By Bismah Azhar & Uzair Khawar
“What will I do after I graduate?”
“Which majors get the most employment opportunities?”
“How important is it to have a good GPA?”
These are some of the questions that every undergraduate student asks themselves at some point during their time at LUMS. The best way to get answers would be to reach out to the extensive and invaluable network of LUMS Alumni, who are excellent role models for current students and well placed to offer practical guidance regarding life at LUMS and after graduation.
To facilitate student-alumni engagement, the Mushtaq Ahmed Gurmani School of Humanities and Social Sciences (MGSHSS) organized an Alumni Meet to give current students an opportunity to hear from and interact with a diverse group of alumni, about their experiences at graduate school and in the professional world.
The event was organized at LUMS on May 16, 2018. In attendance were the Dean of MGSHSS, Dr Kamran Asdar Ali, and several faculty members, including Dr Ali Khan, Dr Sadaf Ahmed, and Dr Waqar Zaidi. Dr Sameen Ali served as the moderator for the event. The auditorium was packed with excited and curious students, and the event generated fruitful discussion that students continued to talk about over the rest of semester.
The floor was opened by Mr Adnan Asdar Ali, CEO Multinet, with a discussion on the significance of multi-disciplinary approaches to education. Mr Ali encouraged students to step outside of their comfort zones and take courses from disciplines they were unfamiliar with.
“It’s important that you take the time to know what’s happening next door,” he said, referring to the Syed Babar Ali School of Science and Engineering (SBASSE).
Dr Sameen Ali then requested each of the guests to share insights from their careers, and talk about how their experiences at LUMS facilitated them in the professional world. Ms Sajjad, Batch of 2009, who works as a research consultant in the Cities & Infrastructure Programme at the University of Edinburgh, stressed the importance of critical reading and writing skills. She also shared her experience of choosing Urban Planning as the area of interest for her Senior Year Project and how it eventually led her to pursuing a Masters in the field. Students were encouraged to take up projects in their respective areas of interest for the host of opportunities they could potentially open up.
Ms Saadia Qayyum, Batch of 2010, serves as the Chief Energy Economist in the Government of Punjab, and while talking about her experience of working in various governmental offices, she debunked certain myths surrounding social science majors and employment opportunities. “There’s this widely held notion that MBA holders get paid more than someone with a masters in social sciences, but this is not true, it really depends on your skills and what you bring to the table,” Ms Qayyum clarified.
Students have always dreaded choosing between a career path that offers financial stability and “doing what they love.” “If I’m really passionate about what I do, but I’m afraid it’s not going to make me a lot of money, should I still do it?”
Mr Imran Ahmed Khan, Batch of 2014, who is the head of Player Acquisition & Management at Pakistan Super League, and Mr Hissan ur Rehman, Batch of 2007, who works for the Pakistan Cricket Board, addressed these concerns. Mr Khan pointed out that the “sweet spot” between your passion and a career that will pay the bills is not as elusive as students might think. “Trust me, you want to be doing something you love, in order to do your best work. That desire will make you more creative and more resourceful and therefore more valuable to your employer.” Mr Hissan ur Rehman added “At the end of the day, it’s all about waking up excited to go to work – if you have that, you know you’re in the right place.” A collective sigh of relief from the students followed.
Mr. Hashim Zaidi, Batch of 2008, who works for Oxfam GB, further enunciated that doing what you love pays off in the long run. He recounted his own experience of quitting his corporate job to work for an NGO. Crediting the range of social sciences courses offered at LUMS for his success, he went on to explain how the skills he acquired in the program allowed him to excel in the development sector. Rather than worrying about the rat-race of the job market, students’ time is better spent honing the skills that MGSHSS equips them with.
When it comes to stories about applying to graduate school, Ms Zahra Zaheer Mirza’s is one of resilience. While working with Adam Smith International and McKinsey & Company, Ms Mirza, Batch of 2013, applied abroad for graduate studies for three successive years and is now on her way to Harvard University on a Fulbright Scholarship. Reflecting on her own experience as a field officer at Adam Smith, where she surveyed 2,500 schools across Punjab, Ms Mirza urged students to invest in studying and engaging in qualitative and quantitative research.
All of the speakers agreed that the academic rigour of LUMS and wide range of extracurricular activities that the university offers played a pivotal role in their personal development, and helped them stand out to employers as well as graduate school admission boards. They recommended that students make the most of what LUMS has to offer by visiting the Academic Writing Lab, being active in student societies, and of course, studying what they love.
Towards the end of the Meet, the floor was opened to questions from students. They raised a wide variety of queries ranging from finding a balance between academic and personal life at LUMS, choosing a major, and applying to grad school.
Many students expressed a desire to have easier access to all the valuable insights and experiences that LUMS Alumni have to offer. While the speakers encouraged students to be more proactive and use forums such as LinkedIn to connect with their seniors, it was also agreed that more Alumni Meets should be organized in the future, perhaps individually for each major.
This particular event materialized as a result of a discussion on student-alumni relations in Dr Sameen Ali’s Comparative Politics class, a testament to the need for better communication between the student body and the School so that student voices can be heard.
Once the event had concluded, students also had the opportunity to network and chat informally with the guests. About the event, an attendee, Naseer Ahmed, Batch of 2019, said, “I think I learned a lot of new things about life after graduation today. I was very anxious about what I would do with my Politics and Economics degree, and it helps to know that there is a huge network of seniors that we can reach out to for advice.”
Bismah Azhar and Uzair Khawar are students of the batch of 2019. Bismah is a Political Science major and is currently pursuing an independent study project on public attitudes towards violence in Lahore. Uzair is a Politics & Economics major.
Adnan Asdar Ali, CEO Multinet
Hissan ur Rehman, Pakistan Cricket Board, BSc (Hons) Social Sciences 2007
Fizzah Sajjad, Research consultant, Cities & Infrastructure Programme, University of Edinburgh, BSc (Hons) Social Sciences 2009
Zahra Zaheer Mirza, Former consultant, McKinsey & Company, BSc (Hons) Economics & Politics 2013
Imran Ahmad Khan, Head of Player Acquisition & Management, PSL, BSc (Hons) Economics & Politics 2014
Saadia Qayyum, Chief Energy Economist, Government of Punjab, BSc (Hons) Economics 2010
Hashim Zaidi, Global Urban Work Lead, Oxfam GB, BSc (Hons) Economics 2008