CHASIcast: Dr. Linda Pardy on the non-linear path of careers

The newest episode of the CHASIcast tackles the challenges students and graduates face in turning their hard-earned credentials into a meaningful career in a brave new post-pandemic world. Join host Dr. Martha Dow, along with Dr. Linda Pardy, Associate Dean of Students at UFV’s College of Arts and part of CHASI’s new research cluster, CALL, as they discuss the non-linear and unexpected paths students may encounter, and how the unknown element of AI may change the career calculus.

The CHASIcast is available to stream on your favourite podcast service – Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube, Google Podcasts, and Amazon Music/Audible. You can also listen to the latest episode below.

Headshot photo of Dr. Linda Pardy. A quote attributed to hear reads: I kind of stepped away from thinking about career as ‘let’s limit your possibilities, take an occupation, become that occupation, get a gold watch and retire,’ as opposed to looking at ‘how do I expand?’ ‘How do I move?’ ‘How do I shift when I need to shift?’” End of quote. Beneath, Linda’s titles are listed as “Associate Dean of Students, College of Arts and CHASI Faculty Associate, Career and Learning for Life consortium.”

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CHASIcast voice-over 00:01
Coming up on the CHASIcast…

Linda Pardy 00:03
I kind of stepped away from thinking about career as “Let’s limit your possibilities, pick an occupation, become that occupation, get a gold watch and retire.”

CHASIcast voice-over 00:13
Dr. Linda Pardy on the challenge of turning a hard-earned degree into a meaningful career in this brave new world.

Linda Pardy 00:19
So AI, I mean, we’ve all heard and read about it, and it’s not going to stop. So you have to think about what skills can a robot not do?

CHASIcast voice-over 00:29
The changing art of trailblazing, in this episode of the CHASIcast.

CHASIcast voice-over 00:38
From UFV’s Community Health and Social Innovation Hub, this is the CHASIcast, a program dedicated to bringing experts and insights to the issues that shape our lives, because words have to matter. Now, here’s your host, Dr. Martha Dow.

Martha Dow 01:00
It’s my pleasure to welcome Dr. Linda Pardy to the CHASIcast today. Linda is the Associate Dean of the College of Arts and a member of the new research cluster that we’ve added to CHASI, CALL, which refers to Career and Learning for Life. So welcome, Linda.

Linda Pardy 01:18
Thanks for having me. It’s exciting,

Martha Dow 01:20
I wonder for a great place to start, would be to tell us a bit about what CALL is, what your vision is, you know why CHASI, maybe?

Linda Pardy 01:28
Yeah, a couple different things CALL, is career, but not job research, right? So it’s about career, the whole lifespan of what you’re going to do with yourself through from the time you leave high school to university to the time you have your multiple career transitions to the time you retire to the time you go, wherever you go. And then the economic forecasting of that, the social imperative of career needs to be looked at. It’s a whole cluster. I mean, that’s why I think that the cluster word is really interesting. It’s a cluster of different roles we have in society, and we have as individuals, and we don’t often talk about that. So I’m thinking that as a cluster of researchers, we’ve got economists, we’ve got career development people, we’ve got counseling kinds of people that are working with us, we can open up some of those conversations that we don’t talk about, but need to talk about. As the world has changed, our economy has changed, the world of work has changed dramatically. So we need to understand that better to make better decisions.

Martha Dow 02:30
What brought you to that understanding, because I’m with you on this, right? We’ve talked lots about this, but what brought you to this journey in terms of your own research.

Linda Pardy 02:40
So I think I started my career in student affairs and financial aid, in academic advising in the career centers. And at that time, you probably you know, yourself Martha, in high school, they often give you like an aptitude test, you know, “here, take this aptitude test, and we’re going to eliminate what you’re not good at, we’re gonna spotlight what you’re good at.” And that’s where you need to aim your career. And then I think back to my parents, and they definitely took occupation, became something, worked at that till they’re 65. Well, that doesn’t exist for people anymore.

