Five reasons to move to the Middle East

With a tough UK employment market, now may be a good time to look at the possibility of working abroad. The Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC) including the...

With a tough UK employment market, now may be a good time to look at the possibility of working abroad. The Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC) including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have some of the most dynamic economies in the world, and there are still plenty of employment opportunities there, writes Steve Royston, director at Career Advantage.

As someone who has spent many years living and working in the Middle East, here are five good reasons based on my own experience why you should consider this move.


This is the obvious reason, of course. I moved to Saudi Arabia in my late twenties on a contract that ended up lasting for nearly a decade. The money I earned enabled me to start a business with a partner in which, after many evolutions, perigrinations and a few sales on the way, I'm still involved today. Saudi Arabia gave me the means to break free of a lifetime working for others, and for that I will always be grateful.

Cultural experience

In my time in the Middle East I have worked with nationals of at least 30 countries. I have learned not only from the native cultures of the Middle East, but from everybody I have worked with - Sunni and Shiite Muslims, Hindus, Bhuddists, Zoroastrians and Taoists. I have learned to look beyond the caricatures through which the Western media often presents the religion and cultures of the region, by talking to people, socialising with them and hearing their stories. I have been enriched beyond wealth by the experience.

Professional network

It never hurts to create a network of relationships in one of the world's economic powerhouses. If you are involved in an international business, your work will not always touch on the Middle East, but the region will always be there as a factor. Oil and gas, regional politics, sovereign wealth funds - all have a bearing on every business in the world. It is good to have people you can talk to in the region.

Upping your game

The phrase "taking your career to the next level" is the king of clichés. But for me it actually worked out that way. I found that in my time in the Middle East I ended up with far more responsibility than I would have had in a comparable organisation at home. I was stretched, challenged and occasionally frayed. The skills I can directly attribute to my time in the region include working with multi-cultural , multinational workforces, patience, toleration, communications and political acuity. They have all served me well in my subsequent career.

International track record

Being able to cite a "difficult" region on your curriculum vitae is bound to be of benefit to your career. If you are British and have spent three years in Germany, that of course is valuable experience. But you are still working in the European Union, in an environment where best practice is roughly similar and recognisable. I suggest that experience of the Middle East, with its alien cultural, social, legal and commercial norms, is a far more valuable badge of experience, matched only by the Far East.

I have deliberately avoided a litany of facts and figures about the economy and business of the Middle East. I have tried to focus on the whole experience of working in what is a diverse, challenging, infuriating and ultimately fascinating environment.

When you produce your list of pros and cons for making a critical career move, I hope these thoughts will be of use.

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