GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Dr. Mark
Title of Paper:
Self-Motivation, Career Aspirations and Work Responsibilities
Paper Proposal Text :
Self-Motivation, Career Aspirations and Work Responsibilities:
The Perspective of Saudi Male Undergraduates at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals

In March 2011 as the ramifications of the Arab Spring on socio-political and economic issues became apparent, it was reported by the Saudi-US Relations Information Service (SUSRIS) that “In general, employers say that young Saudi male graduates have an overdeveloped sense of their own value in the marketplace and an underdeveloped commitment to hard work”. This is an oft repeated concept and assumes that self-motivation and career aspirations in Saudi Arabia, as related to personal fulfilment through study and / or work, do not constitute an important factor for young Saudi men. In addition, this type of sweeping generalization dismisses an entire constituency of well-educated individuals many of whom desire to play a constructive role in the development of the Kingdom. Furthermore, in the case of many male undergraduates at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM), these young men not only expect to assume significant work responsibilities upon entering the workforce, but in fact, also want to do so; they consider that their university studies have prepared them for this eventuality. However, even though many KFUPM undergraduates state that they would like to assume leadership responsibilities they are often disappointed — and more dangerously, demoralized — when they enter full-time employment as they sometimes find themselves underused and / or overlooked.

Sadly, this situation often mirrors the societal environment; one where young male Saudis are caught between two opposing attitudes. On the one hand, they are either ignored or marginalized, and on the other, young unmarried men (shabab) are deemed to be irresponsible and in consequence, blamed for social ills. Not surprisingly, many youth-related problems stem from the fact that, rightly or wrongly, young male Saudis feel neglected and for this reason there is a sense of not being able to participate constructively either in the workplace or in society. Indeed, in a 2011 New York Times editorial Prince Alwaleed bin Talal noted that for overall Saudi governmental reform to be effective, the younger generation needs to be included, especially as youth ‘has become increasingly intertwined with its counterparts in other parts of the world’.

Research undertaken for this study clearly illustrates that KFUPM undergraduates want to be taken seriously; they want their opinions heard and they want the chance to participate constructively. In short, it is evident that many KFUPM students do not simply want jobs; they want rewarding careers that contribute to individual, corporate and / or national development. With this in mind, the paper is informed by a number questions including:

• What are the career aspirations of KFUPM undergraduates? Are they realistic?
• To what extent do undergraduates consider that their university education matches their own career expectations and those of potential employers?
• To what extent is there a divide between undergraduates’ career aspirations and actual work responsibilities? If this divide exists, what explains the underutilization of graduates once they enter the workforce?
• Is it true that Saudi graduates have an ‘overdeveloped sense of their own value’? Or, are the abilities of young Saudi graduates underestimated?
• What is the rationale behind providing a challenging environment at university if the same environment is not present in the workplace?
• To what extent do KFUPM undergraduates feel that they will graduate as well-rounded individuals?
• To what extent do KFUPM undergraduates feel that they will be able to operate effectively in a globalized world?
• To what extent do KFUPM undergraduates feel they are marginalized by socio-cultural realities?

This paper is based on primary research including questionnaires, interviews, discussion, classroom observation and student reports conducted with approximately 210 undergraduate students taking a new “Globalization” course piloted and taught by the author at KFUPM during the academic year 2013—2014.