How many of you are in jobs that have nothing to do with your educational background?
I found myself in a job that was indirectly coherent with my educational background in political science. I was a journalist by heart, and hopefully still am, but I did not think that journalism would fit into my career path.
To me, it was fancy to work where I did, my vision and path were not very clear, and at the start, I did not manage to find a link between my job and my education.
Many studies have shown that a large percentage of high school students choose their university major based on social pressure and pressure from parents. This reminds me of a young Saudi who spent seven years going from one major to another — from finance to engineering to business management — until he gathered the courage to pursue a childhood dream and become a chef. I asked him what the peak monthly salary of a well-known chef is. “Up to $200,000,” he said. His reply reflected the fact that it is not what you do but how well you do it.
In 2013, I started thinking: What does it take for a young Saudi to become a successful politician? The answer was not “connections,” but “the right characteristics.” When it comes to education, there are two types of people: The practical and the theoretical (the ones who end up doing PhDs, as if there are not enough professors in the world). How is being theoretical or practical related to finding the right job?
When I was about to graduate, I was exploring options. Like most of my fellow students, I thought: “I’ll follow in my father’s footsteps and become a very successful banker.”
That never happened as I was saved by reality and Liz Reece, a higher-education consultant who locked me in a room and asked me to take a personality test. According to the result, I was meant to be a social sciences graduate, and I was given my best options in terms of majors and universities.
But what about that internship I did in JP Morgan? Reece’s response was: “That’ll look great on your CV dear, but it’s time to move on.” I took the results and went for a long walk, when it suddenly hit me: “Yes, I do have the characteristics to become the next president of cupcakes, so let it be.”
My point is that it is never too early to acknowledge your skills. In fact, the earlier the better so you do not waste time jumping from one major to another and spending 13 years in university, followed by a really boring job that has nothing to do with your interest or passion.
Does that mean that during my long walk I knew exactly what I wanted out of my educational and career life? Absolutely not. I was luckily redirected to the right path that fits my characteristics. Not until my first big accomplishment did I realize that I am in the right career.
Finding your educational passion (either theoretical or practical, by discovering your skills at an early age) will make your experience memorable. Finding the right job does not necessarily mean that if you studied information technology (IT) then you must be an IT manager for the rest of your life. You could be an excellent addition to any innovation lab in the world (with your skills and experience).
According to a study by a Saudi professor, 58 percent of male students and 65 percent of female students face difficulties in choosing the right major, due to their lack of understanding of their potential and passion. That begs the question: Are Saudi students given a chance to explore and utilize their potential?
I believe that the infusion of creativity, art, culture and other subjects in the Saudi education system has widened students’ horizons. Finding the right formula can grant you a wonderful journey, so I wish you the best of luck!
Nada Al-Tuwaijri is the communications managing director at the Misk Art Institute.