Sample the following instances- Ali completed his Diploma in Mechanical Engineering, joined a reputed bank with an attractive salary, but decided to call it quits within a time span of one year. Zuniad completed his degree in information technology, joined a reputed hospitality chain with an attractive perks and package combo, but left for greener pasture within a period of three months. Arifa completed her masters in business administration, joined a renowned automobile manufacturer, but failed to sustain for more than a year. What do all these incidents have in common? On one hand they point out to the astronomical expectations on the part of the job seeker, failing which they decide to leave the organization, even if the offer is accepted by a majority and on the other they reflect instances of misfits joining the modern day organization. A misfit is defined as a person who joins a company or a sector where his/her capabilities and skill sets are diagonally opposite vis-à-vis the requirement of a job. A student pursuing his education either at the secondary or the tertiary level would often contemplate getting a good job, which in itself is something which is very much relative. A good job for Mohammed may be a bad job for Altaf and vice-versa, it is therefore important for a career aspirant to know about his interests, his skills, his aptitude, his overall persona so that he/she is placed in the right organization, at the right level and is doing something which is liked by him/her. It is a well known fact that money can inspire an individual only for a period of time, in the long run what is needed is the ideal foil of interest and payment, which necessarily means, that a person who is doing something he likes, would never feel he is working. That could be the biggest motivator as any other motivator offered by the employer can serve to build up the level of motivation only for a period of time.
The question may sound stupid and even simple, however it is important for everyone to know and understand what he or she actually likes. There are instances where people have made careers out of their hobbies and interests. It is therefore pivotal for all career aspirants to know what he/she likes. The million dollar question is to how to dissect the findings so as to know what is the actual like and dislike? For reaching the right conclusion an aspirant has to spend years together along with inputs from mentors and counselors who are the teachers, the parents, peers and close friends. A student pursing his secondary education in a school need to track his/her interests, which may call for pointers from the mentors and close associates as often the concerned individual find it difficult to trace out the same on his/her own. The interest area can be located on the basis of various indicators, like the marks scored in subjects, the natural flair for a subject, the ambition coupled with the effort being put in, the personality traits in general and the ones which are of importance from the profession’s perspective, aligning the both, i.e. personality traits with the explicit interest being aired by the individual, followed by a comprehensive self-analysis followed by the verification of the same, by experts and close associates. This in turn would call for conducting a detailed SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat) analysis, keeping in mind the internal and external factors. The SWOT findings are never stationary and they are bound to change with the passage of time, as the environmental dynamics would also alter from time to time. It is therefore pertinent to take the right decision which can culminate only if the right background is created from the outset.
There are instances where an individual in spite of his academic achievements and laurels finds himself in a no-man’s land once he joins the professional world. This may not have any relation with his accomplishments while pursuing his studies. However, this definitely has a lot to do as far as landing up with the right job is concerned. A person joining a company simply because he is being offered mouthwatering package and benefits would soon found out that the going is tough. He would realize their innate motivation, which is extremely important for any professional is missing solely and sooner than later he would either decide to walk out or continue without any motivation. If a professional is into such a situation it is important to set the record straight even if it means taking some hard decisions. It is better late than never. Once he is able to identify his area of interest a concerted effort should be made to make the necessary switch. This may call for compromises which could be monetary and comfort related, however the need of the hour is to make the bold decision simply because, in the long run it’s going to pay in a very big way. Switching shops and careers midway may also bring in a disturbance in ones personal life, but it’s more of a momentary one, rather than a long drawn. The normal reaction is to put it back by saying that I may not get such a good job, offering me this good a package or someone else might say why to disturb the routine and start afresh. The cushion of the comfort zone and the resistance to change the status-quo is a normal human reaction, so it is prudent to take the hard steps before it’s too late.
