Building a Career : Choosing your specialization and Sticking to it

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In my writing here I want to give advice on choosing the right career, job hunting and professional growth.

The most crucial period in a professionals life is when you complete studies and begin to look for a job.

This is particularly true for a Pakistani student — this time is very painful with parents pressure on one side for taking up a better paying job as soon as possible, and relative and friends questions on the other that constantly demand: “did you get a job?”.

More often than not this pressure results in students making a hasty decision regarding their career: they grab first opportunity they get their hands on. Even if some one is strong enough to withstand the pressure and wait for the right job, they are often lured into switching to a different one for better pay within months of starting their first one.

These people realize the career consequences of doing this only after 2-3 years into their career, but usually at that time it is too late. Making a switch back to the domain of their specialization is not possible because that requires them to make a fresh start which usually is not feasible for most.

In light of this, I’d like to offer some advice to everyone just getting out of colleges / in their first year of work experience. A few things — if kept in mind — can allow you to make a better decision in this regard.

Finding you strengths during studies:
This is a trickier than it sounds.

You might be inclined to think that your strengths are those courses in which you get better grades.

That line of thought is misleading, however, because in studies a lot of things make up your grades and it is not always true reflection of your grasp of the subject. I have seen students getting very good grades but taking away zero knowledge.

Your strengths are usually subjects which you actually enjoy studying. For example I have seen a lot of student who are thrilled with programming courses but find less interest in networking or Software engineering courses. Even within programming, some students like to program games, others go for data base type of work, and so on. College is the best place to get a feel for these things, and looking at yourself at that time can make you identify your strengths.

Targeting your strength area when looking for a job:
Once you have gone through studies and ready to start a job, the first thing to do is identify organizations which are working in your domain area. This is not as hard as it sounds, Internet can be used for this or you can contact your seniors working in industry to get this information.

Once you have identified these organizations try sending your CV’s to them mentioning specially your interest in that particular field. (I will be writing a blog to cover what to write and what not to write in a CV later).

There are companies in Pakistan working on every field. If you think there are no companies in Pakistan working in field of your interest then there are chances you might be wrong.

For software development we have companies working in game development, embedded systems, E-Commerce, flash designing. you name it and we are working on it. so don’t think you wont be able to find your domain here. And if you want to go abroad then there are 99% chance you should be able to find your interest domain.

Waiting for the right job:
This is the most difficult part of starting a career.

With your friends getting jobs one by one and your parents recommending you job advertisements to apply for, waiting for the job offer from the domain of your liking seems impossible.

You will be surprised, however, that the biggest pressure you might face is from within — so take out some time to learn the importance of waiting for the right job.

The general idea a fresh graduate has is “Apply for every job even if you don’t qualify, and let the company sort it out. ” If you keep applying for every job advertised and you get a job which is not your expertise area chances are you will be lured away from your area of strength and end up doing some thing you don’t like.

My personal opinion is a person should wait atleast 3 months after his graduation (ofcourse this can vary depending on your situation) and for these 3 months target for jobs in your speciality area only, chances are if you are good you might get job in these 3 months.

Always keep in mind that most companies in Pakistan don’t hire in regular cycles in sync with graduation dates, they hire when there is a vacancy. So don’t expect to go out and have jobs waiting for you — that is a completely wrong way of thinking.

Starting the job and learning:
If you followed your dream job and got the right one, then start learning.

The most beneficial period of your job is the first two years. That is the time you learn the most. keep your eyes and ears open. Try getting as much guidance from your seniors as you can.

After two years, if you had put your heart and soul into it there are strong chances you will be at a better position — both paywise and position wise — than you would have been if you had taken up some thing you did not like just for financial reasons.

Also, that that time, a broad scan of your batch mates will reveal that even if you started off lower than them pay-wise, you will be evenly placed after the period of two years at most.

Most of all, you would have enjoyed your work for these years, unlike some for whom these years were like eternity as they chose some thing else.

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14 Comments

  • mohsin saleem

    Very good article. Must read for every undergrad/graduate who is in the middle of his/her degree, because if you know these things at that period of your education, you can well prepare yourself for future:)

  • I agree to the point that every individual with plans to go into professional world should decide his/her track prior to jumping in the wild west. In Pakistan, due to lack of career counseling, fresh grads are as lost as a first time visitor to a super market. People follow trends and think they can succeed like their predecessors.

    It is again the responsibility of the academia as well as the employers to guide the newcomers. If there is no need of CCNAs in Pakistan then why teach that in first place?

    Now, when a person has entered the professional world and has selected a career path, he/she can diversify accordingly. For example somebody who entered the web development world can experiment with design, database, QA etc.

    Although it is true that specialization has its benefits like OCPs, MCPs and CCNAs are always in demand but in today’s world of outsourcing and remote working, having a diversified skill set is essential to survive.

  • A very good article. Please do give advice on different career paths as well ,
    like for programing, QA, networking etc…
    that will help mnay students like me to know in advance how they ll move in career ladder…

  • nausheen. thanks for your suggestion of topics. we will definitely try to touch some of these. also if you have any suggestions regarding things a student wants to discuss let us know

  • One more thing i need to ask what if after the 2 yeasrs of work one realizes that the feild he/she choose for him/her self is not suitable to his/her sikills or cpabailities
    what should be done at that time ?? how to decide what to do ?? should start from scratch in entirley diffent feild or what???

  • Nausheen this is usually different for different circumstances. lets say if you don’t have liabilities and can bear the financial burden of switching my advice is you should do it provided you get a good opportunity. off course there are a lot of factors for this. your batch mates in that domain will be two years ahead of you, you will go back pay wise and probably role wise. one option that i have seen people exercise successfully is that after 2 years they go back to studies for MS and come back to the fields of their liking. how ever this is again personal decision, doing an MS is NOT required for making the switch.

  • MS option seems more appropriate….

  • Well as i said its completely on your discretion and your circumstances. With HEC rolling out so many scholarships even some one with limited financial resources can try that. But if you are married with a kid the picture changes completely so you can’t go to a 2 year MS without any income resources.

  • Well The Institutes like C@SE offer evening classes. and many professionals are doing their MS & PhD from there in Engineering Management & Computer Engineering form 6:00pm – 9:00pm.

  • hmm. i think there should be a separate post for doing an MS what are the consequences and who should do it. let me cover all these in that and then the discussion can go on from there.
    thanks for actively participating

  • A very insightful article i’m waiting for the CV blog to come up soon!

  • Could you please give me some suggestions to select a good firm to join (particularly banking sector). I will really appreciate If you can give me some GUIDELINES to select a good bank to work with.

    Advance Thanks

  • hi…
    i m doing BMS IIyr. can u tell what can i do after my graduation. i m so confused because i m planning to do specialisation in particular field but dont know which field. my interest is in HR and Marketing so can u plz tell me some specialization program related to this field and as well as some institutions.
    thank you

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