How can I secure the right job in the UAE?

Work opportunities are increasing as Dubai campaigns to attract expatriate workers to the emirate

The key for foreigners moving to the region is to widen their professional network within their given sector. Getty
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The Middle East is expected to undergo a population surge in the coming decades, particularly in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The Dubai government is successfully campaigning to attract working professionals to the emirate, with its current population at 3.5 million and expected to surge to about six million in 20 years.

With a positive outlook for the economy and job opportunities increasing, how can foreign professionals looking to move to the Emirates secure the right job?


Watch: some stats behind the UAE's hiring boom

Some of the stats behind the UAE's hiring boom

Some of the stats behind the UAE's hiring boom

With many leading multinational companies in the region, many people will have the opportunity to transfer — within the same company — from their home country to this part of the world.

If that is not possible and someone is looking to make the move, there are many practical steps that jobseekers can take to give themselves the best chance of securing a good opportunity.

Doing your research is an obvious but very important start when moving to a new country — and not simply about the job market but also when it comes to questions such where to live, which schools to look at and so on.

A reputable recruiter who knows the region will be able to offer sound advice on relocating. The chances are they will have done so themselves at some stage — and will want to ensure that you are settled when you move to your new location.

Understanding the costs of living in a new country is essential. It may take three to six months to find and start your new role, so for those looking to make the bold move of relocating without a job, they must ensure they budget appropriately.

It is a great idea to visit the region first, meet some property agents and schools (if required) and network with industry peers before making your final decision to move.

It is also important to understand what paperwork you will need — it is worth ensuring that documents such as marriage, birth and degree certificates are notarised before applying for jobs, as these are often needed in the application process at or before the offer stage.

If you are looking to work in a government and/or security field, then you must go through a security clearance procedure. It is worth applying for a recent criminal record check from a police station in your home country.

Focusing on the right organisation is a must. There are some huge, well-known companies in the UAE such as Emirates airline, which has currently advertised more than 100 roles (not including cabin crew) in information technology, finance, human resources and engineering.

Neom, a $500 billion giga project set to house nine million residents in Saudi Arabia, is another employer with a huge supply of job opportunities — and there are many others.

There are also a number of huge regional organisations that are less visible, but which offer an array of good job roles.

The key is to widen your network within your given sector.

A good way to do this is to apply for a LinkedIn premium account (it’s free for the first month), then you can connect and speak with relevant people in your industry. This is where doing your homework is vital.

Rather than connecting with someone to ask them if they have a job opportunity, do a bit of research on them and/or the company.

Then approach them with something like: “Hi, I read your recent post about your Q3 results and expansion plans. I see a lot of synergies with my current company. I’m moving to the region soon and it would be great to connect.”

Another important aspect to remember is to manage expectations.

You cannot expect to land an opportunity by applying for more than 100 jobs that may not fit your skill set.

Focus on what you are good at, find out which organisations have strong leaders in that field, then follow them closely.

If you see the perfect role online, then try to connect with the right person and introduce yourself, rather than clicking apply as most others will do.

Be aware that you may not always land a dream job as your first role in the region without local experience.
John Armstrong, founder and managing director of JCA Associates

Furthermore, try to build a good working relationship with one or two recruiters that specialise in your field — and maybe check in with a message once or twice a month to keep you front of mind.

Finally, be aware that you may not always land a dream job as your first role in the region without local experience.

If you are a project manager, you may want to also consider a senior engineer's position. If you are a chief financial officer, then applying for a vice-president of finance may be a good option.

From the employer’s point of view, there is always a preference for regional experience.

So, if you are willing to show flexibility to secure your first role, this offers you a slight advantage that may mean the difference between securing a move to the Middle East or not.

John Armstrong is founder and managing director of recruitment agency JCA Associates.

Updated: November 10, 2022, 7:33 AM