Dubai expats thinking about changing jobs? Read this first
Changing jobs. Never an easy decision, whatever the stage of life.
Anyone who knows me will recognise that I am completely useless when it comes to making decisions. I always have been.
It’s part of the reason I get swept along in life sometimes and end up in places I don’t necessarily want to be or doing jobs I’m completely unsuited to.
I’ve spent the last few weeks in complete turmoil trying to make a decision about changing jobs.
I have really been struggling.
More so than I usually do! I can just see Lovely Hubby rolling his eyes and sighing at my chronic indecision. And he’s right. It’s been more painful than usual.
But it’s just hit me.
This is no ordinary decision. This is not my standard dithering about.
My epiphany is that being an expat in Dubai adds a new layer of complexity to job-related decisions. It’s just another example of something that’s even more complicated here. No wonder I have been lying awake each night with pros and cons lists running through my head and my fingernails are bitten to the bone.
Take a poor decision maker, stick them in a place like Dubai and watch the turmoil begin.
So why is it so much harder here I hear you ask?
Well, let me run through a few of the factors that complicate ‘career’ choices in this region. Hopefully this is useful to someone facing the same situation.
You must know who owns the company
When I lived in Australia, it never really occurred to me to enquire as to who owned a company when I went for a job. Those of you dedicated career climbers might think that’s a bit pathetic but it’s true.
Public companies, private companies, it didn’t really matter.
The questions I used to ask were more around ‘what’s the culture like’ and ‘what’s your vision for the future’.
In this region however, it’s pretty damn important that you know exactly who you are working for and where they are from. This can have a massive impact on what your experience in a company is like.
As an innocent little Aussie, I have never had to factor in that company ownership can dictate the entire way a company functions. It also plays a big part in how you are treated.
Yes, there are labour laws and there are courts that you can go to in situations where things aren’t working for you. But in general, a lot of the conditions of your role and the atmosphere within your company are dictated by things like the cultural background of the hierarchy and their relationships within the region.
My biggest advice is to ask around about the company and their reputation before signing the dotted line. Inside knowledge on the ground here is far more important than anything you might be able to find on Glassdoor!
You cannot afford to neglect this consideration in your decision-making process. Or the cost involved in taking the right people for coffee to get this information.
Read the employment conditions with a magnifying glass!
Another complicating factor here is that you need to pay very close attention to the benefits package you are offered.
Once again, as an innocent little Aussie working through my career, I’ve really only had to consider things like the salary and maybe the carparking as serious considerations.
Here though, you need to be sure that you are getting an appropriate package taking into consideration things like:
- What’s the housing allowance
- Is there an education allowance for your children
- Will you be sponsored or not
- Do you get a transport allowance
- To what extent is your medical covered
- How do you claim medical expenses
- What’s your notice period
- How many allowances have to be paid back if you get extra allowances.
The list goes on and on.
You can imagine, for someone like me who just struggles with the decision of what job do I want to do, all of these complicating factors nearly blow my mind.
And the reason I say to be careful is that your life can be seriously be affected if you go with a wrong fork in the road.
If a company won’t sponsor you, you have to consider how you will sponsor your children to stay here and whether your partner can be here. Or if your partner sponsors you and your children, what would happen if they lost their job.
Also, things like whether you get an education allowance are essential to understand.
For example, say you do get an education allowance but it’s a pay and claim type situation. You have to assess whether your cash flow will support the massive school fees upfront that must be paid while you await your reimbursement. You may have to consider loans or financial assistance which has its own complications.
Or likewise, if there is no education allowance, can you afford to school your kids here as school fees are an astronomical expense.
Thinking… thinking… my brain is hurting already…
Where is the office located?
In most big cities in the world, where your office is located in proximity to your home address is kind of important.
In Dubai, this can be critical information when you’re considering changing jobs.
Your whole quality of life can be affected by how many hours you spend in the car getting to and from work each day, and the stress factor involved in that travel.
There is not much choice for public transport options here unless you live on the metro line. And whilst taxis are available, sometimes they don’t like (or aren’t allowed) to go to certain places.
Another important thing to remember is that the roads can be a scary place to be. See my post on Dubai Driving for a bit more insight into taking your life into your own hands. Do you want to add that amount of risk to your life everyday?
And then of course there’s the parking.
Just because you might be able to get your car in and out of a location doesn’t mean you want to be leaving it there all day. When the weather is set to reach between 48 and 50 deg celsius for weeks on end, you have to consider the impacts on your nice shiny car of sitting baking in that all day if there’s no covered parking. And parking can be astronomically expensive as well.
This all needs to be considered.
So as part of my changing jobs decision, one of the things I asked is “where is your office located”. When the answer came back, I took the car out over the weekend to suss out the location, the parking and the traffic, bearing in mind traffic on the weekends is nothing compared to during the week.
And the experience seriously may end up swaying my decision!
Who will you be working with?
This one is going to sound really bad. Those of you who have worked here will know exactly what I am talking about though.
You need to try to find out the composition of the team/s you will primarily be working with. Most likely, you won’t get an actual Workplace Casting Call straight up, but you will be able to find out the cultural diversity within the team.
This has been a huge learning as an expat in the Middle East. There are some extreme differences in the way people from different cultural backgrounds think and work. And there are different managerial styles that work better with some cultures than others.
I’m in no way suggesting that anything is insurmountable. Nor am I suggesting that certain cultures can’t work together. Nothing like that.
All I’m saying is that it’s pretty important to get a feel for the cultural mix of you team so you can make an informed decision. You need to be comfortable with what you are willing to take on.
This would have never even entered my head as a consideration before.
But my advice now is to weigh this information up with the role you are applying for and what you think you might want to achieve. It has to be a good mix and balance of everything for you to take the job.
Changing jobs takes extra special consideration…
So, when you are in the Middle East, or equally probably in any expat destination, decisions are not as simple as what job you want to do for work. It’s not just a case of do I take door number one or door number two.
Changing jobs is a decision about your whole lifestyle and your security. If you make a wrong choice, it can mean GAME OVER as a Dubai expat.
We love Dubai and we love our lifestyle so when I eventually make a decision, it will be for the good of not just of me and my job satisfaction, but for our whole family.
Such is the Dubai expat life!
And I know I’m on the verge of making a final decision now – well, sometime soon…
Love to hear some of the other considerations you have had to take into account when moving jobs as a Dubai expat. Or expats from anywhere else of course.
It would also be good to hear whether this article has helped someone else with making their decisions.
Please comment and share if you like… I promise next week, it will be all about beautiful Croatia now that my decision is almost made 😉
Have a great week!