Young graduates need the verve and vigour to compete in today’s demanding professional job platforms.
TO have a successful career, you need more than an academic qualification. Students must have passion, and a strong understanding of the industry they’re interested in joining.
Although many traditionally popular and elite sectors are reporting an undersupply of talents, students deciding on a career path in these fields without knowing what the job entails may be disappointed and this could lead to unfulfilled dreams. On June 11, Sunday Star’s front page dismissed talk of a glut of professionals in traditionally prestigious fields like medicine, accounting, engineering, architecture, and education, as they are indeed crucial for Malaysia to achieve developed nation status.
To learn about the industry’s expectations, and real world demands of fresh graduates, StarEducate spoke to associations representing the various professions. Here’s what they have to say:
Be passionate. That’s Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Ravindran R. Naidu’s advice for those wanting to study medicine. But young doctors, he feels, should also be encouraged to explore avenues like lecturing, research and other non-clinical areas of medicine.
Noting how budding doctors these days get demoralised easily, Malaysian Mental Health Association deputy president Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj says many choose the profession believing it to be glamorous and financially rewarding. Then the realisation hits. There are other more lucrative professions that are less demanding.
“Medicine’s a vocation. It’s not just an occupation. If you don’t have the calling to be a doctor, don’t bother. Long hours of study and sleepless nights are a lifelong routine, especially in the public sector. This doesn’t end even after you’ve qualified as a doctor.”
Specialisation, he says, requires even more years of study. The Masters programme alone takes four additional years. Subsequently, many choose to sub-specialise meaning an additional one to three years on top of the nine years that includes the basic degree and specialisation.
This, he adds, excludes the compulsory housemanship and specialist gazettement periods.
“Discouraged by the long duration needed to become a specialist, young doctors go into business or set up a general practice (GP) clinic.”
Predicting that the days of such clinics are numbered, he says the trend these days is for GPs or family medicine specialists to provide primary care.
He encourages doctors to specialise as specialists earn from procedures as consultation fees are standardised and monitored by the Malaysian Medical Council.
“Society perceives senior specialists to be smarter and more experienced so they earn more. But this may not be so because often, the seniors don’t keep abreast with the latest medical science developments, relying instead on outdated knowledge and their own experience.”
Shedding light on the mental health profession, he says the most important attribute for a budding psychiatrist or clinical psychologist, is to not be judgmental.
Clients trust mental health professionals, divulging secrets that may be morally or religiously unacceptable to the latter.
“You have no right to impose your own values onto the client. Offer a sympathetic ear and listen instead of giving untimely advice.
“Listening is a skill you must have because it involves the fortitude to absorb all kinds of grievances, some of which may even seem ludicrous,” he says, recalling how as a junior psychiatrist, he was reminded that the truth is often stranger than fiction.
So, if you have the propensity to burn out easily or unload your the psychological burden on others, this discipline may not be suitable, he says matter-of-fact.
Parents, he cautions, mustn’t force their children to become doctors only to satisfy their own unfulfilled ambitions. It’s shocking to note that up to 30% of medical graduates don’t complete their housemanship, he adds.
“These interns are clearly not ‘doctor material’ but they needn’t be disappointed. With a basic medical degree, they can join many industries including the insurance or pharmaceutical sectors.”
Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia (MPCAM) vice-president Dr Raj Kumar Maharajah says housemen and medical officers must be exposed to specialised disciplines during their training.
“Identify talent early and motivate medical students to specialise before complacency sets in and they slip into a comfort zone.”
Know the statistics, landscape of the medical profession, and projected doctor to patient ratio, before deciding what to do when you graduate, he advises.
The challenge for the next generation of specialists, says Association of Specialists in Private Medical Practice Malaysia president Dr Sng Kim Hock, is where and how they can get their training, due to limited posts in the local Master’s programmes and training posts abroad.
Allowing senior academicians to remain employed, whether on contract or extension up to the age of 65 and beyond, is vital for the development and training of specialists in the country, he shares.
The industry’s perception is that fresh graduates are ready-made for the industry but some lack technical and soft skills, Malaysian Institute of Accountants CEO Dr Nurmazilah Mahzan points out.
While this is a versatile profession with diverse opportunities, accountants must be flexible, agile, and adapt well to changes, she says, adding that being articulate and having the fortitude to overcome challenges, are a must.
