Jobs: The plight of the foreign graduate

Published: November 25, 2010

Foreign graduate may be forced to wonder "Why did I come back"

Welcome back to the land of the pure.  The one question most recent graduates from foreign universities face while being interviewed by employers and relatives alike is, “What are you doing here? Why did you decide to come back?

The graduate, given he is not the heir to a large chunk of the country’s land or industry, must have been either an idealist or under some form of compulsion to return. Of course, no sane person could have made that choice without being under duress.

If the country wishes to reverse the brain drain phenomenon to some extent, now is the best opportunity. Global job markets are at their driest and immigration rules across most countries have been strengthened. Unfortunately, there seem to be few opportunities for those with some form of foreign education.

The absolute lack of a structured hiring process is more than an inconvenience. If one is to apply to any reputable firm, the only inlet available is an email listed on the company’s website. Depending on the position of the applicant’s stars, a reply might be forthcoming.

Few companies have some form of a formalised recruiting process.

However, for those unfortunate enough to be studying anywhere but Pakistan, the process might as well be non-existent. The concept of a phone interview seems alien and the only response an application merits is a rejection email a few months down the line.

I have yet to figure out whether employers clump all foreign graduates in one pool and whether these employers prefer local graduates to foreign ones.

All of that seems immaterial in the light of a good old-fashioned pawwa (slang for a relative or acquaintance in a position of power that can get you the job).

At the interview itself the quintessential question of why one came back to this country is asked. Why not, is my preferred answer.

This may be the country’s chance to recover some part of the human potential that it has consistently leaked for decades now. Otherwise, as the global job market recovers, normal service will resume as frustrated talent exits Pakistan’s borders for good.


Ozair Ali

A graduate of the Wharton School of Business who is interested in psychology and economics.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.