Those who spend any time in contemporary education circles are well-versed in the concept of “marketability.” Higher education leaders are understandably preoccupied with post-graduation employment and earning metrics, so they naturally focus on whatever can be done to improve these metrics.
Their hearts may be in the right place, but their focus on post-graduation outcomes risks missing the forest for the trees. Bolstered by a growing body of research suggesting that well-rounded graduates do better over the long-term than peers who do only one or two things really well, advocates for multidisciplinary higher education are becoming more vocal and confident by the year.
Whole books have been written about the relative merits of multidisciplinary curricula. We’ll leave that discussion for others. For now, let’s take a look at a brilliant example of multidisciplinary teaching in action: Velina Taskov, veterinary medicine instructor at The Centre for Arts and Technology by day and side-splittingly funny stand-up comic by night.
An Accidental Pursuit
In an interview with InterFACE, The Centre for Arts and Technology’s student newspaper, Taskov recalls more or less falling into her career as a vet tech — properly known outside North America, she’s quick to add, as “veterinary nurse.”
Taskov originally aspired to join the Victoria Police force in her native Australia. She enrolled in a companion animal services course solely to improve her skills with the force’s canine squad. But she showed so much promise that her instructor practically begged her to complete her veterinary nursing diploma.
A practicum at a specialty surgery center sealed the deal, and Taskov put her law enforcement dreams on ice for good. Eight years into a busy career in small animal surgery, Taskov relocated to Canada to pursue “new adventures,” she says.
Is Laughter Really The Best Medicine For Your Career?
Although Taskov quickly found a home in Canada’s veterinary industry, she couldn’t quite shake the feeling that something was missing. An avid comedy fan from childhood, she took to writing down “funny stories” on an overnight shift in late 2017, she recalls.
After receiving positive feedback from her teaching assistant, she decided to take the next step and try her hand at open mic night. Taskov’s first open mic came in early 2018. It went well. “Since then, I have not stopped performing stand up comedy,” she says.
That first furtive effort “very quickly became three or four nights a week of performing,” she adds. According to Taskov, the secret to what’s become a successful comedy career is putting a creative, over-the-top spin on material with which she’s already intimately familiar. Being that she spends hours on end in the surgical suite, that’s not difficult.
Taskov is by all accounts a master at making morbid stories funny, at least for audience members without squeamish sensibilities. Taskov also believes passionately in the premise that it’s better to laugh than cry.
“Personally, I feel like if we don’t laugh at life, then we usually cry,” she explains. “I prefer laughing at [everything]…I like talking about the things people think about but are too afraid to say out loud.” That’s not always an easy rule to follow, but it seems to serve Taskov well.
Staying Multi-Dimensional In A Career-Oriented World
Let’s get back to where we started and remember that two things can be true at the same time. The first thing is this: In an ever more specialized, technology-driven economy, it’s vital for graduates to possess practical, real-world skills that aren’t outdated by the time they hit the job market.
Marketability is real — and desperately sought by employers facing a historically tight labor market. The second thing is equally essential: Well-rounded employees tend to perform better on the job and rise higher in their careers, than those who lack the breadth of experience and insight and resiliency to keep up with the demands of a dynamic organization.
These conditions aren’t mutually exclusive. Indeed, we’ve known for some time that employers prefer well-rounded graduates over their narrowly specialized peers, assuming otherwise equivalent CVs and experience levels. For students and early-stage careerists looking ahead to life in the workforce, this presages a bit of a juggling act.
While it’s more important than ever to pursue degrees and certificates that will actually land you a career-track job, it’s absolutely vital to demonstrate a breadth of perspective that’s in increasingly short supply these days. You can do it. If you’re still in need of inspiration, let multi-talented creative professionals like Velina Taskov show the way.
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