Start. Stop. Switch.
These were the words resonating across the hall during the speed networking portion of Fulbright Connect 2017 – an annual networking meet connecting Fulbright alumni with industry professionals across Pakistan. The low-level buzz from alumni giving their elevator pitches, coupled with the moderator’s timely interventions with call signs, start, stop and switch, kept everyone’s energy levels up.
The hour-long speed networking session was followed by an open discussion forum with senior human resource professionals. The informal setting allowed Fulbright alumni and industry experts to discuss several key topics pertaining to recruitment and employment across various sectors in Pakistan.
This year, Connect was held consecutively over March and April in the cities of Peshawar, Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi. The Peshawar event was the first in a series of four events that highlighted an hour-long speed networking session exclusively for Fulbright alumni. Speed networking consists of one-minute conversations between two people before you are asked to ‘switch’ to the next person.
The “S-words” mentioned earlier were call signs from the moderator to start, stop and switch during networking. Each new conversation began with the call sign to ‘start’ and ended with the call sign ‘stop’ (at which point the participants stopped conversing). Following this the moderator called to ‘switch’, which required the participants to stand, and move one seat to their left. The ‘switching’ continued until everyone had the opportunity to meet with each other.
“We wanted to try something new as part of our introduction to Connect this year,” said USEFP Director Alumni Affairs, Mazhar Awan. “Not only does speed networking serve as an ice-breaker of sorts, but it also gives alumni from different professional and personal backgrounds to meet with many people in the smallest amount of time, and potentially gain internships, job leads and even fellow alumni as mentors,” he added.
Fulbright alumnus Affan Javed, a graduate of Columbia University and first-time participant felt the environment at Connect had contributed to his professional development.
“I particularly enjoyed Connect because it allowed me to understand the employer’s perspective and fine tune my consulting pitch according to need of the employer,” he said.
Top recruiters from Career Pakistan, Habib Bank, Institute of Space Technology, Management Systems International, Uber, Shopistan, FAST National University, Symantec, Unilever, Pakistan State Oil, Askari Bank, PG Services UK, OLX, Packages Limited, University of Agriculture (Lahore), Harness Energy, University of Management & Technology (Lahore), Careaxiom, AugmentCare, Tech Implement, Center for Economic Research in Pakistan, Pakistan Petroleum, Shopistan, Beaconhouse National University, Mitsubishi and Development Agents of Change (Peshawar) were all on hand to provide industry specific advice on employment trends and best practices. Fulbright alumni at already well-established positions also used the opportunity to represent their firms as potential recruiters and employers. The recruiters briefly introduced their organizations, and took the opportunity to direct alumni to relevant websites where they could formally apply for the available vacancies.
“I particularly enjoyed Connect because it allowed me to understand the employer’s perspective and fine tune my consulting pitch according to need of the employer,” said Fulbright alumnus Affan Javed.
The informal setting also allowed Fulbright alumni and industry experts to discuss a number of key topics pertaining to recruitment and employment with returning Fulbright grantees as part of the re-entry workshop being hosted by University of California, Berkeley. The Skype video discussion, moderated by USEFP Program Manager, Saleem Razaque at Berkeley and Alumni Affairs Director, Mazhar Awan in Karachi allowed participants to ask questions to alumni regarding industry specific job search, first time hires, panel interviews and salary expectations for returning alumni.
Fulbright alumni attendee, Tabish Shaikh who attended Connect in Karachi and recently joined Procter & Gamble as an Assistant Finance Manager, was particularly excited to see her fellow cohorts during the Skype video conference.
“Fulbright Connect was a great opportunity to connect with fellow alumni. I discussed how to cope with reverse cultural shock and it was good to hear the experiences of those who had returned a few years back.”
On the whole, over 150 Fulbright alumni and recruiters attended Connect in Peshawar, Islamabad and Lahore and Karachi.
As with years past, Connect helps create partnerships between individuals and organizations in different areas of mutual interest. Audience members were encouraged to take advantage of future USEFP events and activities to interact with alumni since many were already well established at top organizations across Pakistan.