Networking

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Networking is a really important part of the job hunting process in Dubai as personal contacts are often used to gain introductions to Hiring Managers and Recruiters. Like all countries, many companies in Dubai encourage employee referrals. Dubai is one of the most diverse cities in the world with over 100 different nationalities so you'll need to take a multicultural approach to networking, meaning developing the cultural agility to adapt to different situations depending on who you're meeting and talking to.

LinkedIn has also made it much easier for students to find people and create a professional network; we also have online skills courses for our students which show you how to use LinkedIn to build and develop relationships with alumni. Online networking through platforms like LinkedIn are a good starting place and we encourage you to use them to keep in touch with people following a face to face meeting. However, this should complement a strategy to go to as many events as possible to meet professionals. Examples of events include career fairs, employer presentations, as well as conferences/workshops/informal networking social events organised by business associations and professional organisations.

Establish a goal

Getting a job is not a good goal to have because it's not specific enough and is also something that only you can take responsibility for; even recruiters can't "get you" a job! Creating a specific goal is much better because it will help you search for the right people and know which events to attend. So perhaps you're making a career decision about whether to work in IT Consulting or as an IT Project Manager in industry. Your goal could be to set up informational interviews with people working in both types of roles to help you find out about the similarities and differences to help with your decision making. You could do this at events but also set this up online using LinkedIn.

 

Take your time

Many students get to their final year or final month of study and then start contacting people for jobs. Asking this of people without taking the time to build the relationship is unlikely to result in success. You need to take the time to build your "know, like, trust" factor and start networking at the beginning of your course, not at the end 

  • Know: the person you reach out to needs to know who you are; this means you need to share information about yourself (make sure you have a 100% complete LinkedIn profile). This doesn't mean selling your skills and qualifications to everyone you meet! It does mean preparing to talk about what interests and motivates you; people get inspired by genuinely passionate students who actively pursue goals they set for themselves.
  • Like: authenticity is key. Don't pretend to be interested in a sector or industry if you're not. Don't say things because you think that's what the other person wants to hear. Listen well and act on the advice given to you. If someone provides you with good information, thank them for the information and indicate how you're going to make use of it. Avoid looking at every person as someone you can get something out of; instead take an interest in them - what are their interests/goals/challenges? Avoid dismissing people who aren't in the right profession or sector to advise you; have a conversation anyway - these people could be a future client or customer! Follow up; if you've acted on someone's advice and it's helped you in some way, feed this back!
  • Trust: There will be people that you meet who over time may be in a position to introduce you to a Hiring Manager or refer you to HR. However for this to happen, they need to really trust you. Trust is built by following the steps above - being authentic and genuine but also by holding yourself to account; if someone in your network offers to send your CV, you need to action this immediately. If you get invited to interview, you need to be fully prepared and on time. Trust is also built by your actions outside of this relationship; if you meet someone at a careers fair and tell them you're passionate about consulting, then your LinkedIn profile and activity needs to back this up.

 

Give back

Many students believe they have nothing to offer professionals, however this isn't true. If you build good relationships (which means finding out about the person you're talking to), you might be able to help them with some of their problems and challenges. Perhaps you could introduce them to someone you have met? Perhaps you've read an article or research paper recently that might help them - summarise it and send it. Perhaps you could share their online content to reach a wider audience. Perhaps you're not the right fit for their company but you know a student or graduate who is. Look at networking as an ongoing activity rather than something that you only need to do when looking for a job; this means you don't have to give back immediately after meeting someone - you might be able to help them in future.

 

We spoke to Shyam Visavadia, UoB alumnus, Chartered Surveyor at Faithful & Gould, and Founder of Graduate Surveyors about his approach to networking. Shyam works with clients across the UAE. 

 

Here's his advice

Based on my understanding of networking and some of the things I have learnt over the years; here are my tips:

  1. Get stuck in and attend 'relevant' events; for my career this includes RICS Matrics and CIOB Novus, both networks for young people and new entrants to the surveying and construction professions.
  2. Networking is not only about attending an event or meeting, it's about cultivating relationships which are underpinned by trust and honestly, which takes time.
  3. I refer myself as a 'catalyst networker' as I often connect people together to solve 'a problem'. What can you offer someone for them to be interested in learning more from you. Over the past 5 years I have built a strong, global network based on advice from my own experience. In turn, I have helped thousands of young people across the world. It's no secret that I've leveraged technology and the media to turn up the volume to grow my professional network.
  4. Face to face networking is as important as social networking; vice versa. You can easily become a key board activist, but remember nothing can beat the power of physical interaction. For me LinkedIn is the way forward, if you're not on LinkedIn you're already behind... times are changing, embrace the now.
  5. When networking, have a purpose and/or reason, otherwise you can spend years and years talking and 'grabbing coffees' but not really achieving much. For me networking is important to continue learning, sharing experience and ideas and building my social professional brand.
  6. I use LinkedIn as a diary and my profile is testament to that. Not only do I add my connections after meeting them, but I post 'relevant' content which adds value to my followers. In turn, I am instantly recognised across my network' globally. For me this is important.
  7. I am a huge advocate of helping others, and this is infectious. I respond to over 50 messages a day, tailored to the person. Irrespective whether I get anything out of it or not, I'm building trust and people can rely on me. I see the opportunities in doing things, rather than the obligation and this approach has helped me win the hearts of many. Build strong relationships through your approach, and it will open doors in your professional and personal life. At the time of doing something, you will not find any gratification. Over time, someone you help may eventually become a client, stakeholder or investor!

There is no one shoe fits all approach to networking. Be yourself, smile and engage in good conversation and discussion. Be persistent yet professional as this is important when building the initial stages of your network. The last thing you want to do is be labelled as that 'annoying guy'!

I don't like following a stereotype or following strict governance; I take an innovative approach to career progression and networking which in turn separates me from my peers, age group and colleagues. Being committed, passionate and finding fulfilment in what I do makes me want it more.