So much of valuable experience can be clocked up by the time one needs to take a decision on the career path. In this regard, freelance work is just what the UAE's young need to be chasing. Image Credit: Supplied

Of late, I have found myself becoming increasingly vocal about vocational experience. I feel as though it is severely overlooked despite being extremely beneficial, especially to the young starting out on their careers.

Or those who may be unsure of what they want to pursue for the rest of their lives. Still, many are put off pursuing a vocational path for various reasons, be it time, uncertainty, lack of interest or just unfamiliarity with the benefits it holds.

I would argue that taking up a vocational activity has never been easier. Almost anyone can find an ancillary endeavour that can provide valuable experience and impart practical knowledge that remains useful for years.

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Neat intersection

Two factors in particular have facilitated this - the web and the gig economy. Although freelance work has been around awhile, it is at its intersection with the internet and the marketplace where youth stand to benefit the most.

In their developmental years, individuals tend to absorb a lot that they store without putting to use until much later in their lives. They pick up skills they might use within the classroom or as a hobby, but put to little use elsewhere.

For example, a teenager might be a talented singer, a coder or writer, but may not want to make a career out of it (or may not be ready to make a career out of it). There are websites out there, like Fiverr and UpWork, which match buyers and sellers of particular services on a freelance basis.

Gigs are there

In other words, a customer requests a specific service - a design for their company’s logo or for a video to be animated in a certain way - and anyone who feels that they can meet that request can do so for a stipulated amount.

This is a worthy pursuit for a number of reasons. For one, it teaches practical, transferable lessons that may not necessarily be part of a conventional education, such as dealing with customers, meeting deadlines, negotiating and marketing.

Plant seeds to a startup?

Moreover, it can assist an aspiring youngster to decide whether they may want to pursue a certain career path or not. This kind of gig economy/freelance work can be a glimpse of what a fully-fledged profession in a particular field might entail.

It may even just be a way to monetise a hobby, allowing the youth to remain productive even when exploring a passion or interest.

Although by its very nature this work is temporary, it is still extremely beneficial in the long term. It can help youth to make connections, possibly building up a base of customers who they can retain as a reliable source for their services. Furthermore, as they continue to perform more gigs, they will naturally improve their own skill level, ultimately continuously making their service better.

Perhaps it can even lead to a future start-up, as one can take advantage of that customer base and create their own business predicated on the service they were providing as a freelancer.

Of course, this is a pathway that is not exclusively available to the youth, but they will be able to glean the most benefit from it. No matter what one aspires to pursue, this kind of freelance work can catalyse career paths.

The benefits are plain to see, and I would strongly urge the youth to take it up early, so that they may reap rewards for as long as possible.

- Umer Lakhani is a Dubai-based undergrad.