UAE | Education

Jobs elude specialised graduates

They are unwilling to accept low salaries and are not seeking internships

  • By Amelia Naidoo, Campus Notes Editor
  • Published: 00:00 January 8, 2012
  • Gulf News

Jobs elude specialised graduates
  • Image Credit: Illustration: Luis Vazquez/©Gulf News

Dubai: It is cause for concern that UAE graduates are not getting jobs in the fields for which they have studied, according to a preliminary study by British University in Dubai (BUID) researchers.

The study focuses on those who have embarked on undergraduate studies in a variety of disciplines, but since graduation have felt pressured to seek, accept and remain in employment in a job that is definitely not their first choice.

However, it was found that these 20-somethings are not willing to accept low salaries that don't meet their expectations, have not done internships or part-time work in their field of study and are not strategic in their job search.

The study focused on the experiences of three recent graduates and their difficulties in finding relevant work experiences in their chosen fields. It is part of a larger series of studies on graduate employment.

Prof Ashly Pinnington, professor of Human Resource Management (HRM) and Dean of the Faculty of Business at BUID, and HRM masters graduate Nithasha Bhanu conducted the study. They recently presented their findings at the Employability of Graduates and Higher Education Management Systems Conference in Vienna.


Pinnington's interest was piqued when he found out that Bhanu was having difficulty getting stable work in HRM after graduation. "She's worked for various help desks and some sub-contract work through agencies but she's not found the sort of job she really wants. She had friends who were having similar problems," he said.

Pinnington encouraged her to look at this topic as a research study and Bhanu focused on Indian nationals who studied and lived in Dubai who were having problems finding work in their fields.

Bhanu interviewed three women graduates with degrees in microbiology, banking and chemical engineering. "They were clear about what occupation they wanted to pursue a career in, but all three have been thwarted in their career ambitions. We were particularly interested in how they were having trouble getting their first foot on the ladder in the field that they studied," said Pinnington. All three are currently employed but not in a relevant job. The microbiology graduate works from home for an IT company, the banking graduate works in an administrative role, and the chemical engineering graduate works in her family's business.

Pinnington says all three made some significant mistakes in their approach to finding employment.

"All report having turned down jobs because they weren't well-paying. Even if those jobs were poorly paid, it still gives them experience in that field and the world of work in their field of choice."

Exploration and trial

By turning down these positions, they have turned down the possibility of getting work experience and will not develop in the various career stages from exploration and trial to a greater certainty and commitment to a particular path, said Pinnington.

He said all three graduates made no serious attempt to find an internship or part-time work. They all focused on their studies with the hope that their chosen field will be available to them when they graduated with good results.

In addition, they had no work experience in second, third or fourth year of study. "They need to know what a poor offer is and what a reasonable offer is in terms of pay." Also, all of them are heavily influenced by their parents — whom they live with — although there is not tremendous pressure by the family to find a job. The danger with parents' influence is that they do not have the most up-to-date information about opportunities in the workforce.

Another surprising observation was that the graduates were not engaging with their peers face to face or electronically using social media tools. "Young people are very connected on Facebook, the internet and Twitter, but these three were not keeping in contact with their friends about jobs."

Pinnington suggested it was perhaps the embarrassment and anxiety of not getting a position in their chosen occupation that caused them to be less keen to seek help and exchange information.

Job hunting

In the study, the students themselves admitted to not prioritising job hunting during their studies and after graduation.

"I haven't really looked for a job during the last year of my university, as I was under the impression that I would get a job really quickly, so was just waiting to complete my education completely to get a job," said the microbiology graduate.

The banking graduate said: "I was under the impression that my qualification will lead me to the job that I have always dreamed about."

She also said she got a lot of job offers from banks, construction companies "but the pay that the companies were offering was not sufficient enough to take up that job, and being the eldest in my family, I have got certain responsibilities to my family, which I would like to fulfil. That's why I have been waiting to get a better job with a good pay."


  •  Graduates

Look for work while you are still studying, even if it is unpaid. This way you will learn to relate to people in the workplace context.

