Saturday, February 21, 2009

Preparing for the Real World?

John Lee, a student at Dartmouth College has blogged on whether our students are ready for the real world. His blog post is at Education Malaysia .

I personally think that we can all work together to share on tips on how to write good CVs etc. Hopefully, we can gradually help match Malaysians better, and indirectly grow the GDP.

Recently, launched its Forum for Career & Education . Do go there and share on various of such tips!!!

Below is the quote of the article by John!
Preparing for the Real World?

Let's put aside the academic and intellectual side of education for the moment, and focus on something more basic: basic communications skills. No matter how good a thinker you are, if you can't communicate those thoughts you will have a hard time, both in academia and the professional world. Wherever you end up, you need to know how to read and write, listen and speak. And I think it's almost indisputable that Malaysian schools are doing a pretty bad job when it comes to these skills.

Back when I was still in school, my father's company was looking to expand its operations, but to my father's chagrin, most of the candidates he encountered were simply incoherent. Their CVs were poorly-formatted and their personal statements virtually unreadable. Most of those he shortlisted for interviews were clearly unconfident and unable to speak coherently. My father was terribly put off by the experience, and he himself has always been bemoaning his own difficulties in communication.

At my job in a local research institute this summer, I got the chance to look through a number of CVs and job applications because the institute was hiring, and they were honestly not much to look at. Most of the CVs were so poorly formatted it was hard to even look at them, and the personal statements/cover letters were not much better. Many applicants didn't even bother writing anything in their emails or writing a cover letter, just sending us their CV as an attachment; a few didn't even state which position they were applying for!

I suppose I am not one to be too critical, since I am not yet in the job market (although I am actually looking for a job or internship in KL again this summer), but I do think this speaks to a problem with our education system. If we can teach students standard formats for letters, journals, diaries and reports in school, why can't we teach them standard formats for CVs or cover letters? What is the use of learning Bahasa Malaysia or English in school if you can't even muster the confidence to write a few sentences explaining which position you're applying for? Ultimately we learn languages for a reason — to communicate — and it does us no good if we can score A's but can't use these languages.

Then again, education systems around the world are generally doing a shoddy job of preparing high school graduates for the job market — I'm sure not many American high school diploma holders can actually write a resume much better than the CVs I've seen. But these positions were specifically meant for university degree-holders, and all the applicants were university graduates. Shamefully for our local universities, the vast majority of the properly formatted CVs with well-written cover letters were from foreign graduates.

Ultimately, most people graduating from university will not be going into academia; they will need to know how to write a CV and write a cover letter, and almost certainly how to handle an interview. For whatever reason, it seems like our local universities are not preparing their graduates to do these things, and that is inexcusable.

My university for example has an active Career Services department. The department regularly holds workshops on CV-writing, cover letter-writing, and how to handle interviews. You can even walk in to their office and have your CV and cover letter reviewed by them on a one-on-one basis. You can likewise practice interviews at their office, again in a one-on-one setting. While obviously Dartmouth has a lot of resources to spare, almost any American university has a similar department, and a big selling point for any institution here is how well the university can place its graduates into the job market.

At the moment, we are graduating people from secondary school and university who cannot communicate coherently with prospective employers. Is it any wonder why we have so many problems with unemployable graduates? As it stands, even university-calibre students lack basic skills — I know an alumni interviewer for Cornell University who has had to deal with applicants who refuse to show up on time for interviews, or lack the basic initiative to find out details like how to get to the interview venue (he actually had someone ask him where the KLCC is). In this time of economic recession, we need to take a long hard look at how our schools and universities are preparing students for the job market — if a graduate can't speak or write properly, all those straight A's will be for naught.

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1 comment:

Charis said...

He mentioned you. Haha.