Despite all the odds and handful of opportunities available; women of Pakistan are breaking all stereotypes, proving how much capable they are. Gone are the days, when women were considered good only for professions like teaching and medical, but now they are proving themselves in every sphere of life. The Light Within is a three-part series wherein Laiba Zaman, a writer at Perspective, interviewed three successful women entrepreneurs of Pakistan about their business, journey, and struggles.
This is the third, and the last, part of the series featuring Alizeh Atif. Alizeh has completed her MSc. in Strategic Marketing from Imperial College London and is the Founder of Be Guided Now, her own venture to fulfil her passion for holistically guiding Pakistan’s youth. She offers personalized academic, university and career counselling to students and young professionals. Her students have been accepted to the global top ten universities. Her work focuses on empowering students with tools of self-awareness, self-discovery and finding their true passion in life through their academic, university & career choices.
Q 1: How/Why did you start the business? Who was your inspiration? My inspiration was working with A Level students at a high school in Karachi as their college & career counselor. During my conversations with them and their parents, I realised that students had immense potential, their parents had invested in their kids' futures their whole life, spending a large chunk of their lifetime saving, but students and parents lacked key information, tools, and realistic guidance at the right time. Thus, I started my own consultancy, where the biggest focus is to help students and parents work together and get to know themselves better & find the right fit between their personality and their education, university & careers. Q 2: Any childhood memory, you want to share that you think has shaped you in a woman you are today?
I am the youngest of three siblings at home: all three of us being girls. A childhood memory that has helped me shape into who I am was my parents being fully invested in encouraging and facilitating us girls to pursue our education and careers, making no distinctions based on gender. We were always taught that our education and career were something we had to work hard towards; we were always supported in exploring our passion; however, we were confused at different points in time. From very early on, I knew that it wasn't a must that only brothers and sons can talk about their future career plans; rather, it was something that everyone had to work towards with integrity and hard work.
Q 3: Why right career selection is a neglected subject in our society?
I think this is the case in most societies and not just in Pakistan. We focus too much on the end goal, becoming a doctor, lawyer, engineer, but not focusing on the journey there. We don't realise that asking the right questions, speaking to the right people at the right time is so important for parents to help their children choose not just 'a' career, but the 'right one, with 'right' being something personal and not something we can simply apply to everyone. We all need to start seeing each other as unique individuals with unique skills, strengths, and interests. With this self-awareness, do independent research into what career paths align with those skills and interests, speak to people in those fields, and choose the right university major and careers.
Q 4: What tips do you want to give to students who have recently cleared their FSc/ A-levels, and are now seeking for a good university?
Always start with financial feasibility- ask yourself what is your budget, and accordingly look for options ahead of time (usually 9 months before deadlines at least). Make sure you thoroughly read the details of courses of the major you are applying for to be fully sure if this is something you'd like to spend the next 3/4 years learning. Make sure you are aware of their deadlines, requirements & always work equally hard on each part of the application process, such as essays, cv, interview rather than just on the essay!
Q 5: What do you do to be motivated?
I try to incorporate 30 minutes of walking in my day; I spend time with my family & like to set realistic standards and go easy on myself when I'm feeling low. We don't realise how our own expectations of ourselves bring us down, feeling demotivated or overwhelmed. At points like those, don't look all over social media comparing your life to that of others, don't think you have to be happy 24/7 & always be achieving something life-changing. Being kind to yourself is important; celebrating yourself and not waiting for external validation helps!
Q 6: How students can reach out to you for career counselling?
They can DM me at www.instagram.com/beguidednow
Q 7: A message for students, especially girls?
This is a great time to be a girl. We have so many role models who are managing all their roles beautifully, with balance and grace. But don't feel that you have to fit a certain mould: that you have to be working, that you have to be a housewife, or that you must be doing both. Unfortunately, we don't realise, but we tend to compartmentalize females in labels, in boxes, taking away the essence that girls and women must have the choice of choosing a path that is truly theirs. Whether you want to be in the board room, the kitchen, or have a foot in both, make sure that that choice is truly yours!