Linda Pardy 03:15
When I was working as a financial aid officer, half the time the students would come. And they thought finances was their issue. But it was a whole bunch of other things, right? It’s all piled in. So over the years working in post secondary, I’ve realized that there’s multiple layers to picking what your career is, there’s multiple layers to figuring out how you’re going to have security as an individual in the world. And that means feeding yourself. But it also means keeping yourself mentally well at work. And at home, and your work and life is all part of who you are. So I kind of stepped away from thinking about career as “let’s limit your possibilities, take an occupation, become that occupation, get a gold watch and retire,” as opposed to looking at how do I expand? How do I move? How do I shift when I need to shift when things change and look like we learned a lot about that from COVID. We’ve learned a lot from the jobs that are available now.

Linda Pardy 04:12
That the way we’ve been training people to think about career doesn’t work. It’s very nonlinear. And one of the analogy I’d use for students now is one time we talk about career ladders. Well, career ladder, it’s more like a career rock climbing wall. You know, you have to hang, kind of climb up a few steps. And then you go over one and you hang on for a little while to get your breath to get some more skills. You might even move laterally. But we don’t talk about that. We don’t understand that we don’t see it in the research that often. We talk about progression, but progression isn’t straight. And so I got quite interested in how we tell young people or we tell people transitioning from one career to the other at different life stages. What that really looks like, not the myth.

Martha Dow 05:00
It’s interesting, as a university, just generally, not just UFV, how are we sort of complicit in sort of setting students up? But also, how are we able to, in fact, give them opportunities to understand careers in a really different way?

Linda Pardy 05:15
I think like, for instance, BCIT does a really good job. It says, take our program, and you’re going to become X. And they do they train you specifically to become X. And I call that having career ready education. So if you want to become a welder, you take welding training, you become a welder. If you become a dental hygienist, you take that training, and career ready programs are really, really important because you know exactly what they are. But for three quarters or probably 75% of the population. They don’t go into career ready training.

Linda Pardy 05:50
So to university, we don’t go into philosophy and say, oh, look at Indeed on on LinkedIn, there’s a job posting for philosopher. We don’t see that in sociology, we don’t see that in most of the humanities and social sciences. Yet the majority of the workforce has a humanities or social science background if they have a university education. And we’re not very good at talking about how does the largest area of academic programming align, to career not to necessarily to job? So careers. so I think that the humanities, social sciences, even the sciences, it’s kind of a bit of a myth that STEM grads get out and know exactly what they’re doing. There’s all kinds of data that shows they have just as much trouble like a biologist, where are you going to be in biology? Where do you first get that first job, that first career move.

Linda Pardy 05:50
And so we need to, universities need to start talking about career readiness, the skills that you get from a liberal education, are going to provide you with the readiness to do all kinds of different jobs, all kinds of different careers to move, if you get bored to move, if there’s an emergency or there’s a necessity or one occupation dries up, or you don’t like who you’re working for, you know, you can move, but a career ready kind of education, it’s hard to move, like, once you’re a welder, you’re a welder, unless you take more education. You can get in, say, from a philosophy degree, you can become a doctor, if you want, you can do an MBA if you want. Like there’s lots of mobility. And I think we need to do a better job of telling our students said you can start here and go anywhere.

Martha Dow 07:37
You’d know much better than I but I feel like that’s gonna get even harder to communicate to students, as we feel more and more economic pressures. And I think part of that, at least, is sort of parents, right? So they’re, you know, I hear so often from my students saying, Oh, my goodness, my parents would give me so much grief about taking a sociology course, what are you going to do with that? That sort of thing? I wonder a bit about that, like, the role for universities to connect with community in terms of educating about pathways, you know, all the work that you do with parents, are there other things that you’ve thought about over your career that we could do differently in terms of that engagement.

Linda Pardy 08:13
So most people will go on a website and say, oh, let’s use sociology for an example. And you’re gonna sociology’s web page, and it’ll say, our grads are doing this. And then you look at the occupations that these are saying they’re doing and a student or a parent goes, well, how are they doing that? Because it doesn’t say sociologist, it says all kinds of other occupations that you think Well, no, I thought you would need your business degree, thought you would have needed, like some other type of training, what goes on with it. But we don’t ever tell the student what they did between the degree and the occupation. We also don’t package up and tell the students these are the skills you’re learning in this degree, that transfer far out into the work place.