“Accountants must review their level of knowledge periodically, and provide innovative services to meet the growing needs of their organisations. Those with good analytical and communications skills can easily present financial forecasts to management or even persuade them on budget decisions.”
All law graduates must attain a certain minimum standard before being eligible to practice, says Bar Council president George Varughese. And, it’s up to the Bar Council to ensure that the high professional standards for aspiring lawyers are upheld.
“That’s why the Bar Council is developing and advocating for the Common Bar Course (CBC) to be implemented,” he says.
The CBC will entail much more than local legal knowledge and procedure. The course is geared towards ensuring that those coming into the legal profession are well-equipped to serve their clients and the community, and are able to compete on an international platform, armed with the skills, talents, commitment and sense of duty, that are identifiable with the best of the Malaysian legal community.
A teacher’s expertise is in reading the students’ performance and identifying patterns, to determine their needs, says National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Harry Tan Huat Hock.
Teachers must know the students’ stories, personalities, and academic records. Reading facial expressions help as it gauges their students’ moods, their conversations with family members and what motivates them. “With this knowledge, the teacher must set learning goals and steps for the student to achieve them.”
According to The Institution of Engineers Malaysia (IEM) president Tan Yean Chin, 80% of future jobs will need science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), yet the number of secondary school students taking such subjects, is dropping.
With fewer science students in schools, there will be less engineering undergraduates. Eventually, the standard, quality and trainability of new engineers, will drop, he shares.
A STEM-based degree like engineering has high entry requirements. Courses are demanding, requiring four years of study.
“Many monotonous jobs are being automated. Only creative roles will still require human input but these are for people who design and develop products like appliances, gadgets, and medical equipment.
“So, all engineering disciplines offer a good career. In Malaysia, the transportation, infrastructure development and IT sectors, are in need of more engineers.”
Sound and competent technical knowledge, a strong foundation in mathematics and science, problem-solving skills, discipline, logical, creative and innovative thinking, and dedication, are crucial traits of an engineer, he says.
“You must be inquisitive, systematic, analytical, and a good communicator. Take pride in your work. Engineering entails lifelong learning.”
Career development in the spa industry is very promising, says Malaysian Association of Wellness and Spa (MAWSPA) president Dr Baskaran Kosthi.
Aspirants start as junior therapists. They then go on to become senior therapists, trainers, supervisors, managers, spa directors, group spa directors, and finally, spa owners. In urban areas like KL, therapists can earn about RM5,000 per month, he says, noting that there’s a big demand for male therapists.
“Would you be happy if your child wants to be a spa therapist? I would because I know what’s in store. We must encourage such aspirations among the young. Everyone thinks it’s an easy industry.
“They attend a three-day course and open a spa. Parents today spoon-feed their kids: ‘Here’s RM50,000. Go start a business.’ They do that, then realise that staffing is a problem, and close down the business in six months.”
In the old days, he recalls, those who didn’t like studying would be sent to work at a bicycle shop – for example – to learn the trade. When they’re ready, the boss will encourage them to venture out on their own. That’s how entrepreneurs are made.
Parents these days give their children everything but without experiencing hardship and tough times, a child doesn’t learn. It is best that one works in the industry for at least five years before trying to make it it out on their own. Courses in wellness education are gaining in popularity considering the number of tertiary institutions that are offering them now.
To practice locally, an architecture graduate must register as a “graduate architect”, get at least two years of practical experience, and sit for a professional examination, says Malaysian Institute of Architects (PAM) president Ezumi Harzani Ismail. Upon passing, the graduate can apply to be registered as an architect with the Board of Architects Malaysia. There are some 2,000 registered architects in the country but not all provide architectural consultancy services. Some are attached to government agencies, local authorities, and the education sector.
The basic salary for a fresh graduate ranges from RM3,000 to RM4,500 per month depending on the location of work. Kuala Lumpur and Selangor record higher pay compared to states like Kelantan, Terengganu, Perlis, Sabah and Sarawak.
“Senior architects earn between RM4,500 to RM15,000 depending on experience. But the influx of architects from other countries has put downward pressure on fees in recent years, despite the fact that Malaysia has a legislated scale of fees for professional architects. We’re concerned that the lower fees may affect the quality of services besides suppressing salary growth.”
PAM, he says, is looking to ensure that fee levels reflect the high quality of services provided by local architects.
“Architectural services here are not well resourced. This key issue is affecting the quality of the buildings in our construction industry.”