Sep 27 / Bianca Chio

Navigating the Changing Business Landscape: Strategies for Career Success in Saudi Arabia and UAE

After spending 10 years in both Saudi Arabia and the UAE, I've come to realize that in today's fast-paced corporate world, adaptability, continuous learning, and staying ahead of the curve are not just buzzwords but essential strategies for career success. The business landscape in this region is evolving rapidly, and as a professional, I have learned the importance of effectively navigating these changes.

I've been asked multiple times what is the key to being successful as a professional and as a woman in this part of the world. It hasn't been easy; it took courage, which I got to develop in time. Mind you, this comes from someone who packed her bags and moved to L.A. during university and worked and travelled around multiple countries in Asia in her 20s. It's been a journey of growth and development, and I firmly believe that embracing these strategies has been instrumental in my success in general and in the Middle East in particular.

Strategies for Career Success 

Embracing Adaptability 

Adaptability is no longer an option but a necessity. With the advent of new technologies and the shift towards digitalization, job roles are continually changing. This requires professionals to be flexible and willing to step outside their comfort zones. Remember, development and growth never come with comfort but with effort, work and sometimes hard lessons.  

The Vision 2030 in Saudi Arabia and the Strategy for the Future in the UAE are bringing about remarkable transformations across various sectors, including technology, tourism, entertainment, and renewable energy. As professionals, it is crucial for us to embrace and adapt to these changes. This may involve developing new skills or even considering alternative career paths. The evolving landscape presents both challenges and opportunities, urging us to stay agile and open to growth. Choosing a different career is painful, not because you may not have the will to try something new but because (1) you step out of your comfort zone and (2) you have to find ways to convince recruiters and hiring managers that your transferable skills are valuable for the new industry. It takes a lot of energy, thinking outside the box, sometimes failure and lots of learning. 

Committing to Continuous Learning 

Continuous learning is the key to staying relevant in this dynamic environment. The ongoing digital transformation in both Saudi and the UAE has created a demand for skills like AI, data analysis, and digital marketing. Let's be real, regardless of the field, today's workplace has very little in common with what we had, say, 5-7 years ago.  

You must commit to regular upskilling and reskilling to keep pace with these changes. This could involve participating in professional development sessions, attending webinars, or obtaining certifications in (or outside) your field. Ideally, organisations help with this internally by offering lots of development opportunities in line with their strategic plan. But what happens if you're not on their radar as a potential talent to invest in or if what you want for your future does not match your organization's plans? The answer is simple: your development is your own responsibility. If companies help, great; if not... welcome to the real world. There are books, YouTube, Linkedin and zillions of affordable resources available. The days of completing a degree and calling it quits on education are long gone.

In today's world, learning is a lifelong journey. Make it a habit to continuously develop new skills or deepen your existing knowledge through online courses, workshops, or other forms of learning. This will keep you competitive in the job market and open up numerous opportunities for growth and advancement. 

Staying Ahead of the Curve 

To thrive in today's ever-evolving business environment, professionals must take a proactive approach. This involves staying abreast of industry trends, comprehending the implications of geopolitical shifts, and anticipating the future skills that will be in demand. Individuals must position themselves ahead of the curve and seize opportunities for growth and success. This may sound a little too strategic, but at every level, employees must be ready to adapt and adjust their skills at a moment's notice. Remember how we had to adapt to remote work at a day’s notice back in early 2020?   

Back to my point, Saudi and Emirati professionals are aware of the regional focus on innovation, entrepreneurship, sustainability and workforce nationalization. These areas are likely to offer numerous opportunities in the coming years, making it crucial for professionals to stay updated and actively engage in these fields. I foresee so many cool opportunities for them that it would be a shame not to take full advantage of what’s coming. Preparation must start now. 

Practical Tips for Navigating Change 

In conclusion, to be successful in navigating the changing business landscape in Saudi Arabia and the UAE requires adaptability, a commitment to continuous learning, and a proactive approach to staying ahead of the curve. Here is what I would invite my young colleagues to consider in order to stay on top of the changes.  

1. Develop a Growth Mindset:
Embrace challenges as opportunities for learning and growth. Be open to feedback and learn from your mistakes. Learn from other people's mistakes too. Take notes, and keep journals. Reflect on everything and keep asking yourself, "Could I have done this better?",  "What would I change next time?".  

2. Network Actively:
Building relationships is crucial not only within your industry (and country) but also outside of it. Networking opens doors to new opportunities and offers valuable insights into industry trends. Don't wait until you're faced with a job loss to start networking. Proactively connect with others to expand your professional horizons and foster meaningful connections. 

3. Stay Informed:
Staying up-to-date with industry news and trends is crucial for professionals. It not only enables you to anticipate changes but also empowers you to adapt your career strategy accordingly. Being well-informed helps you identify opportunities, stay ahead of the competition, and make informed decisions that propel your career forward. Read and follow the news, and develop critical thinking (a crucial skill in the upcoming era marked by the improvement of 'deep fake'), get familiar with making evidence-based decisions.

4. Embrace New Experiences:
Be open to new challenges and experiences. Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and take up projects or roles that may seem daunting at first. These opportunities can provide valuable learning experiences, helping you develop new skills and gain diverse perspectives.  

5. Cultivate a Positive Attitude:
As cliché as it may sound, having a positive attitude can make all the difference in navigating change successfully. Keep an open mind, be adaptable, and approach challenges with a growth mindset. A positive attitude not only helps you overcome obstacles but also makes you more resilient. 

The ever-changing business landscape in the Middle East requires professionals to be adaptable, proactive, and committed to continuous learning. With these practical tips and a positive attitude towards change, individuals can thrive in this dynamic era of progress and innovation.  

Remember, the future belongs to those who are prepared for it! So let's keep learning, growing, and adapting to stay relevant and achieve our goals in this rapidly evolving world.  Don't wait for opportunities to come knocking on your door; go out there and create them with your ever-evolving skills and knowledge! The possibilities are endless, and the opportunities are abundant for those who are willing to put in the effort.

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About the Author
Bianca Chio is the Head of People at Lerniq and brings extensive experience and expertise in the field of Human Resources and Learning and Development. Having lived and worked in seven different countries across three continents, Bianca has developed a global perspective and a deep understanding of cross-cultural dynamics within the workplace.
In her current, Bianca is responsible for overseeing all people-related aspects, including talent acquisition, employee development, performance management, and employee engagement for the company as well as for client organisations across the Middle East. She takes pride in creating an environment where people feel valued, empowered, and motivated to contribute their best work.  
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