The Learning Metamorphosis
The teaching-learning mechanism has undergone a tremendous change. Developments like privatization, liberalization, globalization, along with digitization (read technological revolutions) have made the world of learning a different phenomenon than what it used to be earlier. Gone are those days when a teacher used to come to the class, deliver his lecture and forget the students till he sat for evaluating the exam papers. The world which is changing at breakneck speed needs trainer and teachers who can align and alter their delivery mechanism accordingly. A decade back, an engineering student had to know the know-how of mechanical, electrical, electronics, civil, computer sciences or any other disciplines he opted for. Likewise a management/business student had to know the nuances of marketing, finance, human resources or any other allied subjects of his core area. The global changes in different industries, cutting edge research being conducted by companies all across, along with the survival of the fittest theory being the bottom line for all organizations, employers today wants more in their prospective and existing employees. It is therefore important for all the learning stakeholders, starting from the student fraternity, the teaching community, the society in general and even the prospective employers to welcome the change by embracing all novel ways of learning. The learning metamorphosis needs a better way of imparting the teaching lessons and more importantly should make the necessary changes commensurate with the changing environment from time to time. One size fits all approach in teaching is a passé now.
The Need for the Softer Aspect
Professionals, be it engineers; architects, managers, or even doctors cannot survive their professional challenges today, solely on the basis of their domain related acumen. The need of the hour calls for something more than sheer knowledge application and dissemination. For instance a fresh manager after completing the higher diploma in business studies would join the leading employers of Sultanate. Players like Oman Air, Omantel, Bank Muscat, Bank Dhofar, and Grand Hyatt, to name a few would call for employees who are versatile and has the ability to think on their feet. Maintaining strict deadlines, respecting the words of the superiors, fulfilling the commitments made to the customers, go out of the way so as to create a positive image in the mind of the stakeholder’s, thinking out of the box, calls for more than domain related knowledge. It is here the softer aspect of ones personality comes to the fore. Unlike the domain knowledge which can be imparted by training or through laboratories, soft skills need to be practiced, before it can be successfully imbibed in ones personality followed by timely application, in the professional and personal spheres of life. These aspects need to be taught subconsciously to the students as discipline, etiquettes and manner, verbal and non-verbal communications; professional networking cannot be incorporated in a lecture of one hour. It is a continuous process where domain know-how has to be adequately blended with the softer aspects so that the students can learn the tricks simply on the basis of their observations and subconscious mind. Someone rightly said its walk the talk for the modern day teacher!
How to Impart the Softer Aspect?
It may be easier to teach the basics of thermodynamics, the 4P’s of marketing, the fundamentals of organization behaviour through various pedagogical tools like chalk and talk, role plays, case studies, operations workouts, live projects, On the Job Training (OJT), Enhancement Practical Training (EPT), however, it is really challenging to incorporate the fine prints of soft skills. The softer aspect needs to be perfectly intertwined with the subjects being taught by the teachers. For example if discipline is to be incorporated into the students personality, it is important for the teacher to show discipline in all his endeavour, whether it reaching the classroom, taking attendance, delivering the lecture, involving in knowledge reinforcement exercises, following up with the students etc. Similarly if the student is to be driven home the point of meeting stiff deadlines and delivering under pressure, it is imperative for the teacher to explain the same through his deeds in every interaction he has with the student, or create a simulation where the student experiences the same. The major difference in explaining the nuances of soft skills vis-à-vis that of the hard skills (read domain knowledge) is that while the former necessarily has to be preached through the walk the talk method, the former can be taught in the four walls of the classroom or by other pedagogical tools.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line for all teachers is to ensure that their pupils remembers them not because how they looked, what they wore, but because how they enabled them to see things differently. To see differently, it is necessary to make the student understand stuffs which have brought perceptible shift in his professional and personal arena. It is also important that he must have taken some substantial takeaways as learning’s which is helping him in making that big difference in every spheres of his life. Domain knowledge is acquired by various means, what really helps an individual to prosper in his professional life and grow in the personal life is his ability to handle the softer aspects more efficiently. Qualities like empathy, professionalism, honesty, sincerity, perseverance, never say die attitude, value, ethics are few of the treasures for a successful individual, which every successful individual stores in his repertoire. To make a mark in that realm is the ultimate challenge, which also culminates in the biggest satisfaction for a teacher.
