INTERVIEW WITH AMIN SALEEM, CEO CAREERSGIANT
July 11 - 17, 2011
Amin Saleem has done his Post Graduate in Careers Guidance from London, UK. He has over 6 years of Local/International experience of working in careers counseling with 5000 students and professionals. He has international reputation of providing the best advice and guidance to any student/professional facing career related issues and helping them succeed in their academic and professional lives.
PAGE: YOUR VIEWS ON POTENTIAL OF COUNSELING STUDENTS.?
AMIN SALEEM: Career Counseling is about helping people realize their full potential. Its focus is on putting those who consult career counselors in the best position to make their own decisions about available learning and work options.
Career counseling should ideally start from class 8th when the student is about to formally select his/her 1st career option in class 9th. With the current research, the earlier the student starts to think about career decision-making, the better. After class 8th, the student again needs career counseling when transitioning into college/high school (i.e. in X or final year O Levels). Later, the student needs career counseling when transitioning into a university. And finally, the student needs counseling before entering the world of work as to which industry will be good for him/her to work and equipped with the appropriate employability skills to land that dream job.
Relying primarily on a combination of personal interviews and group meetings, career counselors aim to broaden horizons by discussing and advising on personal development, researching available options, career planning and use of decision-making and other techniques.
It is widely recognized that effective career counseling brings both social and economic benefits.
On a personal and family level, it empowers people to control better the course of their working lives, so as to make the most of their opportunities, avoid false starts and wasted effort, reduce uncertainty and stress, and optimize the balance between pursuit of financial reward and personal fulfillment.
On a more general level, effective career counseling promotes efficiency in both education and business by helping to reduce the drop-out rates, making the recruitment process work more smoothly by reducing the number of unrealistic applications, and better highlighting the qualities of suitable candidates, and improving productivity by contributing to job satisfaction, thereby reducing employee turnover.
The latter part of the 20th century and the beginning of this century produced a prolonged period of economic prosperity in many countries around the world. However, at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, the world unexpectedly experienced a deep recession, similar to that experienced in the late 1920's. The threat of job loss, unemployment, vocational disqualification, poverty, and social exclusion has already affected a growing number of the world's population including Karachi. The impact of the ongoing crisis on people's lives, their personal, educational, and vocational career development, as well as their social inclusion and active participation in society is very serious and will affect the social and political stability in many countries for years to come.
Career counseling, based on personal need, interests, and abilities, is primarily designed to assist individuals in shaping and managing their careers throughout their lives. However, careers guidance also has a vital role to play in maintaining a highly qualified and economically viable society, as well as playing an important role in supporting sustainable economic growth and social stability.
Unfortunately, not many schools, colleges and universities in Karachi are focusing on it. They have nominated so called counselors, advisers etc. who are either head teachers or subject teachers, whose advice and guidance are biased and do not take into account a student's interest, skills, values and personality. The need of the time is to know that career counseling is a whole qualification in itself. A teacher or head of any school take masters degree in that specific subject, so that they are better able to teach that subject. Similarly, a career counselor must have a relevant qualification in order to help the students better choose the careers for themselves. While most students look up to the teachers to tell them about the career they would like to choose, they are generally incapable to help the students and might guide them in the wrong direction. Although a chemist/pharmacist spends most of their time within the medicines and at times they might know about medicines more than the doctor, but we do not turn up to a pharmacist to find out any medical symptoms that we might have. In order to properly diagnose our problems, we go to the doctor who then finds out the best medicine for us, out of 100s of them, which are available on the shelf. Similarly, a career counselor has the ability to find out which career is best for each individual out of 1000s of careers which are available in the market.
PAGE: CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT STUDENTS WHO OPT FOR FOREIGN STUDY?
AMIN SALEEM: With Pakistan being a 3rd world country and having only a few higher education institutes of international standards, students who are privileged to afford the international tuition fees, take the opportunity to study abroad and increase their intellectual capability and job prospects. While enough labor market information is available for all developed countries, most students are unaware and unskilled to interpret that information, which otherwise would greatly help them to choose the best course for themselves. The counselors in Colleges and A-Level schools are unfortunately not qualified as well. They are just information providers. Education consultants are only interested to send the student abroad on literally any course. The student on the other hand, is also interested just to go abroad, not knowing the consequences of just selecting any course. The role of an unbiased career counselor is really important at this stage, whether a student is selecting a course at the local level or for foreign studies.
With Karachi being one of the largest metropolitan cities of Pakistan and the industrial hub, some of the best schools, colleges, and universities are part of this city. The students of this city then go on for further education and find it relatively easier to adjust in other big cities of the world. Our country takes lots of influence from the UK. From fashion to the type of study and methodology, most things are instantly adopted from this country.
It's surprising that internationally, most countries including Pakistan, charge three times the fees to international students. This means anyone who wants to study abroad usually pays three times the fees, than a local student pays in their own country. According to British Council, about 10,000 students entered UK alone in 2009 for education, two thirds of which were postgraduate students. There are many reasons why people would like to go and study abroad. One of the most important reasons to study abroad is a means to settle in that country and improve the quality of life. Record amount of remittances are a strong indication of this trend.
There are quite a few bogus colleges in UK as well. The UK Border Agency has cracked down almost all of them leaving only genuine and authenticated colleges giving quality education to students. London is the destination of choice for study for most students as it is a financial hub and a metropolitan city. Other cities where students turn up to education include Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, and Bradford.
PAGE: HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO HAVE COUNSELING DEPARTMENTS IN UNIVERSITIES AND INSTITUTES IN KARACHI?
AMIN SALEEM: Most universities in Karachi lack the counseling department, with a narrow view that student has already chosen the subjects of higher education and therefore there is no need to counsel the students. For the sake of counseling the students, course advisers are nominated who are actually subject teachers and they are not capable enough to truly counsel the students in the best way. For example, if a student is suffering from a low CGPA. There are student dropouts from almost all universities in Karachi and it is unclear whether the student is not fit for that course or cannot cope up with the university pressure or its culture. Or worst of all, a university took a wrong student on board who was unable to complete his course. Strong counseling must be present in all universities in Karachi, like we have in other leading universities of the world, so that students can have less frustration and smoothly move from university life into the world of work. Once the student graduates, s/he is clueless as to which industry they must go into. Or which industry they are best suited for. For example, after graduating from a business school, a student has multiple options to either go into banking, automobile, airlines or NGO or other industries. Students are usually left on their own to decide for themselves.
On the other hand, quite a few universities do have the employability department which links up with the industry to place their graduate students on job. The interesting fact is that all students have almost the same CV at the end of their course, with generic things written on their CV with lots of clichés like: "proven leadership and managerial capabilities", "accomplished leader", "Ability to build & motivate". A typical clunker found in most CVs is "Seeking a challenging position in a dynamic and growth oriented organization where my skills and abilities...." Hit the delete key please! Important of all, a CV must answer one significant question. What does my CV offer to the employer and why should an employer pay me the salary I deserve? With increased competition and lack of time, a CV gets only 6 to 8 seconds to sell itself, therefore the answer should be noticeable to get shortlisted from a pool of countless CVs.
Employability skills is another factor which is missing in almost all universities in Karachi. There are eight employability skills that an employer looks for in a candidate before hiring them. And, they expect that the university would have equipped those graduating students with those skills. They are communication, planning and organizing, teamwork, self-management, problem solving, learning, initiative and enterprise, technology. While business schools might be covering quite a few of these skills, rest of the university disciplines lack equipping the students with these skills. The universities are increasingly encouraged to invest in their students by hiring the services of qualified career counselors.