Vandana Mahajan is an expert University Counsellor and Career advisor with 20+ years of experience in the Education sector. She is currently the Founder and Director of Futures Abroad, a leading career advisory group helping students find direction in building successful careers.
We had a chance to interview her. Read to know what it takes to be an entrepreneur and build a business from scratch
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever gotten?
The best compliment has been when a family calls you to tell you that my guidance has helped shape their child’s career and how well the child is doing now after several years. I have always devoted my time in giving honest advice and effort in building successful careers and putting in the best effort in helping the students achieve a successful career and reach their dream university
How would your parents describe what you do?
A boutique and highly specialised career counselling service that helps students develop skills, understand their passion and find the right university-level education. They often describe us as sincere and committed counsellors giving honest advice and guidance to the students. I strongly believe that each student’s career is extremely important, and we need to give honest opinion and advice and sincere effort in helping them build a strong career. I take pride in my honest service to students
What does your morning routine look like?
I strongly believe physical and mental well-being go hand in hand. I am an early riser, and I start my day with meditation and a morning workout and then start work. Every Sunday morning, I plan my week in advance. I host a lot of workshops for students and the same is planned months in advance and shared with the schools and counsellors and my clients. These are FREE workshops which I host to share information with the student and the parent community out of interest and passion for my work
What motivated you to start Futures Abroad? How did the idea come about?
While working with the University of Toronto, I realised the need to advise students while they are in high school and/or university level to help them find the right program that fits their passion, goals, and aptitude. I wanted to bridge this gap and decided to start Futures Abroad after resigning from University of Toronto. Working in a senior Director level position at a leading university gave me the advantage of mapping the success of students when they start university after high school. This helped me understand the importance of honest guidance and career advice for high schoolers to ensure their success in university. I now use my experience and knowledge of working with a world-class university to help students understand the application process and help them discover their passion and eventually prepare strong profiles thereby maximising their chances of admission in their dream university
What was your mission at the beginning of starting your business?
My primary mission was to work with students to help them become critical thinkers and leaders which would then empower them to understand their potential. Every student has the right to receive support to make higher education decisions through their high school faculty and counsellors. However, not all high schools today are equipped to offer such advice. This is why I wanted to provide students with an honest and affordable platform where they can get honest advice and support to build a strong career
What do you attribute your success to? Is there a trait you have or a person who helped you along the way?
My success is my experience and honest work to support the student community. I am a perfectionist and believe strongly that there is no room for error when dealing with students’ careers and lives.
When times get tough, what would you say motivates you to keep going? To not hit the snooze button and to keep fighting for your goals.
In tough times what motivates me is my positive attitude. I believe that hard work always pays off. Controlling my mind is important, and mediation helps me in similar situations.
My work is gratifying and there is no better satisfaction or happiness than to see a child reach their dream school and achieve success in this journey of successfully achieving their goals
Employees are one of the most important players in success in business. What do you look for in an employee?
I look for employees who are committed to the job and believe in honest counselling and advice. My staff is my family, and they understand their role in shaping the youth. I have a strong team well trained counsellor who are experts in Admissions in USA, Canada, Australia, Europe, UK, Malaysia and Japan. I have a team of expert visa counsellors and we boast of 99% success in Admissions, Scholarships and Visas
What is unique about your business? Is there a competitive advantage that you have over the rest?
My unique point is my experience of working with a leading university at a Senior level in Admissions. As a member of leading international counselling associations has helped me understand the key aspects of Admissions, Scholarship assessment, University Life, and student success. I believe this is my competitive advantage over others in the industry as I have been involved with the admissions and registrar’s office of a leading University which has helped me understand student admissions and scholarships. This helps me guide students with precise information and helps my students achieve success
Have you ever gotten a disappointed client or customer? If so, how did you handle the situation?
So far, this situation has yet to happen, and I hope I can meet all my clients’ expectations.
Is there a type of marketing that has worked amazingly for Futures Abroad? If so, how did you stumble upon it?
Writing articles to support the student and parent community has been the best promotion source, and I realised this during covid times. I started hosting workshops and information sessions and posting articles online.
Is there any resource or resources that helped you on your journey to becoming a business owner?
I come from a business family with inborn entrepreneurial talent. Being a passionate educationist with a willingness to learn has helped me in my entrepreneurial journey.
What are the three best pieces of advice that you would give to women starting a business? What do they need to know from the very beginning?
My advice to women starting a business is as follows:
- Start before you are ready.
- Remember, it takes time.
- Have confidence in yourself and your business.
Women must support women. Do not let imposter syndrome hold you back. Women are strong, work hard and surround yourself with good female friends.