Career Path

Education consultants wear many hats

by Anna Tong

Calvin Chan, manager
operations and business development
IDP Education Pty Ltd
Photo: Edde Ngan

Consultancy services take many forms and oftentimes carry responsibilities beyond what one might expect. Calvin Chan, manager, operations and business development, IDP Education Pty Ltd knows this well.

After studying in Australia for a finance degree in 2000, Mr Chan swayed away from the seemingly more lucrative finance field and joined IDP, a global company that offers student placement and English language testing services.

His career choice was a brave one considering his academic background. His rationale for doing so was amiably simple. "I intended to work on my weak spot," he explains. "I wasn't much of a talker, so I chose to be an education consultant — a role that would help me to become a stronger communicator."

His original plan was to improve his skills, then go back into the realm of finance but the job captivated him and he stayed, quickly rising through the ranks to his current position.

"I found myself really enjoying my work and the people I work with," he says. "Being someone who enjoys analysing things, I got to do just that in helping students to find their academic direction."

Same situation

Not surprisingly, when Mr Chan went to university in Australia, he applied through IDP. Therefore he was able to put the help and guidance he received to good use at IDP when reaching out to prospective students. "It's satisfying to know that I can make an impact on the lives of students," he adds.

In his current capacity, Mr Chan juggles his time between staff management, business development and student services. Besides treating every student on an individual basis, the same goes for his staff — he monitors staff performance ensuring they are in the best position to provide sound advice.

"I work closely with the consultants, the administration and the marketing teams —t hat's really everybody here," he remarks. "Teamwork across divisions is important. We need to ensure things run smoothly throughout the process from student registration to graduation."

Outside the office, Mr Chan frequently interacts with university principals and personnel from affiliated organisations who play an integral part in IDP's business. The opportunity to interact with people from all walks of life essentially gives Mr Chan's career an extra dimension.

In addition to that, the company grants him a high degree of autonomy, allowing him to be creative in his position.

"We achieved a high turnout at the annual Education Australia Expo last July by timing it perfectly to match the end of exams for the students, particularly those graduating from Form Five to Form Seven, and the start of enrolment for foundation courses in Australia," says Mr Chan. "It is our aim to achieve that this time around."

"Teamwork across divisions is important"

Keen focus

Since joining IDP, Mr Chan has reached the goal of improving his communication skills. "I'm more competent at giving presentations and my time management has improved tremendously. All thanks to the diversity of the job," he reveals.

Mr Chan's effective handling of his busy schedule — with time to spare to chat to students — lies in his forward thinking and strict daily routine. "I live quite far away from work, so I plan what I want to accomplish before I arrive in the office, and follow a basic daily routine where first and foremost, I ensure I reply promptly to emails, especially those from Australia because we're in different time zones," he says.

Achieving a balance between the needs of the student, universities and IDP's business goals is a challenge. "It's tough, but we rank the students' needs as a priority," he emphasises.

He points out the potential impact the consultant's advice has on the students' future prospects: "The advice we give will affect their career future. This is never easy as needs will differ so we must always put the students first and work on a case-by-case basis."

Parents may sometimes be the final decision makers for their children's future. "There are cases where the parents force their children to choose the subjects they feel are best; and where there are disputes we become the mediator to help smooth things out," says Mr Chan, whose experience exemplifies the roles that education consultants take on.

"The job is anything but monotonous," he expands, "People who love challenge and possess good communication skills should really give it a try".


Taken from Career Times 19 June 2009, p. A12
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