Category Archives: Personal Development

Six reasons why you need to undertake an expat assignment in the GCC


Dubai is part of the United Arab Emirates and has witnessed modernisation on a grand scale since the 1990s. It has weathered the financial storms during the height of the financial crisis to re-establish itself as a prime destination for multinationals looking to establish a presence in the region and beyond. The United Arab Emirates is part of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) and can be best defined as a regional intergovernmental political and economic union comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Having lived and worked in Dubai for nearly four years, since coming back to the UK I have benefited both culturally and career wise. My time there was interesting, enjoyable, challenging and enriching. Having also had the opportunity to travel to other countries within the GCC, I have found that there are several common themes that are prevalent throughout the six countries. These are:

The GGC leads the way in job creation: As the economies and populations of the GCC grow, so does demand on civil infrastructure, education, healthcare, housing so this results in job opportunities across multiple sectors.

Fewer decision makers: This is especially the case with regional companies/family conglomerates where it is often the CEO and/or Chairman who is the sole decision maker so decisions are reached faster rather than going through multiple layers of approval.

Faster business cycles: Due to faster decision making, projects can take shape much faster so a company’s hiring needs can be established quicker, creating job opportunities and transactions are completed faster.

Career development: Economies in the GCC are still developing so this means better prospects to move both laterally and vertically in your career. If you are somebody with between 5 and 10 years’ experience with a good educational background, you are going to be in demand so expect calls from recruiters.

Personal and professional development: Even if you decide to spend only a few years in the GCC or commit to a longer duration, you should expect to enhance your skills set as you gain exposure to prestigious projects and working alongside a multinational workforce means a more culturally diverse experience. Many expats who have worked in the GCC go on to work in other regions such as Asia Pacific and North America as their GCC experience is considered very valuable and transferable so if you choose to go to the GCC region, you will certainly be adding value to both your life and career.

Weather: Although it is stifling hot during summer months (mainly May to October), when it does cool down there are ample opportunities to pursue outdoor pursuits. Plus, it’s really nice waking up to a sunny bright blue clear skies.


Six tweaks to make to enhance your career development trajectory

There is no golden formula that one can apply to be successful in their career but one can certainly make certain adjustments in their day to day attitude that can prove worthwhile in enhancing your skills set and worth in your career. Here are six tweaks that could help propel you forward in your career:

  1. Take pre – emptive action: Prevent things from happening before the wheels fall off. Put in place methods and procedures that will prevent a situation reaching crisis stage.
  2. Adopt a proactive mind – set: Stop reacting to things that are coming to you. Instead focus on taking positive steps to completing the task (s) at hand.
  3. Look at the bigger picture: Have the end goal in mind whenever you set out to do something. Ask yourself if the action you are about to take will generate the required results.
  4. Become solution focused: Always operate with a continuous improvement agenda. Even a minor change to a policy or process may trigger an improvement.
  5. Disconnect: When things go wrong, don’t panic and take it personally. Instead, take a step back to assess what went wrong and why and execute your solution orientated mind – set.

5 things I learnt from the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the lessons they have for business

The 2014 FIFA World Cup recently concluded and despite on and off the pitch controversies, and much public anger at the cost of the Brazilian Government’s spending on infrastructure, the tournament was one of the most successful and memorable in living memory. Here are five things I learnt from watching the tournament and the resonance they have in business:

ONE – There is no substitute for team work and attitude:

Teams such as Costa Rica and USA were a prime example of team work and attitude. They didn’t have the household names and match winning players of other teams but they proved that getting basics right, having a nothing to lose mentality and punching above their weight together with helping other team members out when they were out of position made them a force. This propelled them to the highest level of performance any team can desire at a major tournament.

Business Lesson: Go beyond your job description and keep things simple. Believing in yourself and your team members will create a positive team environment. More importantly, understand what the common goal is and be realistic in your expectations.

TWO – Don’t be afraid to take a risk:

Netherlands coach Louie Van Gall embodied this in abundance. During the Quarter Final match against Costa Rica, Van Gaal substituted his first choice goalkeeper Cillisen and replaced him with Krul when the match went to penalties. The outcome of this was that Krul saved two penalties and this put the Netherlands through to the semi finals. His greater height and reach were sighted by Van Gaal as the rationale behind the substitution.

