Proactive Career Resilience: Tips from Dr. Candy Ho

Proactive Career Resilience: Tips from Dr. Candy Ho

Dr. Candy Ho, Chair of the Board of Directors at CERIC, recently shared insights in an interview with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine. She discussed her career journey from volunteering as a peer educator to her current role as an assistant professor of careers at the University of the Fraser Valley in BC. Dr. Candy highlighted the 10 megatrends expected to shape the future of work in Canada, emphasizing the need for adaptability and lifelong learning. She also provided valuable tips for individuals to proactively prepare for career resilience while stressing the importance of employers embracing flexibility, continuous learning, diversity, and inclusion to meet changing workforce expectations and maintain positive work environments.

Dr. Candy Ho is the Chair of the Board of Directors of CERIC, a national charitable organization advancing education and research in career development in Canada. She is also the inaugural Assistant Professor, Integrative Career and Capstone Learning at the University of the Fraser Valley in British Columbia, teaching courses that help students consider their educational and life experiences, and how these experiences can help them achieve their short- and long-term goals, ultimately helping them design the life they want to live. In addition, she also holds teaching positions in Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Educational Studies department and in Douglas College’s Career Development Practitioner Program. With a doctorate in Education, Candy is keenly interested in the convergence between career education and development, teaching and learning and student success. 

Could you begin by sharing your journey as a career professional and how you’ve come to be an assistant professor of careers at the University of the Fraser Valley in BC? What inspired you to focus on career development?

I’d like to think that I am a good example of how one can ‘volunteer their way into a career.’ During my undergraduate studies, I signed up to be a peer educator at my university’s career centre. I fell in love with helping students explore their possibilities, articulate their skills and experience in their applications and during interviews, and reflect on how their studies connected with their professional goals and aspirations. Upon graduation, I continued working at my alma mater and served in various capacities including new student transition, campus life, student engagement and leadership, residence and housing and university advancement. In every capacity, I found myself feeling curious about how I (and my institution) could better help students with their career possibilities. That’s when I knew I was meant to eventually return to a career education role. Fast forward, I now hold two faculty positions teaching my dream courses in career development at the University of the Fraser Valley and Kwantlen Polytechnic University, where I get to help students think about how they want to leverage their talent, knowledge and skills to achieve their goals, such as applying for their dream jobs, continuing to graduate studies and/or starting entrepreneurial ventures.

What in your opinion are the major changes impacting the future of work in Canada? And how they are expected to shape the Canadian job market in the coming years?

The organization I chair called CERIC – a charitable organization whose mandate is to advance career development and education in Canada – recently commissioned Creative Futures Studio Inc. to explore what career development might look like in 2040. To inform the report, Career Development in 2040, they interviewed career development practitioners across our country on the changes they see in the field. 

They discovered 10 megatrends that are expected to affect the job market in significant ways in the years to come. Whether they are employers, employees or jobseekers, Canadians need to take note and get ready for the changes ahead. 

The 10 megatrends described in the report that are expected to shape work in 2040 are: 

Work Anywhere: COVID-19 accelerated a transition to remote work, creating conditions for working from anywhere – across borders, with greater mobility and for any company. 

AI & Automation: Artificial intelligence and automation is exploding across the labour market, with significant investments across all industries. 

Living with Climate Change: The impacts of climate change, such as wildfires, heat waves, droughts, and storms are likely to increase, with impacts on air quality, food production and diseases.  

Geopolitical Conflicts: Shifting global powers, conflict and natural disasters are creating complex political and economic dynamics with local impacts. 

Reconciling the Impacts of Colonialism: There is a growing awareness of the intergenerational impacts of colonization, the pervasiveness of systemic racism embedded in institutions, and truth and reconciliation as a national project. 

Economic Precarity: Cost of living and affordability is increasingly a challenge for many Canadians, exacerbated by the housing crisis and increasing the number of residents who are food insecure. 

Globalization Under Pressure: COVID-19 and global conflicts have challenged principles of globalization, which may provide the conditions for a localized economy or, conversely, accelerate the power of global corporations.

Education, Disrupted: Employers and hiring practices are focusing on skills over credentials, and the rising cost of post-secondary education and availability of free online learning platforms may transform the post-secondary education sector.

Declining Mental Health & Well-being: Mental health challenges and drug and addiction rates have all grown significantly in recent years, in part due to COVID- 19, economic precarity, climate anxiety and increased use of technology.

Generational Shifts: New generations are taking power with different values than previous generations, while older workers are working longer.

As indicated by the megatrends from the report, the future of work in Canada will be shaped by technological advancements, changing work arrangements, social and economic events, sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and a heightened focus on well-being. Adaptability and a commitment to lifelong learning will be key for individuals seeking to thrive in our continually evolving labour market. Ultimately, ensuring an inclusive future for our workforce will require collaborative efforts between our government, industry, professional associations and educational institutions.

