodation, or outdoors experience. But the industry is really so, so much more,” he points out. “There are great, stable government jobs in tourism. Or on the marketing side, there are so many creative jobs, tech jobs. There are consultants of every variety and there’s lots of niche stuff.” But the best part, he says, is that the community is welcoming and warm-hearted. “You talk to people, you make connections. This is a place where you can really grow a career.”

Smart and strategic moves to find a career you love

Stephanie landed a job writing policy for the Ministry of Natural Resources forest fire division out of university, then made the switch to public relations for the Sault Ste. Marie Mayor’s office before her career shift into tourism at DNO. “I’m a people person, so my relationship-building skills got strong. Working in PR, I made a lot of connections with people in different levels of government.” And those skills helped propel her into tourism.

For Stephanie, the cool thing about working in tourism is that she’s exposed to so many different industries, private and public, in the course of her job. “You never know what opportunities will present themselves until you get your foot in the door,” she says. “It’s not a siloed industry. You’re working with transportation, with marketing, with policy… there’s room to explore, to learn, to grow, to shift. Honestly, the sky is the limit in tourism! I’ve had experiences in my job that I probably wouldn’t have had in any other industry.”

Room to grow…and thrive

Bridging the gap from entry-level to leadership role may be more doable than you expect. Stephanie started in her organization at entry-level. She’s now responsible for two departments. She found there were plenty of opportunities to move up—and that continues to be the case.  “We need people who are driven, and have an appetite and initiative. Opportunities are ripe for the taking right now!”

A career that lets you enjoy your life

Work-life balance: check! For anyone looking to start a family and wondering about a move into tourism, Stephanie says go for it. “I’ve been given a lot of opportunities to have a great work-life balance. I can make a schedule that works for both me and my toddler,” Stephanie notes. It may seem busy from the outside, she says, but the industry itself is cyclical. There’s the busy season, and then the not-so-busy season. She adds that some tourism operators take advantage of this seasonal flow to, say, go surfing for the winter in Costa Rica, or pursue one of their passions.

“I’d say this is one of the most flexible industries! Corporate culture really changed during the pandemic to allow more flexibility in the workplace. But you know what? Tourism was already flex!”

Find your fit in Tourism

One definite plus of many tourism jobs is getting to travel yourself, and for Stephanie, that was the biggest change from her previous jobs. “I’ve been able to see a lot of our country. It really opens horizons, and I love having that exposure to the rest of the province, and the country.”

Living and working in Northern Ontario comes with its own lifestyle, and for those who are drawn to tourism, this is often part of the reason it’s a dream job. “To be able to share the places that we love, in a thing that we love to do… the outdoors is part of our story,” says Stephanie. “It’s a happy place.”

But the bottom line, for Stephanie, is her work culture. “The best thing about my career is the people I work with. The people in the tourism industry are so passionate,” she says. “We truly love what we do.”

Choose your own adventure—and find your career in tourism

Did you know that 35% of all tourism spending is generated in Ontario? That’s over $1.6 billion tourism dollars spent in Ontario every year! There are 8.2 million annual visitors to Northern Ontario, and that number is growing every year. With an exploding industry poised to expand to almost 2.29 million jobs by 2035, it’s a great time to think about making an elegant pivot into tourism.

Why a career pivot into tourism is the best choice for your future:

Tourism Rocks is part of Destination Northern Ontario's Tourism as a Career Campaign. The Government of Ontario and its agencies are in no way bound by any recommendations contained in this article
About Bonnie Schiedel

Bonnie Schiedel is the founder of www.tbaywithkids.ca, which covers fun family-friendly attractions, events and restaurants in Thunder Bay. She enjoys canoeing, hiking, snowshoeing and travel, and you can read more of her award-winning work at www.northstarwriting.ca.

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