The Leading Event for the Project Cargo and Breakbulk Industries in the Middle East

Job Hunting? ‘Don’t Pigeonhole Yourself’, Students Told

Executives Offer Some Sound Advice to Next Generation of Project Professionals

By Carly Fields

Tenacity, confidence, resourcefulness and thinking outside of the box will go a long way towards securing a job in the breakbulk logistics industry, students and graduates were advised at Breakbulk Middle East Education Day 2023.

Speaking to a room of over fifty potential new starters, John Pittalis, marketing and communications manager at AAL Shipping, said that there are many transferable skills that can be applied to the maritime sector, including IT, accountancy, law, business studies and more.

“Today, companies are casting the net much wider than 10-20 years ago. That is terrific for the industry – your generation is capable of doing anything,” he said.

Sarah Charles, human resources for Africa, Middle East and Asia at Svitzer and diversity and inclusion lead, agreed that the maritime industry is incredibly diverse and that there is a huge amount of learning and growth opportunity in the sector. “So, we really need to attract talent that has a curious mindset.”

Responding to a question on how to find a job in today’s market, Charles empathized with how tough job seeking can be.

“It takes a huge amount of energy and tenacity; job hunting is a full-time job in itself,” she said, urging students and graduates to network and build up the confidence to connect with people.

“You have to go above and beyond to set yourself apart and if you are not employed at the moment, what a great time to upskill.”

Pittalis listed other personal attributes that can help job seekers in their search, namely tenacity and good communication skills. But he also advised that people do their research on the different parts of the industry.

“In AAL, we have everything from legal, chartering and engineering, to operations and accountants.” He added that there are also opportunities for people to move from one role to another within the same company. “Don’t pigeonhole yourself,” he advised.

Work Your Way Up

Panellist Wayne Holbrook, director of global development in the project and energy services department of Expeditors, highlighted one pitfall that new starters should avoid: “One of the challenges is that everyone is looking to become a manager. Everyone wants to advance very quickly.”

But he advised that job seekers need to be ready to work their way through an organization. “The only way to learn is to live through the jobs. Put the time and effort in. Do not shoot to be the president of the company first; get yourself into the company and work your way up.”

Pittalis added that it is also beholden on the industry to better understand the mindset of the current generation, and to look beyond just skillsets.

In a discussion about entry level routes into the breakbulk and project cargo industry, the panel highlighted graduate programs as good starting points. Other routes included mentorship programmes, internships – paid and unpaid – and work experience.

Internships were described as giving a “good overview of the company” by Holbrook, while Charles saw them as “a great opportunity to get a foot in the door and to get a name on your CV”.

Danial Kaabi, CEO of Sea Horizon Offshore Marine Services, also advised that graduates get peer support through mentoring organizations such as YoungShip. “When you get a job, you are straight away under pressure. You need organizations that you can speak to for support,” he said. Education Day moderator Capt. Rami Al Breiki is the chairman of YoungShip UAE.

Overall, delegates were advised to take chances, be confident, connect with people and to try to be resourceful outside of job hunting.

TOP PHOTO: L to R: Sarah Charles; John Pittalis; Danial Kaabi; Wayne Holbrook.
SECOND PHOTO: Students take part in Breakbulk Middle East 2023 Education Day.