Many Canadians are concerned about the anticipated labor market shifts. What are your top three tips for individuals to proactively prepare for these changes and ensure their career resilience?

Continuous Learning and Upskilling

Seek out opportunities to acquire new skills, whether through formal education, online courses, microcredentials, workshops, mentorships or self-study, etc. Ask yourself: What are the skills that are in high demand in the roles and industries I’d like to pursue? How can I gain and hone these skills I have identified? By staying up to date on in-demand skills and adaptable to the changing labour market, you can enhance your value to employers and position yourself as a valuable asset.

Network and Diversify

Continually building and maintaining a robust professional network is essential for career resilience. Having a broad professional network – one that expands beyond your immediate field – can provide you with valuable insights, job opportunities and support throughout your career journey, especially during challenging times. Attend industry events, join online communities, serve in leadership roles in professional associations and use platforms like LinkedIn to connect with professionals in your field and beyond.

Develop a Career Mindset

A career mindset is a strategic approach to career development that is deliberate and focused on how the individual seeks to shape their future and see their career develop and unfold. Embracing a career mindset can help you adapt to changing circumstances and overcome setbacks, as you remain receptive to feedback and view missteps as learning opportunities, all while continuing to navigate toward your long-term goals. Cultivating resilience and embracing hope will help you weather the storms of career change and emerge stronger on the other side.

In these uncertain times, it’s crucial for Canadians to maintain career resilience. Can you share some strategies and practices individuals can adopt to navigate their career development effectively despite the challenges?

In my previous response, I shared the strategies of continuous learning and upskilling, diversifying your network and having a career mindset. Here are some other ways Canadians can remain resilient in a turbulent labour market. 

Be open to change and adaptable in your career choices. The job market is evolving and it’s important to be flexible. Consider pursuing opportunities in related fields and be willing to pivot when necessary. Consider, for instance, working on side projects or freelancing to gain additional experience and income. These endeavours can provide a safety net and expand your skills and network. Furthermore, seek out mentors and advisors who can provide guidance and support. Learning from the experiences of others can help you make informed decisions and navigate your career more effectively.

Regularly reflect on your goals and priorities, at work and in life, to see if they have shifted. Recent phenomena such as the Great Resignation and “quiet quitting” indicate people are shifting from prioritizing work to focusing more on their other life roles and responsibilities. Being career resilient means that you are aware of what’s important to you, the resources that you have (or need to attain) to sustain yourself and your family, and how you can act in congruence with your values and priorities, even when facing setbacks.

And finally, seek support from trained professionals. In uncertain times, it can be overwhelming to continually monitor industry and labour market trends, while also exploring your evolving goals and priorities. Career development professionals are trained to provide guidance and expertise in these topics including: helping you find and interpret labour market information; devising strategies to help you pivot from one industry to another; helping you explore your context, values and goals; and considering how to make career decisions that align with these life elements.

As the workforce continues to evolve, employers face new challenges in meeting employee expectations. How do you suggest employers adapt to these changing workforce dynamics while maintaining a positive work environment?

Adapting to changing workforce dynamics while maintaining a positive work environment requires a proactive, individualized approach from employers. Employers need to initiate conversations with employees about what they need from their managers and the organization to be successful. These conversations should be ongoing, as employees’ needs and priorities shift over time. Embrace the notion that employees have different circumstances and needs, so personalized approaches will be needed to help each employee thrive in the workplace. 

Proactive Career Resilience: Tips from Dr. Candy Ho

Some additional suggestions to navigate the evolving workplace:

  • Flexible work arrangements: Embrace flexible work options such as remote/hybrid work or flexible hours. This accommodates the changing needs and expectations of employees, especially in a post-pandemic world where remote work has become more prevalent. Not all employees will opt into these work arrangements. However, for those who are seeking better balance of their personal and professional commitments, this can be a key retention strategy. 

  • Continuous learning and development: Create a culture of learning and growth within the organization. Remember that not everyone aspires to “climb the career ladder” and that career development comes in different forms. Engage employees by offering a variety of opportunities for upskilling and reskilling that align with their individual professional goals and that adapt to changing job requirements. This can include online courses, workshops and mentorship programs.

  • Diversity and inclusion: Promote diversity and inclusion within the workplace. A diverse workforce not only brings a variety of perspectives but also meets the expectations of modern employees who value equality and inclusivity. For instance, employers should recognize that different generations may have distinct expectations when it comes to work. Tailor your approach to attract and retain talent from various age groups, understanding their unique values and work styles.
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