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Who could you work for in the UAE?

Updated: Mar 17, 2021

In the UAE, also simply referred to as the Emirates, the rich natural resources make it a haven for oil companies. The long-term exporting of these valuable resources has helped fund explosive growth of construction and the establishment as a top tourist destination too. The strategic location of the UAE on the Persian Gulf has made it an important trade hub worldwide.

Some of the major industries in the UAE include petroleum, fishing, cement, fertilizer, handicrafts, textiles, ship repair, and construction materials. More than 5,000 British companies operate in the region, including big names such as John Lewis, SERCO, Shell, Rolls-Royce, and BAE Systems. Other major employers include:

  • DHL – logistics and transportation

  • Hilton – hospitality

  • AstraZeneca – pharmaceuticals

  • Dulsco – HR services

  • Estee Lauder – beauty

  • Omnicom Media – communications and media

These are just some examples of the types of companies available to work for in the Middle East. Numerous less well-known companies from Europe and Britain have set up shop in fields as diverse as IT, retail, education, and scientific research. Whatever your specialism, you’re sure to find it represented in the UAE.

Other locations around the Middle East can be harder to find a foothold in. Israel and Oman, for instance, can have stricter visa laws and more restrictions on foreign workers. Israel, in particular, has a very high graduation rate in its own country, meaning competition is likely to be stronger.

Having said that, graduates from UK universities are very attractive to employers right across the Middle East. They are valued for not only their top-quality education but also for their adaptability and personal characteristics. For multinational companies, a native English speaker is a clear asset to their team too.

Tips for finding work in the Middle East

Thanks to our internationally connected world, finding a job in the Middle East isn’t too hard. There are numerous job sites out their advertising positions in all sorts of fields, so uncovering somewhere to apply is usually no more difficult than a few clicks of the mouse. However, making sure your application is noticed, getting your CV in front of the right person at the right time, and doing everything you can to get that job interview can be much more challenging. Here are some top tips for seeking employment in the Middle East:

Understand your visa requirements

You’re going to need a work visa if you’re coming to the Middle East from any foreign country. The length of time you can visit the country visa-free, as well as the hoops you need to jump through to get a work visa, will depend on where you want to work. In Dubai, for instance, UK nationals can visit for 30 days with no visa requirement, whereas those from France can visit for 90 days.

A tourist visa is ideal if you want to conduct an on-the-ground job search or to attend an interview. If you are accepted into a job, the good news is that your employer will usually take care of everything for you.

Understand the paperwork requirement

Across the Middle East, there can be some pretty strict requirements for anyone wanting to take up a job offer. In the UAE, for example, you’ll need a blood test to ensure you’re free from HIV, tuberculosis and Hepatitis C.

Some countries also require a labour card or another type of work permit, and you may need a residence visa before you can legally take on a property. Figuring out which bits of paper are essential to legally working in that country can be complicated. It can also be expensive, but this effort is crucial if you want to be certain you’re entitled to work there.

Get to know the job market

Overall, the market and financial health of countries like the UAE is pretty good. According to LinkedIn’s MENA Recruiting Trends report, blossoming markets where job seekers are likely to enjoy a rising salary include legal, finance, marketing, IT, hospitality, tourism, and telecoms.

In the same report, researchers predicted the specific roles within those sectors which would be most likely to bring job-seeking success as operations, engineering, business development, sales, and marketing. This isn’t to say that other sectors are not going to be viable; the important thing is that you research your own industry, so you understand what’s happening.

Target the big companies

Although there are lots of smaller companies in the Middle East too, many cities operate a ‘locals first’ policy, to encourage local businesses to employ talent from the homegrown pool. As a result, it’s often easier and more lucrative to focus on the larger companies first.

Checking out vacancies via the company’s website is a good place to start, but there’s no harm in taking a more proactive approach either. If you know you’re keen to work for a particular employer, sending off your CV with a powerful covering letter can never do any harm.

Talk to the agencies

It’s important to remember that, just like in the UK, many of the best employers in the Middle East use professional recruitment agencies to handle their HR. Working with an agency to find a placement in your desired location is common, and it could also end up saving you a great deal of time and energy.

If you do look to work with an agency, seek out those who recoup their commission from the employer's end, not yours. Steer clear of any agencies who ask for payment upfront from you; it is highly likely to be a scam.

Network, network, network

According to research, if you know someone in a company in the UAE, you’re 6.6 percent more likely to land a job there. Work hard to grow your network in the Middle East, both online and offline if you can. LinkedIn remains the best source for finding professional contacts, but it can be hard to break into.

If you plan to visit the Middle East as part of your job search, look for networking events for your industry, or go along to a conference or breakfast meeting as part of your trip. If you can’t make the trip just yet, see if you can find any ‘online jobs fairs’ for your city or country, which can really help with extending your professional network.

If you’re keen to find employment in any Middle Eastern country, you need a strategic outlook from the start. Take some time to research the city, look at the lifestyle, uncover the cost of living and weigh up the pros and cons. The Middle East needs to be right for you, as well as you being right for it.

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