Students at a local university who were used to turning to the internet to research potential employers have been given a more personally engaging alternative: speed networking.
Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi held a career speed networking event last week to showcase 40 professions.
The exercise was based on a western dating concept that allows single people to meet and speak with a number of potential partners in quick succession. The event was organised in eight roundtables, which were held five times throughout the day. Each session lasted 30 minutes.
"The observation made by professionals, by companies, is the following: the students miss job opportunities [online] because they don't know what they are applying for," said Sylvie Foss, a senior project manager at the university.
The event aimed to address the issue by introducing undergraduate and master's students to representatives of an array of professions, including public relations and non-profit activity.
"The idea is to propose to the students a wide selection of professional profiles to meet with and to get the information, not from a website or magazines, but face to face with professionals through the meetings and get the proper information about one specific profession or one specific job," said Ms Foss.
Potential employers saw value in hosting short meetings, even though they could have discussed their professions for much longer.
"It was nice and tight, but because I love my vocation, marketing and PR and communications, I could have spoken for another hour," said Ian Mason, the manager for corporate social responsibility, public relations and training at BrandMoxie, an Abu Dhabi advertising agency.
"But I think it is good that there's a tight restriction on it. It keeps it round and lets more areas of industry be covered," he said.
Fatmah Al Aboodi, a research master's student in history who hopes to work for an international company or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs once she graduates, also attended the networking event.
"It was very helpful, since I am approaching the end of my master's and it is about time to look for a job," she said.
Other participants still had more than a year to go at Abu Dhabi's Sorbonne and found the event just as useful.
Charles Soll, a student from the United States who is studying economics and management at Sorbonne, said it was important for students to receive help networking before graduating. The best schools in the US stood out "because they also provide the best networking and career opportunities for students," he said.
Mr Soll, who arrived in the UAE three years ago and wants to enter the finance or investment banking sector, acknowledged that he has a clear idea about what he wants to do. But many students do not, which is another reason that the speed networking idea might be worthwhile.
Hala Taweel said that as a student she was uncertain of what career to pursue. Today Ms Taweel is a consultant in government relations with SAP, a higher-education consultancy, and founder of a non-profit organisation, the University of the Middle East Project.
She was speaking about her experience working for a non-governmental organisation, which typically pays less than private-sector employment. "Your reward is contributing to society in a more active way," said Ms Taweel, who started out working in computer sciences before moving to political sciences.
She obtained a master's in public administration and finally a PhD in higher education and university administration to set up her non-profit organisation.
"I wish I had this [speed networking] growing up and had the possibilities of seeing different people," Ms Taweel said.