Jessica Dumas is a professional life coach who specializes in speaker coaching and business launch for women, she lives in Winnipeg. She has lived in the city her entire life, and growing up in the North End of Winnipeg, Jessica’s education and career path is uniquely hers.
“I graduated high school a little bit late. It wasn’t a goal because it wasn’t something that my family really had experienced or talked about. I had quit school for a while, had a son, and then I eventually went back to school. It was having my son in my life that really caused me to want to do better. In the last year of school, I had an opportunity to be part of a youth employment program, and right out of high school, I got a job working for Manitoba Hydro.”
“It was a really good opportunity for a career because no one in my family really worked either and no one had a career, so it was just no big deal. When I started working for Hydro, I was doing customer service and answering calls, I took as much training as I could. I ended up working there for nine years.”
However, a tragedy started Jessica’s search for something outside the corporate world. In 2005, her youngest brother was killed by the Winnipeg police, and in the aftermath, she found herself looking for something more meaningful in life.
“When I left Manitoba Hydro, I started working in restorative justice, and I didn’t know what the heck it was, but doing that work allowed me to do a lot of healing and understanding why this happened to my brother. Since making that change from being employed by a crown corporation and the next journey, I started taking a lot of training on my own initiative and continue to do that today.
But again, the search for something more meaningful eventually led Jessica to her current work as a life coach and speaker. “I ended up leaving that work (in restorative justice) because I just wanted to see what else is there out there for me in this world? What am I supposed to be doing with my life? What kind of skills do I have? What kind of skills do I want to use? I did a whole bunch of smaller jobs before I got into life coaching.”
Her unique approach to learning and education has served her well, but she admits she struggled with societal expectations of higher education. "I think our society tells us you have to go to university. And so I really struggled with thinking ‘if I don’t go to university, I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough. How do I think I could fit into that next level of your career or profession, and have people look at me in a respectful way?"
“I tried university a couple of times and it just wasn’t for me. It’s not for everybody. I tried to balance it out and say it is okay if I don’t have university, I do have a lot of specialized training, and being trained in one specific field, I think is a real benefit to me, but also knowing that it’s okay and that it was up to me to accept that. I had a lot of conversations with friends and people who I respected, people who had university degrees and those who don’t. And (they) would say things to me like, ‘You know your stuff. You don’t have to worry about people not respecting you or showing you the credit that you deserve just because you don’t have a university degree.’”
“I struggled with it for a little while, but then I also realized I met people at conferences or different things, who have degrees in areas that I may have pursued like business or sociology, or things that are kind of an extension of what I do and I realized I was a lot better at my job than they were, and so I thought, ‘You know what? I don’t need a university degree. It’s not for me, and that’s okay!’ I have a lot of training that I’ve taken, like life coaching certification training, facilitation training, advanced business design facilitation. I used to be a little bit insecure about no degree, but not anymore.”
As she transitioned from her corporate career into coaching and speaking, Jessica also struggled with various challenges, including finances, networking, and balancing her responsibilities as a mother. “A lot of my career journey had to do with what was going on in my life. As an adult, I lost my brother. I became divorced and had to raise three kids as a single parent. There were a lot of shifting priorities between what I want to do for my kids and how I wanted to provide for them, and I recognized that in order to give them a life that I want, I need to do something that I really enjoy so I would be happy.
Throughout her varied career, Jessica has learned that self-confidence is key to success. “When I was leaving a permanent job and talking to people about starting a business and being a life coach, people would tell me that I was crazy. People told me I should just go back and get a job. I should always have a job because I need to feed my kids. And so I really had to build a lot of belief in myself because I wasn’t finding it anywhere else, because I had this strong desire in me to just keep going and doing it.”
“I always say you have to believe in yourself. That’s part of the challenge of wanting to do something totally different because not everybody’s going to say, ‘Oh, that’s a great idea. We’ll help you.’ And sometimes that’s really hard to hear, especially if you have kids and you’re raising your kids because that alone is a huge responsibility.”
True to her work as a life coach Jessica offered listeners seven pieces of advice:
Special thanks to Keith Collier for authoring this blog post.
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Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.