The truth about getting a job in Dubai

I’ve been in the UAE 12 years TOTAL. I love it here. I really wouldn’t want to leave. I have also learned alot about the place and how it operates. I’m willing to share if you’re willing to listen.
I Love Dubai Logo 2

I have worked for both private and public institutes and have skipped employers with alacrity the minute something better came along OR something about my current employer pisses me off.

You want loyalty? Get a dog. I work for money!

That being said,it is easier for me to move around as I please. 1. I’m in educational management, educational policy design and policy implementation and the pool is VERY shallow. 2. I am damned good at what I do and have several job offers in hand when I do sign a contract with an employer. So leaving at the first sign of fucked- up- ness is easy. 3. I work at my side hustle and consult with various international companies and educational departments so I can literally also work independently of an employer.

I realise not everyone has it that easy. I realise that everyone is looking for their break. I realise that compared to the rest of the world the UAE looks very tempting with it’s high salaries and good benefits, tax free status and great expat communities.

But before you send me your CV or ask me to “hook you up” please know these things:

  1.  You must have the accredited paperwork, certificates and degrees before you even think of applying. A certificate or diploma you got while doing a part time course in something or other is not going to cut it. Bachelors , Masters and Ph.Ds will always be picked and anything less is a pain to get through the government departments. The UAE is not the place if you want to gain experience and then get your formal qualifications.
  2. Things are always changing with regards to requirements for getting a job. I’ve had a Kenyan friend SENT home because of a political kerfuffle between the governments of her country and the UAE. Check your status with your home department, or check with UAE embassy in your country before you leave.
  3. Know what your salary will get you. Salaries are calculated according to the exchange rates. I know US citizens who earn far less than they would back home because the dirham – dollar exchange rate is so low. But the benefits and the tax free income plus employer provided accomodation and paid education for children make it worth their while to stay. Security is also a big attraction. The UAE is the safest place in the world. Ok, maybe a slight exaggeration there, but still…
  4. Know what your employer is offering and get it in writing. Sadly, the offer letter is usually not worth the paper it’s written on and people have arrived only to find that they were not getting what they were promised. Double check. Try to contact other expats who work at the same employer. Hang around on discussion boards and forums and so on. Don’t trust that you will get what you were promised. Employers will lie to get you here and then do the ole bait and switch. It happens…
  5. Don’t mess with the banks. Oh lawd, I cannot say this enough…these here banks will phone you night and day to get you to take a loan and a credit card. They will treat you like gold. Miss ONE payment ( because your mom got sick or you had a family emergency) and GURL, they get nasty real quick. Harassment is a thing. They will rock up at your work. Stalk you on FB. Phone you day and night. Call you all kinds of things. Accuse you of stealing the bank’s money…I could go on and on. Yes, they will even throw you in jail. Debtor’s jail is the one not-so-nice things about the UAE, but there you go. Couldn’t be perfect could it?
  6. The best way to get a job is through someone you know. Unless you’ve got a recruiter calling you, there’s just no other way to get one here. You have to know someone who knows someone. Check the company out. Call them on their landline. Some companies have gone banc and still have ads running. Make sure it’s reputable and legit before even thinking of coming over.
  7. There are many recruiters. Depending on your field choose the best. The others can be shady AF and demand payment upfront for their service or withhold your passport ( illegal, but it happens). The better recruiters won’t charge you a penny, but include it in their contract with the employer.
  8. Upgrade your CV. Add a picture. Include personal details. These things might seem verboten in your country but here it is de rigeur. Make sure you  list your USP’s/ key skills and competencies in the intro. Use bullets. Keep it simple. If they want to know more they will ask in the interview. Keep it to the most recent 4-5 years and no more than 3 pages long. Don’t include your references. They will ask for those once they are interested. Don’t send all your documents unless they have asked. People have lost original degree docs because they sent it to some company and never got it back.
  9. Make sure you know where your embassy is, what protections and services they offer in the UAE and what they can do and won’t do for you in the UAE. South Africa has a list of things as long as your arm for things they won’t do. Unless you want a Huisgenoot or You magazine in jail. That they will get you.
  10. Don’t just send a CV and forget about it. Follow up is huge here. Get to know your recruiter’s name, number and email addy. Check on your CV progress at least once a week. Don’t be a pest but build a relationship. They are more likely to look out for you if they like you.
  11. Know that certain professions are saturated by the cheaper labour markets of India, the Philippines, and so on. If you’re a CPA or just an accountant know that unless you’re willing to take a much lower salary, an Indian is probably already signing. If you’re a receptionist, or PA or anything along the line of front line staff, forget it. The Philippines have that market cornered.
  12. Know the “tier system”. Imagine a pyramid. US/Canada/UK on top. SA/NZ/Australia next. Egypt/Syria/ other ME countries next. Philippines/India/ China/former Eastern Bloc countries next. All the rest are at the bottom. You get hired for positions depending on this system. A South African can apply for but will never get accepted for a position below them on the pyramid. You will find some have traded up, but you cannot go down on the pyramid. You’ll be wasting your time.
  13. Once you’ve signed your contract, that’s it. You’re locked in on that salary and those benefits for the duration. Even if you renew after the contract ends, don’t expect to negotiate new terms. The only way to do that is to leave and find a better position elsewhere, or to get a promotion. You’re expendable and there are 10 CVs ready to replace you should you make waves.

I can’t think of anything else. This is what it is. MY experience and those of my friends and family in the UAE. As I said, 12 years will teach you alot about a place.


Want to know more? Hit me up in the comments. 

Until next I blog, 



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