Importance of Career Counseling

This post has originally published here.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of people pass matriculation in Pakistan. Many of them end up in high school (known as college or intermediate in Pakistan). Mostly students go for Pre-engineering because this way, they’d have the choice to opt commerce-related courses in the future. Unfortunately, over a fraction of the students who pass intermediate are able to study in universities because of the excessive pressure of making money to feed one’s family and quite expensive fee structure of the universities (a not-so-much-of-a-prestigious university offers a bachelor program in around 3.5-4 hundred thousand rupees. And that’s just basic tuition-fee. Not to mention all the other expenses like travel, stationary, course material, etc., make the overall cost reach 5-6 hundred thousand rupees.

The list doesn’t end here, unfortunately the students who do opt for higher education in universities, mostly choose fields and areas out of parental pressure or what they assume would make them get the best and highly paying job when they graduate. That, in fact, is the weakest assumption many students make in the most crucial times of their lives. The result: lack of interest in the field/major they enrolled in, lack of passion to achieve exceptionality, and eventually poor job performance. The solution: professional career counseling services to not only students but also professionals seeking to opt a different career path.

Career counseling is one of the most neglected areas of education in Pakistan. There are only a few career counseling firms but they’re located in the metropolitan cities of Pakistan and a few ones that are good, charge a lot of money. Result: we’re back to square one!

The REAL solution: Career Guide, and online career counseling platform for students and professionals in Pakistan. The catch is: IT’S ONLINE AND IT DOESN’T CHARGE ANY MONEY FOR COUNSELING! Yes, that is correct. Founded by Basit Saeed, Career Guide is an idea of social innovation, initially presented in P@SHA (Pakistan Software Houses Association) Social Innovation Funds seeded by Google. More than 350 ideas were presented in the first round and only 64 got shortlisted. Career Guide was one of them.
Career Guide was launched in November 2011, and over the past eight months, it has counseled over 400 students without charging them a penny!

What do you think of Career Guide’s approach to use internet as a medium instead of becoming just another brick-and-mortar counseling firms? Please provide feedback and suggestions via the comments.

If you or anyone you know need career counseling, you can contact Career Guide via our Facebook page, Twitter handle, or LinkedIn Group.


P@SHA Career Expo 2012

PASHA Career Expo Image

P@SHA (Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT and IT-enabled Services), under the leadership of its president, Ms. Jehan Ara, conducted the P@SHA Career Expo 2012 on 2nd June, 2012 at Marriott Hotel. The event started at 10 AM and lasted till 6 PM. Over 22 software houses from Karachi and Lahore set up their booths to provide jobs to not only experienced professionals but also to fresh graduates.

P@SHA Career Expo wasn’t just a job fair, there were a bunch of activities going around like career counseling sessions for students, workshops on different topics, and idea storming session about social entrepreneurship and P@SHA Social Innovation Funds.

The first workshop was on the topic “Resume Writing and Interviewing Skills Workshop” presented by Ms. Nausheen Ishtiaq. The workshop was interesting and interactive. A lot of students and professionals attended it and learned how the do and don’ts of resume writing, interview, and cover letters. Followed by the resume writing workshop, there was a workshop on Careers in ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) in Pakistan in which the speaker identified the number of opportunities that are available in Pakistan. After a few hours break, the P@SHA fund panel discussion and idea storming session was conducted by Jehan Ara herself. Among the panelist were some of the recognized entrepreneurs. The discussion was focused on ways a startup can be launched, the hurdles along the way, and how to solve such hurdles. During the session, audience was made aware of an initiative by P@SHA called P@SHA Social Innovation Funds, in which a selected amount of ideas of social innovation shall be awarded $10,000 to turn that idea into reality.

Quick fact: Career Guide was shortlisted in the P@SHA Social Innovation Funds, too. Among the 350+ ideas that were presented in the first round, Career Guide was one of the 64 others which were shortlisted.

Towards the end of the workshop, audience was asked to come up with an idea of social innovation and pitch it in front of the panelists and other experts. After the pitching session, every presenter was assigned a panelist/expert so they could help them re-fine their ideas. Presenters were to re-pitch their refined idea for 3-minutes in order to win the grant. A lot of interesting and applicable ideas were presented in the whole session.

Apart from the workshop sessions, there were crowd of a lot of fresh graduates and even professionals that were there to embark upon seemingly unlimited oppotunities in the IT/software industry of Pakistan.

The number and variety of jobs along with the participation of software houses in P@SHA Career Expo 2012 made clear that excuses of lack of job opportunities in Pakistan are not true at all. And neither is our skill-set. Looking forward to more such initiatives by P@SHA.

A Typical Pakistani Student

Zeeshan is a brilliant student. He has completed his college in Pre-engineering with an ‘A’ grade. Now, he had to make a big decision, the decision of his career path. But, like most of students in Pakistan on his level, he was as lost as lost as he could ever be. He didn’t have the slightest idea about his career options even which career he could choose for himself. Sometimes, he thought about studying what his friends consider studying and sometimes he thought about choosing his parents’ version of his career.

Zeeshan isn’t alone in this country, there are hundreds of thousands of students who pass out from college each year and tens of thousands of them get admission in universities. A very high percentage of those students make decision based on these factors: (a) current market trend of that career, (b) financial incentives that career has to offer, (c) parental pressure, and (d) current job vacancies in that career. However, what students mostly give any thought to, is the future worth of a career, its future exposure, and its impact on typical careers.

Zeeshan heard about these typical career counseling firms in his city. But, there’s no way he could go to those expensive firms as he belonged to a middle class family. But deep down, what Zeeshan really wanted is someone to guide him, tell him the pros and cons of particular career, tell him what opportunities are out there, and how to take advantage of those opportunities. Zeeshan couldn’t find any such platform in Pakistan and now he’s studying in B.Com so he could complete his studies in a few years and then start working.

Is Zeeshan alone in this country, I ask you? Doesn’t Pakistan need institutions or platforms that could guide students like Zeeshan? What do you think about it?

Post-Graduation Fears

It was the last day of my final semester exam. Like always, I started studying late at night, but I couldn’t focus on the subject. Instead, I was thinking about my future, thinking what life would look like from now on, without university, buddies, bunking classes to celebrate friends birthdays, and combined study seasons.

They say good and enjoyable moments pass early. I guess they are right. It seems like yesterday when I was holding my acceptance letter in amazement thinking how did I make it in this top-level university? It feels like yesterday when were ragged by seniors, when we used to be called ‘freshy’ for a whole semester.  It feels like yesterday.  All those years went by and here I am!

University life was one of the best periods in my life. I had a lot of friends, my teachers used to love me, and our gang was the most famous one in our university. We used to organize workshops, parties, concerts etc. All of that is over now.

I couldn’t continue studying now. So, I closed my eyes and started thinking about my future. I had been living with the support of my father. He used to pay my fee, gave me enough pocket money to do shopping, hangout, and stuff. But now, I’m supposed to earn by myself. Sure I used to do some work for extra money, but the idea of stepping out of my comfort zone and step into a wild, uncaring, and selfish world started to freak me out. Questions like, “is it normal?”, “is it normal to feel this way?”, “does everyone feel the same at the time of their graduation?” are some of the many unanswered questions roaming inside my mind.

Did it happen to you too?
A typical to-be-graduated-student!

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