Better Placed Than Many Nations
Reams of information doing the round, be it in the print or the electronic media comprising of the analytical reports by the leading consulting houses or global institutions, have proved beyond doubt that the Sultanate of Oman is placed well, not only in the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council (AGCC) but also amongst the comity of nations, to handle the current meltdown with minimal impact. Thanks for the farsightedness of the visionary, His Majesty, The Sultan of Oman and his team of domain experts! The country is having strong fundamentals than many of the developed nations even during these trying times, and that underscore the reason, for the Omani citizens to contribute towards Omanization. The confidence shown by sectors like financial services, hospitality, tourism, aviation can be very well seen from the expansion drives taken up by the local as well as global corporations, in the market of the Sultanate. Moreover, the global economy being on a southward spiral provides opportunities to all wannabe entrepreneurs to flex their muscles in taking the much awaited entrepreneurial plunge. The community of trainers and teachers has to contribute in a way so that maximum numbers of Omani students, irrespective of their level or discipline of study, become employable or develop the tenacity to venture out on their own.
Making the Pupils Employable
Vocational and professional courses differ from any other conventional courses in making the students ready for the professional sojourn immediately after the completion of their degree, diploma or certificate. It is important for the teacher-learner duo to understand the importance of these courses as they have the opportunity to provide immediate employment or enable the student to kick start their own set-ups. That necessarily means understanding the nuances of the program from an application perspective, which calls for preparations, notches ahead than that of merely completing the formalities so as to get the certification. To aspire for this dream it is imperative on the part of the duo (read teacher-student) to take up the gauntlet with an objective of reaching the goal of employment or entrepreneurship.
Responsibilities of the Duo
The teaching/training fraternity involved in grooming the pupils for a better tomorrow has to understand the contemporary requirements, which in turn would call for changing their own approaches. Moreover, the subjects being taught have to be made interesting so that the students grasp the underlying meaning, not because of compulsion, but out of fun. An example could be to integrate novel training practices like role plays, simulation techniques, blending technology with routine pedagogy, relating the learning’s of On the Job Training with that of the curricula, analysis of live situations like interacting with successful personalities from different walks of life, interviewing champions from different fields, enacting success stories of personalities in the form of a skit, debates, innovative thinking workshops, presentations with content localization from a global perspective, making and discussing case studies of Oman based corporations, and audio-video based learning, to name a few. Although the techniques adopted by the teaching and training fraternity are quite contemporary, it is still the responsibility of the trainers to research and experiment with novel techniques. Like they say, the obsolescence rate for knowledge and allied products is very high, thanks to the well aware audiences, courtesy globalization and digitization. Presenting stale matters and training techniques often makes the learning process monotonous and predictable. It’s always better to devise new ways of learning through research and development, for which the teaching community has to be in the fore front of the initiative.
Once the teachers are able to ideate novel ways of teaching, the confidence level of the students reaches a new crescendo. This increases the curiosity and willingness to learn as the learner is eager to witness the new adventurous learning mechanisms. I thought of using technology as a back up for my Omani business students and had therefore started a devoted blog/microblog (www.twitter.com) for them which would enable me to present the major takeaways, meanings of jargons, small case-lets/case studies on the topics taught, assignments, apart from initiating online discussion/domain interaction, virtual mentoring and counseling. Yours truly did the same in the form of www.novellearning.blogspot.com, which was opened even before landing in Oman. However, later on the college authorities presented a better, refined tool in the form of MOODLE, which can take the teaching-learning process to a different pedestal altogether. The adoption of such new techniques may be an initial hindrance, however once the utility value is understood by the stakeholders (read mainly the student and the teachers), it makes the job not only easier but interesting as well. Motivating the students with continuous mentoring and counseling is the need of the hour as they should experience the benefits hands on, so as to imbibe these new methodologies in their professional repertoire. It’s time when the students should take up additional responsibility to march ahead especially in light of the excellent efforts carried out by various ministries under the leadership of His Majesty and his esteemed team of ministers. Preparations, at the pre-classroom discussion, have to be started so that the pupils come prepared for a session which not only makes it more interesting for the audience, but also challenges the capabilities and knowledge of the trainer. To inculcate this practice it is imperative for the teachers to motivate the students for adequate homework/ground work, and the students in turn should take this up as an opportunity to learn more during the classroom discussion or during any other external learning process.
