Khalifa Al-Salahi, a certified career counselor and one of the participants in an event organized by Qatar Career Development Center – a member of QF – talks about guiding students towards fields that enhance their creativity
Choosing to study a major that you are fond of and eager to be specialized in, with passion and confidence, means that you’ll definitely be an active and effective member of your society.
I had to go through a long experience in order to realize this, and, fortunately, I realized it before it was too late, meaning I was able to switch from my initial course of study of chemical engineering to the field of career counselling, where my real passion and enthusiasm – providing guidance to other students – lies.
I discovered that the reason behind the wrong choices we make as students, while choosing majors that do not necessarily fit our abilities and skills, is because we do not get an appropriate career counseling
After I graduated from high school and based on my academic achievement – especially in the fields of chemistry and mathematics – and influenced by my friends’ opinions, I majored in chemical engineering. But I then realized that this field did not suit my personality, and I discovered that the reason behind the wrong choices we make as students, while choosing majors that do not necessarily fit our abilities and skills, is because we do not get an appropriate career counseling.
During my college years at the University of Leeds in the UK, I tried to change my academic path and move to the College of Education. But since I had a scholarship and I had already fulfilled a large part of my studying hours; it was better for me to proceed with what I had started. But I also started focusing more on developing my skills in other aspects and started my own journey of self-discovery.
I volunteered in many activities, most of which had to do with career counseling and youth orientation, especially for those who are looking to study abroad. This voluntary work opened the gates for me to develop more experience and provided me with post-graduation job opportunities, as I joined the student admissions department at Hamad Bin Khalifa University, a member of Qatar Foundation.
I also realized there are a large number of students who never proceed to higher education. This is not due to them lacking skills, but because of the lack of guidance
Although I scored highly and graduated in the field of engineering, studying engineering was not easy for me, it never aligned with my personality or interests, and I had no real passion or interest in the curriculum. This was not the only drive for me to study career counseling; I also realized there are a large number of students who never proceed to higher education. This is not due to them lacking skills, but because of the lack of guidance.
After working for four years at Qatar Foundation, I pursued a Master’s degree from Penn State University in the US in Career Counseling, as I completed 600 hours of work in this field. At that time, I was enjoying each subject I finished and feeling accomplished in them, and that is what made me excel and complete my journey in this field. Currently, I’m a Director of Students Affairs and also a Lecturer at Qatar Finance and Business Academy (QFBA) in collaboration with Northumbria University in Qatar.
Career counseling is not just a relationship between the counselor and the student. It is based on designing counseling programs and helping individuals optimize their academic and professional futures and make appropriate decisions. Each element of society has specific programs that suit them – children, students, people with special needs, workers, retirees, and others.
The sooner students look for career counseling, the better it is for them. For school students, I feel they should be introduced to different careers and their importance at the primary school stage. In the preparatory stage, students can participate in volunteering activities and extra-curricular programs. While the secondary stage is considered the phase of experimentation. Qatar Career Development Center – a member of Qatar Foundation – is among the centers that offer programs that support students through enabling them to make visits to work sites, and experience a particular job. They can also organize for them to meet professionals in specific fields, and then the role of counseling sessions between a counselor and the student comes into play.
When a student takes a major that is not suitable for them or is far from their personal interests, their creativity decreases, and this leads to human resources being wasted
Although there are academic advisors in schools or universities in Qatar, I still feel more guidance is needed. There is a high number of students compared to the number of advisors, so it is necessary to continue to raise awareness of the important role of academic advisors in helping students make fateful and future decisions.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the lockdown and travel restrictions that followed, some of the students enrolled in universities abroad may not be able to complete their studies. As an alternative, students have a great opportunity to study at international universities in Qatar, or join the Academic Bridge Program – part of Qatar Foundation’s Pre-University Education – to complete a foundation program In Doha, then complete their education abroad. They can also use this period to build professional relationships and develop themselves professionally through online training courses in various fields. It is necessary for students to have a clear goal and spend their time doing something useful and developing their skills, which enables them to obtain greater professional opportunities after graduation.
Students need a lot of support when making their future decisions, especially if they are approaching the university stage, where the student is influenced by the opinions of others or social pressures, and this is where the role of parents, the school, the university, and the job market comes in.
When a student takes a major that is not suitable for them or is far from their personal interests, their creativity decreases, and this leads to human resources being wasted. On the other hand, when a student joins the field that interests them, they achieve higher performance and become more creative.
Personally, I can’t imagine myself going daily to work in a field that I do not have any passion for, however important it may be and however many young people have succeeded within it. A working life can last 30-40 years. Is it right that a person should spend all these years in a field they do not like?
Let's plan first, and seek the advice from career counselors, to ensure that, over the next years of our lives, we wake up every morning over excited about the working day ahead.