Business Lesson: Don’t be afraid to experiment. As a Manager, next time you have a project – put an untested team member on the project. Know your teams’ individual strengths and skills to get the best out of the team.

THREE – Have a plan B:

In each of the games Netherlands played, the team adapted their style and tactics to their opponents and that proved valuable as Netherlands progressed through the tournament. Van Gaal was a thinking coach who constantly studied the oppositions every move before executing his strategy.

Business Lesson: In business, it’s important to know what you will do in a clutch situation. Something might not work as you would expect. Have something prepared that you can revert to in times of need – a toolkit etc.

FOUR – Stick with the norm and you run the risk of failure:

By the time we got the Semi Finals when Brazil played Columbia, signs were evident that Brazil was not up to the standard of other teams. When Brazil played Germany, their weaknesses were laid bare and they imploded before the eyes of their country. In the aftermath of Brazil’s disastrous exit, it was apparent that coach Scolari was heavily reliant on Neymar and Tiago Silva who were the spine of the team. Scolari kept faith with the same team as he picked in the first match to deliver but as that turned out that was blind faith. Brazil were predictable, relied on the same tactics and never had a plan B.

Business Lessons: Don’t be afraid of mixing things up and when it comes to recruiting a team; do not be averse to individuals of unconventional backgrounds whose CVs may not read great on paper. Resist having similar styles of people in the same team and instead select individuals who would complement each other and a particular function and/or department. Above all, give indivuals time and autonomy and let them flourish.

FIVE – Feeling valued elevated a player:

Suarez, Neymar, Neuer, Messi, Robben, Rodriguez were all talisman to their team. Their talent is undeniable but what was even more important was that they had the support of their team, coaching staff, and when these players performed they had a domino effect on the rest of their team.

Business Lesson: Feedback and engagement are two of the most critical elements in business. Get either wrong, and you end up with a disenfranchised and de – motived workforce. To get it right, work out what truly drives your workforce and what puts them off. Move forward then by making a commitment to driving out the practices that create unhappiness in the workplace.




Lessons learnt from hardship

We are exposed to challenges at every stage of our lives. As newly born babies we come into this world totally oblivious. We are then taught by our parents to speak, walk and become independent of our parents so we can move about freely without their assistance. At school we, are exposed to our first real interactions with people. We have disagreements with other children but through the experience and guidance of our parents we learn what is right and wrong.  Then as we embark on our student lives, we are thrust into a different environment that requires a greater level of independence. We have to meet deadlines, be punctual in our attendance at lectures and seminars and learn how to manage our workload, and balancing our studies with our social lives. Here too we learn to develop the qualities that make us into the people we are going to be in our working lives. Then we enter into relationships, we get married and set up home with our partners. Here too we learn about life’s challenges and it is our very wisdom and ability to deal with change that will determine how successful we are.

Now as you are reading this you are probably wondering all this is fine well, what is the point here. The point is that this is what life’s model looks like if thing go smoothly. However, the trouble is life doesn’t always go smoothly. Unforeseen events occur that upset this model. This is where the hardship comes in. People are totally unprepared for this. People experience these unforeseen events in different forms. They could be involved in an accident and face life changing injuries, they could become ill and have to endure painful treatment and operations, loved ones could pass away, they could face bankruptcy, be made homeless.  There are people who survive this hardship then there are those people who fall at the first hurdle and fall victim to the hardship. However, the difference between facing up to the hardship and giving into it is to keep your mind intact. The human mind is a really powerful tool.  If you can keep it together you can keep everything else together. This is the starting point.

The other thing you have to remember about life is that it will not always be comfortable. There will be bumps and scrapes along the way, and you may even fall down and have to get back up. There will always be something that won’t be right. The getting up part is the hardest. In general, I believe that people who experience hardship earlier on in their lives are more prepared and mentally stronger for the challenges that hardship throws up. The mistake people make in their lives is that they don’t take it seriously until something bad has happened to them. Yes it will be scary, you will want to cry and you may just want to hide from your problems. The important thing to remember is to stand tall when disaster strikes, and be prepared for it. Mental conditioning is very important.

