The women’s majlis: There’s more to life than studying

Not everything can be learnt in school. Certain skills can be learnt only through work experience.

One of my friends recently got her master’s degree in information technology from an Abu Dhabi university. She was complaining how her graduate-school studies were equivalent to a bachelor’s in terms of coursework and quality. “I spent more than Dh90,000 and I haven’t learnt much,” she told me. Her master’s hasn’t benefited her pay or opportunities. What I learnt from her experience is that sometimes advanced degrees don’t land you anywhere. Too often, they can create a career plateau.

I was about to apply for advanced studies right after graduation, but when I was asked why I decided to continue my studies right away, I was clueless. I had no idea which field I wanted to pick, either.

It was then that a friend suggested I enter the labour market to gain some work experience and perhaps rethink graduate school. I’m grateful I followed her advice. Today, people who have higher degrees without any work experience are struggling to find a suitable job. They’re labelled “over­qualified” by companies. They reach a level where they’re prepared to abandon their hopes of finding a dream job and will do any kind of work to save face.

My work experience has opened up more professional opportunities; it has also helped me grow intellectually. My two-and-a-half-year experience has taught me that not everything can be learnt in school. Certain skills can be learnt only through work experience.

I strongly suggest that ­anyone thinking of graduate school seeks career advice from their seniors or speak to faculty members of different universities to get a broader understanding of what’s ahead. A master’s is a huge investment.

I spoke to a faculty member a few days ago to seek advice about my own plans for graduate school. She advised me to choose a major that would allow me to be creative in my life and career, and help me grow personally, professionally and socially.

I know people who have headed straight into a master’s without any plan, except to get the certificate. Their salary may have gone up, but with no personal growth. I also know people who completed their higher education and came back even stronger. They’ve subsequently climbed the ladder to success.

I’m on the verge of study­ing anthropology. There are life benefits to this study. I know it will help me communicate better with other nationalities and understand where they come from. In the long run, the UAE will welcome more expatriates, expertise and foreign businesses. I hope a sound education in anthropology will bring some changes and create more bilateral relationships between countries.

Asmaa Al Hameli is a features writer for The National.

If you have a good story to tell or an interesting issue to debate, contact Shireena Al Nowais on salnuwais@thenational.ae.

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Published: April 16, 2015 04:00 AM

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