The Ultimate Objective
The ultimate objective for all the teachers and trainers involved in vocational and professional training is to make their bunch of pupils ready to meet the challenges head-on and convert them into opportunities. It is therefore important for the torchbearer (read teachers) to analyze and implement what is contemporary and futuristic rather than adopting the obsolete means. The ultimate objective of making them employable or take up the entrepreneurial roadmap would decide all other activities linked to it, be it a training session, a group exercise, an outdoor project, a case analysis, an extempore, so on and so forth. Backward integration, rather than forward integration holds the key. Doing something simply because it has to be done and one has to go through the groove, should be the last thing in the professional lexicon of a trainer. It is therefore imperative on the part of the administrators to initiate drives culminating in bringing the best out of the teachers as far as Novel Training Delivery System (NTDS) is concerned. The yardstick for measuring the performance of the training/teaching community should now have a blend of student’s performance as well as their employability quotient. The bottom line however should be empathy and simplicity.
In spite of the market on a downward swing, the Sultanate of Oman is still one of the better placed economies not only in the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council (AGCC), but also amongst the developed economies. Thanks for the farsightedness of the visionary, His Majesty and his team of administrators. In such a scenario it is apt to understand the opportunities being offered, in the form of challenges, especially to the students pursuing different programs from different colleges and universities of the Sultanate. The solid fundamentals the economy of the Sultanate offers the employers (private as well as public) to continue with their recruitment plans, with minor modifications, as the country as a whole is having minimal impact from the global recession. Being a management teacher, I am able to see the possibility of the Omanisation dream of His Majesty, reaching its ultimate destination, grabbing the best openings, albeit with little more effort from the teacher-student duo. This article therefore sheds light on aspects which the students need to consider so as to groom themselves in acquiring their dream job, after completing various professional and vocational programs. Although the steps mentioned many not be the thumb-rule, they can still go a long way in making the students employable with leading organizations of the Sultanate.
1) Dream Big, But With A Focus
It is always better to dream big, especially if one is willing to reach the pinnacle of his/her life. It’s a known fact that those who have reached the crescendo of their careers always had a big vision, a commensurate mission, objectives, goals and plans so that the career curve is smooth and one can effectively plan and optimize the resources to make the maximum out of them. Sounds simple, however to chalk out a career plan calls for a lot of introspection on the part of the aspirant with active support from a team of mentors and counselors! Moreover, in the age of information, it is not difficult for the aspirant to dream big especially when information is available at the click of a mouse. The horizon of one’s dream can widen only if the information is gathered, scanned and analyzed, before deciding on the career path. For instance a student pursuing higher diploma in business studies with a specialization in human resources will only think that he has to join the HR domain, however, the reality is that, he can join many other functional areas as companies today work in an integrated fashion, and on the top of it prefer proverbial jacks, rather than masters, so that they have flexible manpower ready to take up any challenges. Dreaming big therefore has to be focused, rather than one on the air.
