by Nada Ahmed
Losing a job can be very frustrating as it usually takes people by surprise. I am in my early forties, a project manager by trade and despite my education and training and like many others have experienced this ‘surprise’ several times throughout my working life. However, needing to deal with the loss of a job, although difficult, was much easier early on in my career, when I was living and working in Dubai. Dubai has great networking opportunities as well as access to a large number of recruitment companies able to service both jobseekers and organisations with roles to fill. Quite simply, when I was living there, it offered me many ways to promote myself professionally. Even in 2009, during the tougher times the recession brought with it, I was never out of work for long as I was able to benefit from temporary employment, while waiting for the right opportunity to come along.
This time round I am unemployed in my home country Iraq. No, I hadn’t been planning a change and yes, losing my job in Baghdad was unexpected, but I know the drill. Preparing my CV (resumé) was my first task, so I went back to the bullet points that defined my work to date, focusing particularly on my last job and listing my work milestones and my accomplishments to date. Given my last experience as a project coordinator around monitoring& evaluation, I needed employers to see how I might best fit in their organisation.
I then needed to find out where to send my CV. I started updating my profile on many websites such as LinkedIn, Monster , Gulf Talent and Foras . The small number of recruiters operating in Iraq, when compared with Dubai for example, has made my search more challenging though. I have tried to overcome this by networking and posting my resumé online with international organizations and diplomatic missions instead.
Despite all my positive efforts though, I have spent the last few months without any kind of feed-back to my many applications. It has been really tough not to get anything back at all. Even rejections, if they are backed up with some kind of explanation, are useful in terms of tailoring further applications and shaping applications to better suit the market. I must admit, there are times when I have felt utterly rejected, as though I am not even accepted as a potential part of the labour force. It’s pretty demoralizing not even getting to interview stage in all this time!
I also want to share another aspect of my experience of job hunting in Iraq that has been different to my previous experience in Dubai – in the hope that this insight will be of interest to others. In short, it is very difficult to ensure that applications have definitely been received. Making sure of this is something that, in the past, I have always found to be a very useful part of the process. Even if there was a set deadline and I had to wait seven days before making contact, I would always find a way to double check that my application had found its way safely to the employer. This time round though, I have found that often, although contact details such as telephone numbers might be mentioned on the website, the contact person will not answer. Even if they do, I have found more often than not that I have got the ‘brush off’. However, I am nothing if not persistent – so even if I can’t reach anyone by phone, I do always drop a line to the recruitment contact via Email, confirming that I made the application and that I am keen on the role. Within a three week time-frame I often also make further contact to inquire about the status of my application.
Sadly, as I have mentioned, so far none of these efforts have borne fruit. Nine months have passed since I first lost my job in Baghdad. I do want to share though that, thanks to a savings plan I had put in place, I have held out all this time and believe I have around three more months left. I am just so pleased that I had the foresight to save! I think that budgeting for a ‘just in case scenario’ is very important, not just for me but for everyone. When I was working I managed my money and was therefore able to put some into a savings account on a monthly basis. Although I had to pay rent and numerous other monthly invoices in Dubai, being back home meant that I was living with my family and thus had a little extra, which allowed me to save. Continuing to have my family around me is such a godsend, they have been so supportive!
In the meantime, I will keep trying and … hoping. After all, hope is the one thing that keeps us going on.
Ed Note: Career Center Benefits are a valuable resource that many universities in Iraq are starting to develop to help students and recent graduates prepare for the college to work transition. Access these videos here to help you with your career and job search.