How to Find a Job as an Expat in the Middle East

Published November 30th, 2017 - 12:47 GMT
There are many reasons why people want to seek work outside their home country. It could be a desire for new experiences such as learning a new language, understanding a different culture, or pursuing career goals. Here are a few tips to guide you before you pack your bags and book your flight. (Pixabay)
There are many reasons why people want to seek work outside their home country. It could be a desire for new experiences such as learning a new language, understanding a different culture, or pursuing career goals. Here are a few tips to guide you before you pack your bags and book your flight. (Pixabay)

There are many reasons why people want to seek work outside the confines of their home country. It could be a desire for new experiences such as learning a new language, understanding a different culture, or pursuing career goals.

However, before you pack your bags and book your flight, you must ensure that you have taken all the necessary steps in order to secure yourself a job in your desired country. In order to help you reach your career destination with ease and comfort,, a regional job site, has compiled a list of steps you need to follow to find a job in the Middle East as an expat.

1. Prepare well in advance

If you intend on travelling to the country of your choice before finding a job, you would be well advised to examine the expat job market in your destination country and ensure that it has the right conditions to allow you to fulfil your career goals. Additionally, you need to find out the qualification and experience required for your desired job before you start applying. It is also hugely important that you check how your qualifications will transfer or whether you will need to re-qualify for anything in order to secure a work opportunity.

Read more: How to Write Your CV for Mid-Career Jobs in the Middle East

Another benefit of preparing in advance is being able to identify any skill shortages in the destination country. Examining your own skill set and assessing how it will fit in the chosen destination will enable you to implement a more targeted expat job search. Once you find out what skills are in shortage in your destination, you should work hard to gain those skills in order to make yourself a more attractive candidate to prospective employers. By carefully reading through job descriptions of potential jobs, you should be able to ascertain the skills that would add value to your application and make you more marketable.

Furthermore, before you set sail in uncharted waters, it would be beneficial to discern whether or not you will need to learn Arabic to land better roles. Despite English being the main business language globally, some positions may require, at minimum, a basic knowledge of the local languages. If you find this to be the case throughout your job search, it may be worthwhile to take Arabic language lessons before you leave so that you can better communicate with prospective employers. Not to mention, it also gives the impression that you are dedicated and determined to fit the company culture as best you can and stay for the long-haul.

2. Ensure your CV is up to scratch

You should be aware that CV formats vary depending on the market. Research what the acceptable format is for the Middle Eastern market and ensure that your CV has the required flow and is presented in a suitable style. Using a CV builder such as the one available on will make this process easier for you. Ensure that your CV is fully searchable and rich with all the right keywords so that the right employers can easily find you. 

3. Have all the appropriate work permits and visas ready

Further to finding out as much information as possible before travelling to the Middle East, you should also ensure to get any bureaucratic difficulties out of the way as soon as possible. The majority of countries will require some sort of documentation that proves you are permitted to work in the destination country. The application process for getting these documents can often be lengthy and time consuming. You should also see the requirements for bringing your spouse or any dependents with you before you leave.

Read more: 10 Lies People Tell You About Getting a Job in the Middle East

Fully researching the relevant laws in your chosen destination will allow you to identify any obstacles you might face along the way early and nip them in the bud before they creep up on you. There is plenty of information on Visas and laws concerning expatriates available online for any destination you may be considering. You will also be able to find out any common problems other expats have faced when applying for their documentation and how to avoid and overcome them.

4. Keep an open mind about new career opportunities

When you decide to relocate to a new country with a whole different job market, it is not always possible to restart your career at the same level that you had in your home country. You need to be prepared to the possibility of taking a slightly lower-level position, accepting lower compensation or changing your career or role completely in order to secure some sort of expat work early. There is sometimes a limit to the amount of expatriates a company can hire, especially given the recent nationalization efforts in the GCC, so you will need to overcome competition and be flexible.

Read more: 11 Best-Paid, Fastest-Growing Jobs To Have This Year

You need to position yourself in a market in a way that says you have something that the rest of the competition does not. Even if you settle for a job that is not quite what you are looking for, you will be able to gain experience working in your chosen destination and start developing a network of business contacts that may be able to assist you in securing better work at a later date.

You should also consider doing volunteer work on the side in order to advance your skills, immerse yourself in the local culture and put your language into practice. This will all benefit you when it is time to find another job. If you find yourself in a job you can’t stand, remember there are always ways to fall in love with your work.

5. Start circulating your CV

When you move abroad, remember the rule of six degrees of separation. That is, remember that everyone is connected to one another through six people or fewer. Do not hesitate to tell everyone you meet that you are looking for work as an expatriate. There is always a possibility that one person you tell may be in a position to help you. Just in case you run into someone with the right tools to land you a job, practice your elevator pitch and market yourself clearly and effectively in under a minute.

Send your CV to any friends you have living in the Middle East and let them know that you are searching for any suitable opportunities in your country of choice. One of the benefits of working in the Middle East that despite its unquestionable vastness, is that the community is more tight-knit than you would expect. Most people in the business world having contacts both in their country of residence and in other countries in the region. The more people you tell, the more likely you are to meet someone who will be able to assist you.

Read more: Looking For A Job While At Work: 3 Steps To Make It Easy

Without doubt, you need to be present and active on the leading job sites for your destination. In the Middle East region, that would be, where more than 10,000 jobs are available daily and thousands of additional vacancies are filled by companies who headhunt candidates.

6. Consider multinational corporations

One of the most fail-safe ways to landing an expatriate job in the Middle East is to target companies that already have an overseas presence. It is useful to identify companies that might have considerable use for your skill set and work experience. Visit their company profiles and go through their vacancies in order to spot any roles that may be available in your destination of choice and apply without hesitation.

7. Target overseas consulate offices

Consulate offices can be an excellent starting point for expatriates to focus on their job seeking. Consulate offices function like a business, only they represent states as opposed to commercial entities. Additionally, natives of the country they represent will always be valued, so it is worthwhile exploring this option while you identify job opportunities elsewhere.

8. Network like a boss

Networking in the Middle East is certainly not less important than anywhere else. You need to network with people and make valuable contacts wherever you can. Get to know professionals through Specialties and communicate the fact you are looking for work. The majority of expats who have successfully found work abroad will have done so with the assistance of professional contacts in addition to traditional job search techniques. You must strengthen your network and get to know as many professionals in the area as you can. Be open about the fact you are currently looking for a job and enquire if the people in your network are aware of any suitable opportunities you can pursue.

Read more: These 7 Job Roles In The Middle East Have Thousands Of Vacancies Right Now

While it can be time-consuming to secure a job and make the move, it is fully worthwhile. Not only will you be adding a unique edge to your professional experience, but you also get to learn about a new culture simultaneously.

Let us know how your job search is going in the comments below and don’t forget to ask any questions or let us know if you want any particular topics covered in future blogs.

By Dalia Abu-Sharar 

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