Sadly, it is a great concern that Generation Y in society is growing up to expect that things will be done for them automatically, that they will graduate from college and university and walk straight into a high paying job. That is simply not the case for the majority of people out there. Life’s dynamics are changing partly due to changes brought about by the global recession. Only the fittest and bravest survive and if you can become resilient in facing up to hardships you can prevail in overcoming problems.  From a personal point of view here are the things I have learnt from hardship:

  • Self –sufficiency – Being a self starter, not having to rely on anybody else but myself in my personal life. I learnt that one can complete a task quicker without having to wait for others.
  • Certainty – Having the courage and the conviction to make the call on a difficult issue when others around me didn’t.
  • Patience – When things were not going my way, allowing them to run their course and abstain from making unnecessary interventions that would otherwise jeopardize the outcome.
  • Physical endurance – I used to play rugby at school and was also part of the school’s Athletics team during which time I really developed myself physically. When I was at University, I was diagnosed with an illness which required intensive medication and corrective surgery. I had two major surgeries 7 months apart. When the surgeon operated on me and I made a remarkable recovery, he said that if it wasn’t for my physical fitness I would not have made a good recovery. So it definitely pays to be in good physical shape.
  • Mental endurance – The combination of participating in competitive sports at school and dealing with an illness really brought about the best in me mentally. I became more ambitious as a person and also resilient, motivated, calm and collected. I learned how to cope with problems and having the mental capacity to put up with stressful situations.
  • Self-motivation – While others at university and work struggled to keep themselves motivated my attitude always exceeded expectations. Nobody had to tell me to do something. For me it was a part of my everyday routine. I even tackled the most boring of tasks and viewed them as challenges that had to be met.
  • Obedience – This has a lot to do my conformity to cultural norms and values that in turn have shaped my principles when times were rough. Obedience has earned me the respect of others, and I am now seen by others in a positive light when I communicate with them.
  • Posture – A person’s posture is very important. Thanks to exercise, I was able to improve my posture because I wasn’t very tall. To improve my posture, I embarked on a series of simple yoga techniques. I did these regularly for a year and noticed a remarkable transformation. I didn’t slouch anymore and instead walked very upright, shoulders back and chin forwards. This added a whole new edge to me as a person, especially in terms on my height as it gave me a physical presence I previously didn’t have.
  • Principles – One of the most important things I have learnt in life is what I am comfortable and uncomfortable with. Some of these principles have been instilled in me by my parents, others I have developed throughout life. I essentially see my principles as my own codes of conduct that guide me through life’s many challenges.

The process of life is an evolution in itself. It would be very strange if one person spent their lives not adapting to the challenges it posed. Does a perfect life exist? I don’t think so but we do strive for it. There is always something that isn’t right about our lives. Just ask the extremely wealthy celebrities who end up in rehabilitation therapy. Learn how to anticipate the unexpected and learn as much as you can from each challenge in life whether it is minor or major. Build a solid foundation within yourself because when the storms of life hit you, you will stand resolute and emerge strong.

Happiness is elusive but achievable

What makes people happy? Well that depends on individual circumstances. Some people are naturally happy in their outlook on life; others are not and have to find ways of becoming happy. If you are one of those people who fall in the latter category then I think you need to start from extracting happiness from the smaller things in life. This is what works for me. This could be looking forward to the weekend, looking forward to a holiday you have planned, watching your children grow up, meeting a deadline and finishing a project at work. As I see it, happiness is inter-connected with our human needs. Ask yourself what is it that you want from life? I believe the happiest people on the planet are those who are successful in their careers, and truly love what they do. They even look good in person. Having a job one enjoys and pays well can have quite a remarkable impact on one’s life. Personal growth through education and career advancement is the most potent way for self improvement. In this competitive age, it is essential that one renews their skills and education every few years. I have seen people who were at square one in their careers/professions in their early adult years but with years of hard work and some personal sacrifice they got their happiness. It’s never too late to rock and roll.

