Big names on campus

Company exhibitors from this year's 7th Annual Career Fair engage with the KAUST community and graduate students. Photo by Lilit Hovhannisyan

The University held its seventh annual Career Fair on October 26 and 27. Prior to the event, a team of Graduate Affairs specialists prepared students for several weeks with assessments, mock interviews and CV analysis, along with additional assistance covering workshops and seminars on leadership, communication, social media networking and more.

On October 27, an all-day event took place in the Conference Center (bldg. 19), beginning with an hourlong KAUST Alumni Career Panel event. A panel of six former students gave their advice to current graduate students on exploring career paths, searching for jobs and getting started in the professional world. The panel, which consisted of engineers, innovators and entrepreneurs, included Dr. Sarah Al Aqeel and Brian Parrott from Saudi Aramco, Kareem Khalil from the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC), Dr. Ahmad Showail from Taibah University and Hashim Kamakhi from Dow Chemical.

'Pursuing your passion'

Lea Sublett, manager of Alumni Affairs, who was also the moderator for the event, asked the panelists a range of questions covering their experiences at KAUST, their present occupations and where they see themselves in the future. "Passion" seemed to be the recurring term and sentiment shared among the panelists as they discussed the need for students to find their passions and follow them resolutely. They also stated that a professional approach and focus are essential while seeking employment while also showing your prospective new employers just what it is you can bring to their company.

"Pursuing your passion is really important. What we need to do as students is to explore our opportunities. At university, you have a lot of opportunities outside of your studies and coursework—you have a lot of time to explore your interests. You don't have these opportunities in later life. You should use these opportunities and time as a way of developing skills and talents that you can use later on wherever you are employed," said Parrott.

Al Aqeel added, "You need to sell yourself as best you can. Show how you can make a change to the company you are joining and always be professional when approaching a potential employer. When it comes to a new job, be sure to give it your best shot. You have to show you are committed. You must show your capabilities to your manager or supervisor."

Echoing both of these sentiments, Kamakhi added, "You must consider your attitude. No recruiter will doubt your background as a KAUST student, but always be aware of what attitude you are projecting to others. Try to learn about the company you are joining. Do some research so that you can ask the relevant questions—not to show off, but to learn."

After the Alumni Panel, the event moved to the adjacent lecture hall where students met with company representatives to discuss full-time employment opportunities and internship options. Among the companies present were Abdul Latif Jameel Motors, Al Safwa Cement Company, Asharqia Chamber Employment Center, Aqualia, Dow Chemical, Ernst & Young, Huawei, King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), Tansee, Total, SABIC and Schlumberger. Also in attendance were some KAUST startup companies including FalconViz and NOMADD.

Seventh annual Career Fair

'You have to want to work really hard'

Former KAUST postdoctoral fellow and current research scientist at Schlumberger Dr. Bastian Sauerer explained how it is always a pleasure to return to KAUST.

"Being a former KAUST postdoc, I always enjoy coming back to this place. I have a lot of good memories about my assignment here, and it is great to run into old friends when I visit. I look forward to helping to hire more of the talented people from KAUST in the future," he said.

Mona AlSaydlani, another former KAUST student now working as an R&D engineer in Dow Chemical's office based in the University's Innovation Cluster, said that through her KAUST studies, she found her chosen career path.

"I was part of the founding student group at KAUST, and after finishing my master's degree and Ph.D., I worked at KAUST for another three and a half years before joining Dow. When I was a student here, I focused on my studies and research, but KAUST gave me an opportunity to develop my skillset—skills that I could transfer to my new job at Dow. I enjoyed my time at KAUST and found that you have to want to work really hard while you're here," she said.

The year's event was deemed a success by both graduates and employers, who benefited greatly from the communal innovation- and talent-based environment. Timothy Grubbs, professional development lead from the University's Graduate Affairs' Office of Career & Professional Development, was extremely happy with the event.

"I feel very excited about the many positive outcomes of the 2016 Career Fair. It was a successful collaboration between the Office of Professional Development, Saudi Initiatives and Innovation & Economic Development," he said.

"At the Career Fair, the attending 16 companies networked with hundreds of students to discuss industry opportunities and career possibilities. Employer feedback was overwhelmingly positive about the caliber of our students and their overall preparation and professionalism in approaching the event. The current students who attended the fair will hope to mimic the successful transitions of former KAUST students into the global workforce, where their skills honed during their time at KAUST will serve them well."

By David Murphy, KAUST News

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