A website founded by recent university graduates is geared toward helping young adults enter the job market.
A fruitful year for jobs portal Gradberry
DUBAI // Iba Masood quit her job in the media last year to help other recent university graduates find jobs.
And it was a good thing for them that she did. Since November she has helped 70 people to find employment through a web portal she co-founded.
More than 100 employers, including Google, have used the site to find prospective workers.
Students from 550 universities worldwide have made use of Gradberry, the Middle East's first job portal for students and graduates.
User numbers have increased to almost 500,000 from 2,000 last year and the website has received almost 2 million views.
"Gradberry holds out quite a lot of promise as a platform for hiring the most talented new graduates from the Middle East," said Matt Mitro, the university programmes manager for Google's Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) office.
"By making it easier for graduates to connect with employers, this platform certainly plays an important function in reducing youth unemployment."
Unlike its larger competitors, the site mainly lists internship openings and entry-level positions for people who have little or no work history.
The founders are encouraging employers to take on interns in meaningful posts. They also want the Government to introduce an internship visa that will allow students to work in the Middle East.
Postings for Emirati lawyers, photographers, social media and even sports enthusiasts can be found on the site.
Local and international companies have been using it to find young talent. Google listed an internship in its EMEA headquarters in Dublin, and this month Gradberry had its first job postings from Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
"We know how to communicate with students and we understand the market," said Ms Masood, 22.
"The market here is one of the most challenging and a distinct market students want to enter, and we have been able to capture that niche.
"It really shows that there was a huge need for this kind of portal."
The website fills a crucial need, said Stella Mandehou, the career service manager at the American University in Dubai (AUD).
"Gradberry, as a niche career portal exclusively for student internships and fresh graduate jobs, has catered to the needs of AUD students in a way that no other job portals did in the past," Ms Mandehou said.
"Gradberry could easily complement the mission of any university's careers office."
Ms Masood and Syed Ahmed, Pakistani graduates from the American University of Sharjah, launched the portal to try to reduce youth unemployment.
According to the International Labour Organisation's Global Employment Trends 2012 report, more than one in every four young people - or 26.2 per cent - in the Middle East is unemployed.
That figure was one of the main drivers for Ms Masood.
"It makes you think, 'what are the causes?'" she asked.
"It's what [caused] the Arab Spring and it was my biggest motivation to start."
Youth unemployment is not just the result of a lack of jobs in the market, said Tania Gupta, senior account manager for Socialize, a locally based social-media agency.
"Often [it's] the mismatch between a candidate's skills and the job [requirements]," Ms Gupta said.
She said the key for graduates was to land a job that suited an employer's requirements. The Gradberry founders recognised this: they also offer workshops for students in the UAE on how to find jobs.
"Out of the thousands of CVs we receive, 80 per cent of those have a lot of mistakes that students shouldn't be making as graduates," Ms Masood said.
"We advise them on what needs to be changed based on employers' feedback and recommend to them which skills they lack in the industry they plan to work in."
She said only a quarter of graduates had the skills required by the market, and universities had to catch up with employers' demands.
"What the region really lacks is preparation for the real world," said Mr Ahmed.
"Universities have this tendency to sugar-coat how easy it would be to get a job if you graduated from a certain university because everything you've learnt is applicable, but it's not true.
"In most cases, everything you've learnt over the four years, only 10 per cent of it was useful."
Students and graduates said the portal had made finding a job easier.
Viral Kantilal, 21, of India, had a hard time finding a job suitable to his skills before he clicked on to Gradberry.
"Most portals I used were targeted towards people with three to five years' work experience, and there weren't enough positions for graduates," said Mr Kantilal, who landed his accountancy internship through Gradberry.
"I found the perfect job that immediately matched my experience and skill-level through the initiative."