QCDC offers unique learning opportunities designed to help young people prepare for their futures
While COVID-19 has forced many people to stay at home, and shifted work life to the digital sphere, opportunities for young people to gain professional experience have increased, says Paige McDonough from Qatar Career Development Center – but for those being proactive.
The shift to digital environments creates more opportunities for students by removing previous potential barriers, such as travel
McDonough, a Career Development Officer at Qatar Career Development Center (QCDC) – a member of Qatar Foundation – says: “Because of the pandemic, many companies have transitioned their work online and focused on fully virtual operations. The shift to digital environments creates more opportunities for students by removing previous potential barriers, such as travel.
“But young people need to be proactive and creative in their approach. They shouldn’t wait for an internship or a job opportunity to be advertised – they should work to make one happen for themselves.”
McDonough suggests identifying industries of interest, and then approaching specific companies within those industries with the aim of seeking out a volunteer experience by saying: “‘These are my skills, this is my experience, this is how I would like to support you, is there any way I can do that?’”
However, it is important to be mindful of how the organization is approached, says McDonough, explaining that students should not just ask for opportunities they may have, but rather think about how they can specifically contribute and add value to that company – and effectively communicate this.
“I would strongly encourage young people to seize these opportunities – and leverage this time of digital work to gain experience that might not have been available previously,” she explains.
Indeed, work experience is often regarded as a key component to securing a new job – especially a young person straight out of school, college, or university – but when descriptions stipulate three to five years as necessary, those interested can be discouraged and end up not applying.
“The requirements that employers list is like a wish list,” says McDonough. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that the person they hire is going to have exactly everything that's on there.
What I always tell students is to think about what experience they can get during their study, and not waiting until when they're just about to graduate. Start early.
“This ‘two to three’ or ‘three to five years’ of experience is nice to have, but not always necessary. What I always tell students is to think about what experience they can get during their study, and not waiting until when they're just about to graduate. Start early.”
Volunteering, part time jobs, internships, research projects, and leadership opportunities all count as experience says McDonough, and can add up. And these opportunities and learning experiences can be found in any industry.
“For example, I used to see a lot of students who are studying law,” she says. “Obviously, students can’t gain experience in law without the relevant qualifications, but they can work in administration in a firm to gain experience in that environment or even job shadow a practicing lawyer. And these experiences can be leveraged when they are looking for jobs.”
Other steps students can take include capitalizing on existing connections, defining skill sets, joining professional associations, and expanding networks, says McDonough.
QCDC offers a number of programs for young people to help them choose a profession. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, QCDC has been hosting virtual career advising sessions for free. Lasting 45 minutes, students can speak to an advisor for support on their career direction. Other useful tools include the Career Advising System and the Career Guide magazine.
For more information on QCDC’s programs, please visit: qcdc.org.qa