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Building a Network in UAE: My Guide to Informational Interviews

So you need to land your first internship but you’re not quite sure in what field. By now you know that your college major doesn’t necessarily determine your career, and you’re excited to explore the vast world of opportunities that lies ahead. You’re aware that there are engineers, scientists, and mathematicians working in the media, arts, and business fields. Your career options are unlimited.


Yet with so many options, you can feel lost and lose focus. Where do you even start? An online search for “internships in the U.A.E” can lead to an overwhelming amount of results. You might also fall into the temptation of applying to every opportunity you’re remotely qualified for, especially the ones offering free perks such as home-made cookies.

This is not the way forward if you’re looking to set yourself up on steady career path. You are seeking a meaningful, portfolio-expanding opportunity and your application should involve a deliberate decision matching you, the candidate, with the organization.

According to an article by Forbes, hiring through the hidden job market, or unadvertised positions, accounts for around 80% of hires. Yes, that’s right. If you’ve just been applying directly to job postings and haven’t tried networking before, it’s time to get off the computer and start talking to your contacts!

Step out from the classroom armed with a strong network

As a student, you’re highly focused on your GPA and impressing your professors. ‘I don’t even know the first thing about networking’, you tell yourself. But you do! You have family, friends, neighbors, classmates, teammates, and teachers.


You’ve been socializing with them all your life, and they each have unique insight to offer.  How can you best leverage your contacts to help guide your career search?

Plan that perfect Informational Interview

After you’ve identified three personal contacts across a range of fields you’re exploring, request an informational interview. Informational interviews are typically 30 to 60 minute conversations with an expert in the field where you express interest and gain exclusive insight. You should aim to leave with steps on how to move forward, whether it’s conducting more research to zoom in on your desired position, or contacting ay references you gain during your meeting.

Do your homework, come prepared

As soon as you’ve identified an appropriate contact—whether it’s your aunt’s husband, or your neighbor’s former boss—let them know why you are interested in their field, and that you seek to learn as much as is humanly possible. This can include finding out what the day to day nature of their job is, what positions are typical for their field, what the advantages and disadvantages are for their specific job, and how they see their field expanding in the next five years. For a more comprehensive list of questions you can come armed with a guide from Berkeley.

Be yourself and make a strong connection!

You’ve prepared about 5-8 questions you think can help you zero-in on the nature of your contact’s job, but if something interesting comes up in conversation and you want to find out more, keep the talk flowing. The informational interview is also a way for you to show off your personality and prove that you are a committed young professional.


After all, you can always follow-up with brief questions and comments in your thank-you email. Which brings us to the next point…

Stay in touch: Invest in your contact

Don’t forget to send that thank-you e-mail as it can help your contact better remember you and possibly land you that internship in the long run. In your message, reiterate your interest and mention something specific that you benefitted from chatting with them. There may not always be the right opportunity waiting for you when you seek it, but keeping in touch offers you an advantage as a newbie making your way toward big strides.

If you ever doubted the power of meeting people face to face or via phone through informational interviews, remember, all it takes is tapping into one person’s network to open up new doors. That person can connect you with another, and another—and if you haven’t yet seen the theory of six degrees of separation work in action, trust me, with an informational interview, you will.