Navigating the journey from university to the workplace is not always easy, but a group of Emirati students hope that their new podcast could make the transition easier.
Called Extension 45, the podcast is produced by a small team of Career Advocate Leaders (CALs) from Zayed University with the aim of helping fellow young Emiratis prepare for careers in the public or private sectors.
Reem Al Awadhi, 22, who recently graduated from Zayed University’s Dubai campus, is leading the students involved in the 10 to 20-minute podcast.
She said the job market in the UAE could be very competitive, so students should think about how to impress employers, which means getting experience such as volunteering as well as achieving good grades.
“It’s no use just focusing on academic [work],” Ms AlAwadhi, 22, said. “It’s been discussed for a long time, they would rather take someone with a lot of experience than someone with a perfect GPA [grade point average].
“When [students] are focused on their course, these opportunities slip between the cracks … Hopefully it will help new students to these different opportunities, whether it’s volunteering or jobs fairs.”
The first episode, in English, has already been released and covers important starting points such as producing a CV. Another subject set to come under the spotlight is Nafis, the UAE government programme that helps Emiratis into the private sector. A participant will be describing their experiences with the scheme.
The aim is to release one episode every two weeks and possibly make the podcast weekly. While there is “a pretty small team” behind it now, Ms Al Awadhi and her fellow producers intend to have a wide base of contributors.
“We’re finding students from different student bodies, they want to collaborate with us,” Ms Al Awadhi said. “It’s opening doors for different parties within the university.”
The university has shown “its utmost support” for the podcast, she said.
The podcast's name from a lounge at the university, room 45, which is a meeting place for the CALs, whose duties include representing the university at job fairs and career events.
Discussions that take place there can be moved outside to a wider audience through the podcast.
The need to spread expertise in preparing for the job market may be significant, because some students apply for 10 or 15 jobs but “barely get an interview”, Ms AlAwadhi said, with hundreds of applicants for each role.
This means that actually securing a job offer can often be challenging, a key issue that the podcast aims to address.
“There’s a lot of job opportunities [but] how competitive are you going into it?” she said. “The graduates who struggle, it’s usually going into the public sector; it’s already saturated.”
Ms Al Awadhi, who took a degree in international studies, political economy and development, has practised what she preaches when it comes to extra-curricular activities, having been, among other roles, a volunteer at Expo 2020 Dubai.
She has also been a research assistant on a project about camel culture in the UAE and a “youth game changer” at the Anwar Gargash Diplomatic Academy.
Ultimately Ms Al Awadhi would like to pursue a career in diplomacy and said that her peers too were tending to look at a broader range of possible careers than was the case in the past.
“You can go into whatever profession or career you want, as long as you do it responsibly,” she said. “Students are starting to branch out, it’s not just engineering or medicine.”
Extension 45 can be listened to through the podcast hosting service Buzzsprout, and organisers plan to make it available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.