When my younger brother finished his first year of university, he asked if he could join my company as an intern.
As the youngest sibling in our family and having friends who had recently graduated from university meant that my brother had a headstart and was familiar with the job application process.
His plan was to have four years of part-time work experience by the time he graduated. I wish I had done the same, too.
Being the eldest in my family means that my younger siblings learn from my first-time experiences.
When I graduated from university, I waited for nine months before landing my first corporate job. Many roles that I thought were attractive required job experience, which I didn’t have.
Aside from an eight-week summer internship that I had to undertake as a requirement before I graduated, I didn’t have any corporate experience.
Looking back, I blame myself for not pursuing such learning opportunities.
When I was pursuing my postgraduate studies after earning a bachelor’s degree in mass communication, half of my classmates had at least two years of part-time job experience. They made the most of their time in the UK by taking up internships with global companies.
Growing up in the UAE, teenagers did not pursue work opportunities, as they did in the West. Young people graduated from high school, pursued an undergraduate degree, followed by postgraduate studies and eventually started their job hunt.
It is very normal to meet a graduate aged 27 in the UAE with no work experience at all. However, things have changed now.
Since 2016, the UAE issued many resolutions enabling students aged 15 and above to obtain work training, subject to certain conditions.
Whenever I meet younger relatives, I advise them to obtain work experience as soon as it is allowed where they live, or as soon as they graduate from high school.
Not only will work experience help them to stand out among recruiters, it can also help them to explore possible career options and see where they would like to work in the future.
I had a first-year university student doing her internship at my company. By the time she joined, she already had previous work experience.
As a student pursuing a degree in journalism, she wanted to explore different options and see where she enjoyed working the most.
Freelance jobs and how much they pay — in pictures
She pursued part-time work for the duration of her studies. By the time she graduated, she landed a job at a company she had been an intern at two years earlier.
Although the job initially required a minimum of two years’ experience, she was able to secure the well-paying role because of her proactive approach.
My advice to youth is to pursue work experience wherever and whenever they can.
We are spoilt for choice and many international companies offer remote work experience, where you don’t need to travel or live in a certain city to take up the job.
Don’t wait for a job to be handed to you. Make the most of your time after you graduate from high school.
Work experience is more than having a number of years on your resume. You learn invaluable skills such as team building, time management, responsibility and money management.
If the past two years of navigating a global pandemic has taught us anything, it is the importance of being well-prepared.
Learn new skills, seek internships and job opportunities, and don’t wait for someone to hand you the future. Design it yourself.
In an unpredictable world, those who can surf the high tides are the ones who are prepared for it – and the earlier we jump-start our careers, the more ahead of the game we become.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications consultant based in Abu Dhabi