Shifting gears on a career pays off, Edmonton couple says

An Edmonton couple who quit their jobs and took a career U-turn say they’re loving every mile working together as long-haul truckers.

Kelly and Laurie Gordon say they wouldn't change a thing after quitting their careers to become truckers

Starting a new career was a risky but rewarding venture for an Edmonton couple. (John Bazemore/Associated Press)

An Edmonton couple who quit their jobs and took a career U-turn say they're loving every mile working together as long-haul truckers.

Kelly Gordon had a successful career as a news reporter, then as a spokesman for the Edmonton Police Service and the Edmonton International Airport. But the job meant a lot of time spent away from his wife, Laurie, who worked evenings at the Chateau Lacombe's La Ronde restaurant.

He'd been curious about truck driving since he was a kid, and decided it might be time to hit the gas on his dreams, starting with getting his Class 1 drivers' licence.

"We were married, we chose not to have children, and kind of looked at it and thought we were spending our best time each day apart, and coming home and giving each other what we have left," Kelly said Thursday on CBC's Edmonton AM.

"When I had the opportunity in front of me, I thought 'let's do this.' And then I said to Laurie, 'why don't we both (get our licenses) and just do it for fun. And to try together was really fun."

Laurie admits, at first, she thought her husband was "nuts." But 16 years later, the couple have logged close to four million miles together. They play off each other's' strengths and weaknesses — while Laurie's eyesight means she's better at backing up their 18-wheeler big rig, Kelly's more comfortable on the street directing traffic.

Changing careers a big risk with the possibility of big rewards

A big reason why people switch careers is because they're not feeling challenged, they're feeling their quality of life is diminishing, or they're not using their natural strengths and abilities to their fullest potential, Edmonton career strategist Kathleen Johnston said.

But this big of a career change is quite unusual, she said.

"The difference between changing jobs and changing your career completely… this is a big move and it's not as common, but people certainly do it," Johnston said.

"(But) the payoff for a complete transition where you make this kind of a change is deep satisfaction, joy, meaning, happiness, quality of life."

A few bumps in the road

The journey towards long-haul trucking had a few roadblocks, Kelly admits. He wasn't even sure if he'd pass his driving test and once he did get it, the first year of driving was challenging — never mind learning to live and work as a team in an 80-square-foot cab.

"It's either going to make you or break you as a married couple," Laurie said. "And you're going to figure it out and enjoy it or you're not, but it was the best thing we ever did."

Their families were a big support, Kelly said. Laurie's dad was a long-haul trucker and his wealth of experience came in handy.

Johnston said wanting to fulfil a lifelong dream with the help of a supportive family can make changing careers a little easier, but most people are a bit more hesitant to make the jump.

It can take from six months to a year for someone to examine their motivations for wanting a career change before finally making a decision, she added.

But Kelly said it was worth the risk.

"Go for it. I know it's not that simple, people have barriers. But if you can, push those boundaries and don't be afraid. Try something out of the box," he said.

"There's nothing wrong with working a career for 30 years. It's an honourable, wonderful thing, it's something our folks probably did, but it doesn't happen very often anymore and I think that's probably the way of the future.

"The more flexible you can be, the more viable you're going to be in the future workforce."


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