2) Ground Work
The dream can be achieved only if it is not hollow. In order to ensure that the dream is not a castle in the air the aspirant has to do adequate ground work, which means aligning the dream and the roadmap associated with it along with other aspects, like the academic credentials, extra-curricular expertise, linguistic skills, soft skills blended with hard skills, and technical know-how to name a few. The ground work comprises of gathering professional acumen while pursing the program, be it certificate, diploma, higher diploma or degree, irrespective of the stream. The ground work decides whether the dream one had made would be fulfilled or not, as this is the time when the actual effort required for fulfillment comes to the fore. In most of the cases of shattered dream it is the lack of ground work, culminating in the aspirant unable to reach the point of glory. This definitely requires handholding from many stakeholders, in the form of mentors (can be teachers and parents), counselors (professional career guides or industry professionals working in the same vertical where the candidate wishes to make a career) and the like. Continuous updating of information is vital as whatever was contemporary yesterday, may be obsolete today. For example, a student pursuing higher diploma in management with a specialization in human resource may consider recruitment to be the key, whereas the organization may feel retention to be of more importance, especially when the situation is grim like the present day scenario. Likewise common perception may consider downsizing to be the right ammunition during slowdown where companies may prefer rightsizing. Sectoral study, in line with the sector, one is willing to join is of importance where the aspirant needs to track the developments happening in the local, regional and global landscape. Someone willing to join the banking sector should track Bank Muscat, Bank Dhofar, Bank Sohar, Arab Oman Bank, along with global players like Citibank, HSBC, to know how different players are adapting to the same situations, their style of functioning, organizational culture, leadership etc. This can happen only if the appetite for gathering knowledge is made part of the routine career moves made by the aspirant as part of academic and extra-curricular developments. It’s the ground work which forms the foundation for the sky scrapper in the form of the dream job. The stronger the foundation is, the stronger the dream would be nd its successful completion.
3) Imbibing The Skill-Sets
Different jobs require different skill sets, and therefore one size fits all in making oneself job-worthy cannot be a career strategy. Someone willing to join Oman Air as a commercial staff has to imbibe different professional expertise than the peer who is willing to join Galfar Engineering. Even a third character willing to join Oman Air as cabin crew would supplement his personality with different skill sets than the one who is joining the same organization as a commercial staff. The aspirant while pursuing the same academic program has to have a different customized approach commensurate with his career plan. Blindly following the roadmap of the class friend would lead nowhere as everyone has a different career plan and more than that everyone is as different as chalk and cheese, especially when it comes to the personality trait. Language skills, technical skills, soft skills, hard skills, and computer literacy may be required in all professions; however their proportion and form would vary from one profession to another. It is therefore important for an aspirant to incorporate the right skill-sets in the required proportion at the right time.
4) The Right Attitude
Someone rightly said that, ‘attitude measures the altitude’. In a modern day working environment where the competition is so stiff and that survival of the fittest is the key, organizations looks for employees who have the right attitude. A prospective employee may lack the domain knowledge, however if he/she has the right attitude, then the domain knowledge can be ingrained in the form of training and developmental activities. Someone who has the willingness to learn can also be excused for small flaws they encounter while doing their work, on the contrary arrogant and over confident persona is a strict no-no for all good employers, as bad attitude has a cascading effect on the workplace. Organizations today consider human element as a long term asset, so a company is ready to go the extra mile in fine-tuning employees’ abilities so as to make them attuned with the changing scenario. This would not be possible if the employee has a rigid and steadfast personality and is resistant to change. Building up the right attitude is challenging and one has to have learning, unlearning and relearning attitude and should also open self to constructive criticism from peers, teachers, parents and other well wishers.
5) Making The Right Moves At The Right Time
They say ‘opportunity knocks only once, so one should grab it by both hands’. Similarly for aspirants, every point offers an opportunity to grow in life, whether it is part of a classroom discussion, pursuing an On the Job Training in a company, working on an assignment, making a class presentation and the like. All these are the sequential opportunities, which would lead the aspirant towards the glory. In other words, an aspirant should consider these as stepping stones towards success. There is no fun in crying over spilt milk, therefore it is important for a career aspirant to understand that the learning opportunities they are exposed to at the present moment, may never come back, once this time fades away.
The right beginning in the right direction with the right mindset and inputs is half the battle won. It is important for all Omani aspirants to understand the importance of knowing oneself in terms of their strengths and build upon them, overcome the weaknesses, seize the opportunities offered by the career environment and the threats posed by the competition, so that they can alter themselves in time, to reach that moment of truth of securing their dream job. It is ideal to make the most when the surrounding environment offers many promises.