Linda Pardy 08:55
So what I it’s what I call far transfer, and I think we need to do a better job of definitely with research, but also with how we even talk about things in courses to say, you know, you’re doing this here for now for an academic reason. But that same reason, if you flip the language of it is something and employers looking for and help the students own that language. We’ve also got to start showing students how things are hybrid, how skills and different occupations go together in different ways. That if you take say media, arts and sociology together, maybe you make data come alive. You know, data coming alive is really important today, like we’ve got lots of data, but if it’s going to be all shelved in books and binders, people aren’t going to see it. But if you had a media arts minor and a sociology major, that data now becomes very accessible. And those are the jobs of the future.

Martha Dow 09:53
It’s interesting, you know, just to toot the horn of CHASI for a quick second it’s it’s really what… It’s not really CHASI, it’s the community, they came to us and said, one of our biggest challenges is that we feel like there’s data out there, we feel like there’s knowledge, but it’s not packaged in a way that is really usable to us. It’s not accessible. And it’s not sort of ready for us to make it actionable. And so I think I’m often most excited by our knowledge mobilization team in terms of all the creative ideas they have about mobilizing what we know.

Linda Pardy 10:24
Yeah, absolutely. And like when parents are nervous, I started talking to parents about well, how are we going to robot proof our kids? Right? So AI, I mean, we’ve all heard him read about it, and it’s not going to stop. So you have to think about what skills can a robot not do? What you know, in any job that has rules, and you know, like, set rules, set procedures, things that can be programmed are easily going to be taken over by AI or robots. But then we need the human on the other side to interpret that, or to deliver it to another human. And then that’s going to take a skill set that’s not easily, like taught in a rote kind of way, or easily taught in an assessment type of way it’s experiencing it and trying to move it from, like dissemination to something that’s interactive, that’s engaging that draws people in that interpersonal… I don’t like the word soft skills, because the soft skills are actually hard skills to learn. And they’re all around you. And I think universities have to help students realize that they come in with a lot of knowledge, we need to help them package it to knowledge, they feel confident using in multiple venues, multiple opportunities for themselves.

Martha Dow 11:45
It’s one of the things I really appreciate about one of our faculty associate some Dr. Amir Shabani, because when he’s he does work in AI. And what he’s always talking about is not replacement, right? It’s really about complementing and we’d better understand it well enough so that we can think about how, you know, AI complements what we do as opposed to replaces so I’ve always really appreciated that perspective.

Linda Pardy 12:07
Yeah, and that’s exactly it. I mean, when we look at like, how many of us do our income tax ourselves anymore? You use something like TurboTax or something, right? Like, we still need people to, to problem solve the big tax issues in the world or to do investigations, but we’re not going to need people to process that line by line information, that can be done. So like, how do we live alongside AI? How do we remain sort of like the superior thinker of AI. And the other thing you have to remember is humans can unplug AI. So who gets to decide who gets to plug it in, and who gets to unplug it? Who gets to decide like self driving cars, we’ve been talking about that now for 15 years. I can remember years ago, having an assignment on self driving cars in a communications course I was teaching and that was a long time ago. The dialogue, the thinking power that students need or the careers and the opportunities they’re going to have is who’s going to make the rules up for self driving cars, who’s going to negotiate with the cities, with councils, with parking lots, all of that, to make room for self driving cars? Those students are going to have to have different skill set than just understanding how to program a self driving car.

Martha Dow 13:28
I know you think and and talk lots about credentialing. And so I wondered about how does some of what you’re talking about translate into the kinds of credentials we offer, whether they’re micro or the badges, conversation, etc. I wonder if you could talk just a bit about credentialing?