The Essence of Creativity – It Needs to Flow Correctly

Can you give me an example of your creativity’ is often a question asked by interviewers the world over? Almost all job descriptions these days list it as a character trait. Quite a lot of people struggle to answer this question but it may be more a case of understanding the very essence of creativity more than anything else. To be creative is to be innovative, solution orientated, adding value, and taking initiative. But it is also about passion – it’s about doing something you love. I truly believe that the most successful people in the world are those who like and love what they do. That’s where creativity flows from. Everything becomes second nature. If all this does not happen, then you cannot be creative.

But all this may not be your own fault. For one reason or another maybe the job or work you do started well but later turned out to be something else entirely. Maybe the office culture wasn’t right. There can be numerous reasons.  Some people do take the initiative and make a boring job more interesting by challenging themselves in solving the problems right under their noses. For others being creative is about doing something they love and being in the optimum environment.

Do not be surprised then that if it takes you several jobs or indeed a decade or more to realize your creative potential. It is all about being in the right place at the right time in the right frame of mind.  Creativity is like a chemical reaction. Certain elements such as passion, the right environment, meeting the right minded people, doing something you love, pouncing on the opportunities must be present for the creative juices to flow. When that happens nothing in the world can stop you achieving your goals and ambitions.

The Anatomy of a Job – Understanding each stage and taking it easy

A job represents different things to different people. A job provides sustenance, prosperity, growth, a realization of a worthy goal to name a few. I have always thought of a job as a vehicle that propels our life, and so it is made up of many key components. More importantly, you are the fuel that is used to drive this engine so it is absolutely important that the engine has the right quality of fuel and in sufficient quantity. The seven key components of a job are as follows:

Job Advertisement/Job Lead – The job advertisement is what generates your interest in a job. You read about the job description and decide whether you tick all the boxes in order for you to apply for the vacant position. That is why it is absolutely important you read the job description carefully and tailor your CV/application accordingly because you do not want it to end up in the discarded pile.

Interview – The make or break stage of the whole process. Some researchers have said that an interviewer will make his/her mind up whether to hire a candidate or not in the first 3 minutes of an interview. First impressions count, and if you can come across positive as soon as you step into the interviewer’s room the better. What is even more important is getting off to a good start when the interview questions come your way. In order to be really successful in interviews you have to know what you stand for and what you can bring to the table. The interviewer may start off with a common question such as ‘Tell me about yourself?’ Quite a lot of candidates struggle with this question. This is your opportunity to truly sell yourself. Think of this question like an elevator pitch for yourself. Have a few meaningful words and sentences committed to memory to really get your pitch flowing.

Contract/Offer of Employment – This is the moment you sign on the dotted line. It is an opportunity for you to review the fine details of the job. Does it fit your requirements? Are there any clauses? What are the terms and conditions? It is always a good idea to read through the contract several times before you sign it and send it back to the employer.

Induction – This is quite an exciting part of the whole job process. It can last anywhere between 1 and 2 weeks and depending on the nature of job can even be longer. The induction is designed to provide you with as much information about the specific job and company. It’s all about becoming acquainted with the house rules. You will be given information on health and safety issues, your holiday entitlement etc. Use this process to gain as much knowledge about the company’s policies and procedures as possible.

Performance Review – This is the nervous part of the entire project. However, it does not need to be that way. The important thing to remember is that the employer is basically looking to evaluate you in accordance with a set of pre-determined criteria relating to the job you were hired to do. The criteria for this depends on the type of job but in essence it revolves around core competencies and your attitude at work and the impact that has on company profitability.

Redundancy/Firing – This signals the end of the road for you but don’t take it in a bad way. The company has made the decision based on your performance review or has been forced by senior management to trim the staff count. Although this process can be very difficult to bear the important thing is to be proactive and figure out what you are going to do next. If you have a really good relationship with your manager, you can ask him/her if they can help you identify any job leads. Also use your network to your advantage because there is a hidden jobs market out there, it’s just a case of finding it.

In summary, starting a new job can be a really exciting experience. The first three months are considered to be toughest where you really have to showcase your abilities. It’s almost like a President’s first 100 days in charge. A solid start will lay a solid foundation for your future role in the company. By six months, you should be comfortable in your daily role. There will be challenges and there will be disappointments and setbacks along the way. The important thing is to remain focused and work hard. Your attitude will determine your altitude.