With the current job market dominated by Generation X and Y, forward-thinking employers are already preparing to usher in the very first employees from Generation Z, who were born from the mid-1990s onwards. Perceived as extremely tech-savvy, open-minded and in sync with global trends, the oldest of these ‘millennials’ are currently university students and sharpening the skills in their career arsenal before making their grand entrance into the post-crisis boom of ‘UAE 2.0’.
However the enigmatic labor market is currently veiled in a paradox: on one hand, 80% of UAE employers intend to recruit over the next year, according to headhunting firm Robert Half International. Yet on the other hand, this buoyant optimism is not shared by many graduates who have discovered that not all qualifications are created equal - with candidates from globally competitive institutions accelerating into pole position in the job race.
To unravel this paradox, alumni of some of the most reputable institutions have shared behind-the-scenes insights on the qualities that entice employers. Salman Hasrat Khan, 24, graduated in Computer Science from Abu Dhabi University in 2011. In half a year, his career trajectory went from encountering ‘foreign affairs’ at the cosmopolitan campus to working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a Project Coordinator. He explained that for employers, sometimes what is not on the degree certificate can be just as important as what is on it:
“My extracurricular activities included starting the ADU Bulletin and ADU Voice, which enriched my inter-personal skills and immersed me into the major league of business. The personalized interactions with internationally acclaimed professors gave me an unshakeable foundation to build on and I gained supreme confidence from teaching fellow students iPhone programming skills. But I would urge ADU to participate in more worldwide competitions, and demystify this illusion that international institutions are necessarily superior.”
The institution ranks high on many employers’ “wish lists”, with one of the highest rates of graduates who find employment within a year. But Omar Adel Mohsen Rizk, 25, went a step further and started working even before he graduated. The Senior Web Developer took a cruise down memory lane:
“I enrolled at ADU in its second year saw first hand how it blossomed, from academic progression to the growing campuses to the growing reputation. All my experiences - whether they were wonderful or fascinating or just plain weird - gave me an unquenchable thirst for self-taught knowledge. I have been supervising interns for six years, and speaking as someone with experience from both sides of the employment equation, I have noticed that other students struggle to adapt in the corporate jungle. They assume that education is just preparation for life - when in fact education is life.”
According to leading recruitment firm Morgan McKinley, over the past four years many employers have adopted a “take it or leave it” approach with desperate graduates. However a power shift is now underway, with competition for exceptional graduates giving job seekers greater bargaining power and raising entry level salaries. The UAE and Qatar offer the highest entry level packages, followed by Bahrain, with KSA level with Oman and Kuwait.
Raed Mohammed Al-Mesbahi, 22, an Accounting graduate from the Class of 2012, is now a rising star at Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, and reminisced: “At ADU I didn’t just learn new courses, but learned about myself, and discovered talents I never knew I had. I became a student leader, and in the job market leadership skills can never be under-estimated or overstated. From my experience, the institution’s reputation is opening doors not only for current graduates, but those who will follow in their footsteps. However I would suggest allowing students to experience job shadowing in the different departments of the university and its partners.”
With multicultural campuses of over 60 nationalities, such institutions serve as a microcosm of the multicultural workplace, giving students a ‘simulation’ of how to interact with workmates and clients of any nationality.
All the interviewed students echoed the sentiment that they would be more than happy to share their experience with their alumni, to pave the way for upcoming graduates to emulate and even exceed the accomplishments of these high-flying luminaries. Students are encouraged to contact the Alumni Association at ADU for more information.