  •  Universities

Universities need to think about how they can team up with employers, economic departments and government organisations on providing people with reasonable information about employment and job opportunities.

  •   Parents

Parents need to know where they need to be point their children regarding job opportunities.


— Source: Prof Ashly Pinnington, professor of Human Resource Management and Dean of the Faculty of Business at British University of Dubai

Comments (8)

  1. Added 18:23 January 8, 2012

    Why do graduates nowadays think they should immediately get into a highly paid job with no experience? Turning down any job offer in a relevant field because it doesn't pay well is crazy.You are still young and there is time to find your niche. What's wrong with starting at the bottom and working your way up the ladder, proving yourselves? Or would that be too demeaning? What's more important to you? Having a degree/masters in a particular field of study does not mean you are actually employable and have workplace skills, it means you have been able to study successfully and pass your exams. These days, most employers would like to see some initiative shown while studying, filling time getting work place experience, voluntary work, internships, apprenticeships, experience of life etc. As a previous employer, Yes, I would take a qualification into account, but only if it was relevant. All it proved to me time and time again was that the person holding it could study and had some knowledge of a relevant subject. If a candidate showed good work ethics and a good attitude, good interpersonal skills and common sense, flexibility and teamwork then that far outweighed any bits of paper with a university stamp on it! But you need to get that experience first to prove it. Think about what you could offer an employer. Don't discount anything offered which would give you experience.

    Caroline Wareham, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 17:14 January 8, 2012

    I believe finding a job is pure luck. I know quite a lot of people who passed out of universities after several resits, had no previous 'relevent' experience but found a 'relevent' degree job after just a couple of months of graduation. While on the other hand students with an excellent grasp on the subject and little (few months) experience of the 'relevent' field are still running around looking for a job. People with no experience have also been able to start a good job (after graduation) with a decent salary; like myself. So i believe it is pure luck and yes of course, in some countries, contacts (knowing somebody in the organization to push ahead your cv) that works around more. Other factors come after these.

    Sarah, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 16:15 January 8, 2012

    Graduates need to think about what they have to offer to future employers instead of thinking only about what they want to do. Employers will only hire graduates who will bring pertinent value and skills to the organization. Once they find such an individual they will not hesitate in investing in them in terms of career development, training and offering attractive renumeration. The biggest shortcoming of graduates today is that they come into the market with unrealistic expectations. Nobody and I mean nobody starts as a Manager. Everyone has to work their way up the corporate ladder. The sooner you get started through internships and summer jobs as mentioned in the article, the better it would be.

    Anurag, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 16:07 January 8, 2012

    I am a UAE graduate as well... what i have noticed is that a lack of transparency while selecting and interviewing is also one of the reasons.... Contacts and relations work more than any thing else

    Nazia mahmoud, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 13:31 January 8, 2012

    There seems to be a lot of emphasis on the origins of any particular college or university, and not much on the quality and character of graduates being produced. A lot of grads immediately look for the kind of jobs and salaries as their parents had, only to be disappointed.

    anseljr, dubai, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 12:16 January 8, 2012

    This is very true. Kudos for the article. I just graduated recently from a private university here, but luckily enough found a job of my liking pretty soon with decent pay because I had worked very hard during my college years doing all sorts of unpaid/low paid internships and jobs. It finally payed out. Some points I've noted from what I've seen - (1) Lack of proper internship/career support in some of the private universities (2) The carefree attitude of 'many' students.

    Wish Jaya, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 12:00 January 8, 2012

    My son, who did his undergraduate in finance from top US university, lost job in April 2009, couldn't find another opportunity to continue. He is ready for internships or low salary, but no luck. We applied 1000s of job during this period but no response. Can someone help?

    Preety, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  8. Added 11:23 January 8, 2012

    I am an expat but graduated from Dubai and this article is so true. We study with very high expectations and find it really hard to take a low paying job and many of us have been forced to take up jobs that dont match our qualifications.

    Noor Nazar, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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