Linda Pardy 13:44
Yeah, credentialing is really complicated in so many ways, because parents and students think that is the sign or that is the thing you get when someone acknowledges that you’ve got the competency or have learned something. But you have to think with how fast things are moving, that credential is only good this year, or next year, and you’ve got to keep learning. And so credentials, I think, definitely need to change in the sense that they’re more hybrid, or interconnected. Will Maher, who teachers in our media arts program, told me a really cool story about a student who had taken a hairdressing program, and you know, has a credential as a hairdresser, but then got bored doing that, came back and took media arts, got her credentials and media arts got a BA in media arts. Then she went and worked in a graphic animation studio in Vancouver.

Linda Pardy 14:38
And she realized she was really good with drawing and arranging the fur on cartoon animals. And, and so she took her hairdressing skills, right? And so like, say if she was doing a cartoon or something about a mouse who’s out in the heat, and then he gets rained on, and then he goes for a swim, and then he’s dried again, all of that has to change how he looks. So the two credentials of having hairdressing credential and having media arts, she put together. And that’s where I think micro credentials or smaller credential packs help build specific skills — if we help students see how they can go together. Interdisciplinary degrees, I think, pick your own journey degree. Who are we to say that, you know, this is a major, and that is a minor? I think there’s lots of room and I think it’d be quite exciting to see universities get around putting a business minor with a philosophy major, which we don’t pair together, right. But you look at AI and you look at what Google’s doing, they’re looking for definitely that philosophical thinking, with some business with some computing, put it together, and you’ve got that think tank happening within like one person.

Martha Dow 15:59
I love that story about the hairdresser. And it also reminds me, though, like, is that accidental? Can we really anticipate enough to support students as they’re making those choices? Or is that kind of a neat story, as we think in hindsight, and how do you see that?

Linda Pardy 16:20
That’s where I think credentialing is a bit of a false myth, right? So we have to have credentials, I think, because people seem to take that as a recognition that I’m done that I’ve learned something they need that for that piece. But as we go, I think people will start to rely on their own embodied knowing and their own pieces, what we have to do is help students connect all those informal skills that they have from all different types of experiences they’ve had in their lives, to the incidental learning that they go. So like someone with a background in adult ed, I believe in incidental learning, informal learning, and then formal learning.

Linda Pardy 17:01
So formal learning needs a credential, but not all learning can be assessed. I mean, we shouldn’t necessarily… I mean, think of all the things you’ve learned from motherhood, right? Or parenting, or whatever, you definitely don’t get a credential for that.

Martha Dow 17:20
You do to pay for it, though.

Linda Pardy 17:22
*Laughs* In some way or another way. But you definitely get skills that you can transfer, far transfer, into other environments. Some people sometimes just need to have that dialogue, that reflective practice that opportunity to talk through “well I think I know that” and someone to validate that, but they don’t need it validate an assertive with a piece of paper, they need validated through dialogue, like through seeing it demonstrated through being given opportunities to practice and they go, “whoa, I did that,” you know.

Linda Pardy 17:51
And I think the more we can do that in classrooms, the more empowerment students have. Let them make mistakes. I mean, maybe we should give credit for when you fail, because you learn a lot by failing. And so if we go, “you failed, you don’t get this credential,” instead of saying, “you gave it a good try, you failed, great, look at all the things you’ve learned.” Those you can carry on to your next opportunity. And you’re gonna say, “oh, I know what’s coming. I feel it. I know how to circumvent that.” That’s the skill. So how we teach that I’m not, you know, I think it’s more by doing and being open and allowing it to happen?

Martha Dow 18:29
Well, it also relates to, you know, us kind of being open to blowing up what we think about in grading and how we set out evaluation and all those kinds of things, and allowing ourselves to be a bit more creative in those ways.

Linda Pardy 18:43
And that’s, I mean, that’s definitely a social innovation. And looking at grading, grading is very judgmental, it’s very colonial, in a lot of ways and how we go about it. And we also kill learning when we evaluate it too tightly. So when you have students who are being able to try things, and then you have to stand back and go, “well, your attempt wasn’t as good as this person’s attempt,” you get that pressure piece that stops learning.

Martha Dow 19:11
I’m curious about the thing that’s surprised you the most in your own journey, the things that you know, the moments or the forks in the road or that kind of thing?

