Job seekers in Abu Dhabi share experiences at new meet-up group

The group now has more than 40 members, with backgrounds in fields such as banking, aerospace, communications and IT.

Miral Zalabani, left, Glen Ferris, and Metaxia Kladis discuss their employment dreams during a gathering of the  Abu Dhabi Fit for Work Community group. Vidhyaa for The National
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The internet hosts many groups set up by people wanting to meet those with like-minded interests – whether they are sporty or social, quirky or profound. But, until recently, there was no meetup group in the UAE catering to jobseekers, even though it is often those who are out of work who need opportunities to network the most.

Wanting to meet others in the same boat, last month Greek-Australian jobseeker Metaxia Kladis started the meetup Abu Dhabi Fit for Work Community.

The group now has more than 40 members, with backgrounds in fields such as banking, aerospace, communications, IT, teaching and chemical engineering.

Laptops in hand, they meet up on Monday mornings at cafes around the capital to socialise as well as to try to help each other find their dream job in the city.

“When you move to a new country expecting to find another job within the first couple of months and it doesn’t work out for you, there’s a lot of self-doubt”, says Mrs Kladis, 40.

She quit her job as a career transition consultant in Melbourne, Australia, to relocate to Abu Dhabi four months ago when her husband started a job in the capital.

“Meeting other wonderful professional people who just happen to be also going through the same process helps you to understand that there is nothing really wrong with you – being unemployed happens to almost everyone at some point in their lives.”

According to a survey by the global mobility specialist Expat Research, two thirds of partners give up a career to relocate for their spouse’s overseas move.

With the recent drop in oil prices, it is becoming harder for these trailing spouses to find work in some sectors of the UAE’s economy.

Although there were plenty of business-networking groups running in the UAE, Mrs Kladis says jobseekers prefer to be able to liaise in an environment that does not feel threatening.

“A lot of our identity has to do with our job, so when we’re working, we might find it difficult to tell our story in a way that doesn’t come out as something completely negative,” she explains.

Although the group started out as a casual get-together, Mrs Kladis now uses her career expertise to help her fellow jobseekers boost their employability.

Each meetup now has a theme, such as “how to improve LinkedIn profiles”, or “how to craft an effective elevator [icebreaking] pitch”.

For most unemployed spouses of professionals in the UAE, thankfully, the stress does not come from worrying about being able to pay the bills, says Mrs Kladis.

“However, there is a limit to the level of support that one of you can give to the other – it puts a lot of stress on people’s relationships,” she says.

“When I moved here, I felt like I wasn’t a professional anymore. I just followed my husband when he got a job opportunity.”

British aeronautical engineer Glen Ferris, 32, joined his wife in Abu Dhabi last September after she was transferred to the UAE by her company.

“I just assumed I would get a job pretty quickly at first,” he says. “I think the low oil price has affected all of the engineering industry.”

Mr Ferris has spent the last six months sending job applications online.

“I was feeling isolated and not very productive, and I felt that I needed to network,” he says.

“Now, I’m no longer just sitting on the computer thinking ‘why is it just me?’”

Mrs Kladis is also now hoping to organise “meet the expert” sessions with human resources professionals.

Until she is offered a job, Mrs Kladis will continue to volunteer her job-finding expertise to the community for free, though she has one request in return - “come back to buy us all a coffee once you get your next job”.

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