Chance meeting leads to Dubai conference

As a self-described “career-services geek,” Sabrina Woods has always had a passion for networking with other career professionals in higher education. While traveling in the United Arab Emirates recently, she turned an impromptu visit to the American University in Dubai into a partnership that led Northeastern to co-sponsor the inaugural Middle East Career Development Conference last month.

Woods, associate director of career services at Northeastern, said the conference served as an important opportunity to bring a career-development summit to the Middle East.

“We wanted to create an environment where people could connect, network, share best practices, and learn from one another,” said Woods, who served for seven years as a board member for the Career Counselors Consortium, a professional organization for career counselors in the northeast.

The daylong conference, held in Dubai, drew 75 higher-education career counselors from six countries, all of them eager to bring back what they learned to their respective institutions across the Middle East and United States. The event featured a series of dynamic presentations, workshops, and forums on a range of topics, including the power of social media and innovative ways to build relationships with employers.

Woods co-chaired the event along with Stella Mandehou, career-services manager at the American University in Dubai.

Some conference speakers—including D’Amore-McKim School of Business co-op coordinator Maggie Shea and College of Professional Studies lecturer Nancy Richmond—used video conferencing technology to remotely deliver their presentations and network directly with attendees.

The conference is one of the many efforts contributing to the Office of Career Services’ ongoing success in establishing and leveraging global partnerships. In fact, Northeastern’s Career Services operation was ranked best in the country by The Princeton Review and Northeastern students currently benefit from more than 2,900 employer partnerships worldwide by participating in study abroad, co-op and research in 92 countries.

“This event was an opportunity to break down some walls and help our colleagues start thinking about how they can help their students around career development,” Stein explained. “Based on the feedback we’ve been hearing, it was a tremendous success and people would like to see more of this in the future.”

Woods built on the conference’s success by creating a mentorship program that connected 30 career professionals in the Middle East with 30 career professionals in the U.S. The global initiative, an extension of MECDC, was created to promote the exchange of best practices and help maintain relationships formed at the conference.

“This program is helping to make the world a little smaller,” said Woods, adding that she hopes participants stay in touch beyond their six-month commitment and continue to strengthen the relationship between higher-education career professionals in the U.S. and Middle East.