Linda Pardy 19:21
Well, if somebody would have said to me I’d be doing what I do today, say 20 years ago, even, I would have said no way.

Linda Pardy 19:29
I didn’t see myself as somebody that would go and do a bunch of levels of post secondary. Not at all. I saw myself as somebody who you know, was a good hard worker, but more… I don’t know more focused on something physical, like, you know, kind of thing, and not intellectual. But then I found when I was in that type of role, I kept getting bored. And I was a real observer. I’d look around at the different people I was working with or for. And I’d think “oh, what they’re doing is cool.” But not giving myself permission to think “well, how did they get to do what they do that’s cool?” So it wasn’t until I allowed myself to start exploring and thinking, “well, maybe I could try that” and started to try. So my big surprise is if you let go of what you think you should do, or what you’ve been told you could do? Again, it gets back to that assessment, you know, like, okay, these are the things you’re going to be good at. I think “I don’t want to be that.” But it takes a while for you to get permission within yourself to go and do… “no, I’m going to try this and I’m going to do it,” then you get energy from it. And the more that kind of connects, the more energy more kind of goodwill, the more curiosity, the more curious you become more opportunities open up. It surprises me how curious you have to be in order to sustain your career through your life.

Martha Dow 19:29
Why not?

Martha Dow 21:01
And yet, it’s so interesting, because it connects to what you just said about how we can sometimes kill curiosity in terms of how we grade etc. So how do you ensure that we’re supporting that curiosity within the structure we operate within?

Linda Pardy 21:16
Yeah, and you know, employers are asking for creativity, curiosity, communication as their top kind of skills that they want from people. So they can train them on everything else that we think in post secondary, we need to be training students to do, we need to make the students hungry and curious and exploratory and risk taking and creative. And they’ll find their way.

Martha Dow 21:41
In the time we have, I’d love to hear in the world in the state that it feels like it’s in, I’m always amazed how optimistic our students still are about their roles as change agents, you know, as an educator, as a leader in this institution. What are your thoughts on how we support our students in these times?

Linda Pardy 22:02
I think we have to start treating our students like leaders. So for instance, I’m teaching a course right now with our Indigenous academic success cohort. And I’m not an Indigenous person, and they were doing a project that had a drummer, and everybody sat still with it, the student was drumming and everything. And then some of the Indigenous students said, “well, that felt awkward.” And I said, “well, what felt awkward about it?” and they go, “well, normally, we would stand up. And normally we would do this.” And so I said, “so why didn’t you say something?” And they said, “well, who are we to say that to?” And I said, “well, to me, you should say, ‘hey, come on, stand up.'” And “oh, but you’re the instructor.” I said, “no, you’re the leaders of tomorrow, you need to start leading now.” Right? “You need to lead now. And we need to let you lead, and we need to follow.”

Linda Pardy 22:05
So the next time we had the next presentation, they started off saying “okay, well, you need to be able to do this. And you need—” they took the leadership in the classroom. And I think it’s really important that we start letting students take the lead and practice and we support that’s going to give them wings. Like that’s going to give them the strength, I think that they need, because it’s like the economy and everything’s heavy on the students. And finding work that’s not precarious, is really heavy on our students and way more so than when you and I graduated. I mean, when you and I graduated people came to the campus and recruited you.

Martha Dow 22:48
Yeah, very different.

Linda Pardy 23:32
Very different. And you could see kind of pathways through. So I have a lot of faith in the young people because they are positive. And “I thought if I was them, I don’t know if I’d be as positive as they are.” So I do think faculty and employers in particular, need to step up and really support them because they are the future.

Martha Dow 23:54
Well, that’s a perfect place to end our conversation, at least for today. I know the CHASI team is so excited about CALL joining us. Just so excited about the research that’s coming up and the work that we’re going to be able to do.

Linda Pardy 24:07
Yeah, we’re really excited about it too.

Martha Dow 24:09
Thank you.

CHASIcast voice-over 24:10
The CHASIcast is a production of the Community Health and Social Innovation Hub at the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, British Columbia.