Inflation. Quiet quitting. The Great Resignation. In today’s climate, there are plenty of employment issues for college students to be concerned about. So, when you meet someone clear-eyed and resolute about his plans for the future, you take notice. Naq Tahir may be only 21 years old, but the senior at the University of Texas at Arlington has his sights set on a bright future, and the realistic and pragmatic way he’ll achieve that.
Clear Eyes, Full Heart
As an information systems major, Tahir is close to finishing a college career that entailed some hefty coursework, including cybersecurity and data management classes. According to the CompTIA IT Industry Outlook 2023, there are countless opportunities opening up around the world as technology influences every business and every industry vertical. By choosing to focus on relevant and burgeoning tech issues, Tahir can hit the ground running after graduation, secure in his options and opportunities.
“I'm looking for something along the lines of cybersecurity because I want something hands-on, where I know there are good job opportunities, and I can get in the field right away,” Tahir said. “Like they say, everything is an IT company these days.”
The options may be favorable, but Tahir knows that there is more to a good job than availability. Like many graduates soon to enter the workforce, he wants a career that has relevancy, longevity and healthy boundaries – a feature that is coming up more and more in the post-pandemic workforce.
“For me, when it comes to the workplace, I want to be in a good environment, a place where I can grow. What I don't want is to be stagnant. I want to build a career where I can grow exponentially, where there's always more to learn and always more to do. And as long as there's that, I could be in the field for the rest of my life,” he said.
Seeking Flexibility, Growth
Tahir’s not alone in his ideal career plans. In fact, most graduates entering the workforce report that having a suitable work-life balance means looking for jobs and organizations that understand the modern technologist’s lifestyle.
“I have a lot of hobbies and interests. I play a lot of sports. I play cricket semi-professionally and that takes up a lot of my time. And when it’s not, I like hanging out with friends and having a life,” Tahir said. “So, what matters to me is the work environment, with work-from-home options, good hours and very little micromanagement, where as long as you do your work, it doesn't matter what you're wearing, what you're doing, just get your work done and go live life.”
With the post-pandemic shift to remote work, employers who offer self-pacing, autonomy in their work environment and professional development opportunities are more attractive to fresh talent like Tahir.
According to the CompTIA IT Industry Outlook 2023, employers and companies that want to attract and retain eager and skilled employees must look outside the traditional hiring practices and start emphasizing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts and recruitment, dropping the longstanding four-year college degree requirement for many positions, and focusing on upskilling and on-the-job training and certification for existing employees.
That kind of flexibility is exactly what Tahir likes about the IT field. His plans to include getting certified in order to continue to grow and challenge himself.
“What I see CompTIA offering is a path but not a super strict structure and I like that for myself. I like to study and do things on my own time, and still be able to progress in work, still have a career and a path to work towards. Adding the CompTIA certifications can only boost my resume,” he said.
Walking Besides, Not Behind
So how does a soon-to-graduate student get his clear-eyed vision for his career? For Tahir, it runs in the family.
“My dad first learned about CompTIA and getting certifications to get into the IT field, so for me, I already know that that works—it’s like a proven plan for me. I've seen it literally in front of my eyes,” he said. “I know you can get into IT and come from nothing and make it into a career.”
Tahir recalls how his dad, an immigrant from Pakistan, came to the United States at age 18 on a lottery visa, and lived through some hard, lonely times before building a successful life and career with IT.
“He is my biggest inspiration,” he said. “One thing about my dad is that he doesn't succeed alone. There are people that helped shape his success, so he's going to help shape other people's success. That really sticks with me.”
Once Tahir’s father was settled, he brought over some close relatives, one of which is Tahir’s aunt. His aunt, Sumera Shehzadi, took the same path – first joining the military, then charting a path to an IT career through certifications. For Tahir, having his family close by and supporting his career is all the encouragement he needs to find his best professional path.
“My aunt is also one of my biggest inspirations,” he said. “She and my father combined are like my founding fathers. Having them so close, I see firsthand all they can manage in their own lives and have families, take care of grandparents and take on new things career-wise – it’s amazing.”
With his graduation from college quickly approaching, and his goal to start earning CompTIA certifications to bolster his knowledge base and skill set, Tahir feels confident and realistic about the future. He may not know what exactly will happen, as nothing is promised, but he does feel optimistic that he has the support, the tools and the resources to figure out his next steps as they come.
“I grew up traveling the world, and having to start over again and again, which taught me that the only constant in life is change. And what I take from that is that who I am as a person, and what I want in life is that you're going to be okay, just keep changing with the change,” Tahir said. “When it comes to my professional life, that's what I want from a career, and what I bring to the workplace. There's always more out there, just keep growing.”
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