I posted the following on Instagram & SnapChat earlier today…
“Do you regret changing jobs?” they ask. “Are you happy now?” they ask. Regreting means you learned nothing & I strive to have no regrets especially when it comes to my career. Happier means I was miserable before which is far from the truth. I loved my last job as I’ve always had an appreciation for cars & my work gave me the challenges of my career. But what’s next when these challenges are conquered? You take on the next challenge!
“You’re living the dream” they say. “You’re new job is easy” they say. Yes, I’m living the dream of having my intellect (& pallete) challenged on a greater scale. Yes, my job is easy only because I’m motivated every morning to rise, “fuck mediocrity” & get to work! #Yalla!
Living the Confused Expatriate Life The Art of Being Humble By: Ms. Hala
It wasn’t a difficult decision to present my resignation as I had accepted an offer I simply couldn’t refuse. It was nonetheless, bittersweet. The automotive industry is a very tough and challenging industry in all of the Middle East. I faced some of the toughest challenges in my entire career and take great pride in what I was able to accomplish during this time. However, I was truly blessed to have worked in this company. Not for the money, the status que or even the perks that come with working in this industry. I was truly blessed because I worked with some genuinely good people, people whom expected nothing in return from you no matter what it may be. I consider many of the people here friends, if not family.
Just this past weekend, I had an appointment to get my car serviced. The perk of being in the automotive industry is the support you get throughout the process. However, it’s always way more than I expect when it comes to my fellow colleagues! Our main workshop, like many others in Qatar, is located in the Industrial Area, a good drive from Doha. After taking my car in, my colleague picked me up from the workshop and dropped me off at the office as I had to get some work done. Afterwards, one of our fellow drivers at the office dropped me off to where I needed to be. Another driver from the office went to the Industrial Area and picked up my car so that I didn’t have to make that trip via taxi. My colleagues at the workshop, after calling to explain everything to me, emailed me the invoice so that I can make my payment conveniently at my office the next day.
None of them had to do this for me, especially our drivers whom have a packed schedule on our busiest day of the week. Yet none of the drivers would take a single riyal from me as a “thank you”. What can I possibly do to show my appreciation?
Everyone at the office knows I love the American classic, Dunkin Donuts. Having a branch located so close to the office (and all over Doha) has not been so great for my hips but it hasn’t hurt my wallet to say the least. However, the same doesn’t apply to our fellow drivers. It isn’t the best paid job here and something as simple as Dunkin coffee and donuts is a far fetched luxury. Knowing this, from time to time, whenever we’ve had a rough or good month, I’ll walk in with something for the team. Dunkin is their favorite.
Earlier this morning, and why I’m writing this rant, I was reminded of the blessing I had of working with such selfless people. It literally takes a minute for someone to just educate you on an art form many in this day and age of accepted selfishness and narcissism have forgotten.
“Madam, thank you so much! You bring us cakes and sweets, so good!” One of the two driver’s exclaimed to me this morning.
A bit surprised, I said, “For what my friend? THANK YOU! You helped me out big time yesterday, this is the least I can do.”
“No, no. Thank you!” and he walked away giving me the biggest smile.
We take a lot of things for granted in life and sometimes forget to be humble about it. If I was taught anything by my fellow colleagues I am bidding farewell this month, it was how to be humble, be grateful for the small things and listen empathetically for in more ways than one I am truly blessed. For that, my fellow colleagues at DOMASCO, I thank you.
Thank you all for your kind messages after noticing my absence for the last month. It’s been rough living with limited access at my place and working hard to prove myself at this new turn in my career. I have been writing a lot, believe me! I’ve written a few parts about my expatriate life in Qatar. Let’s start it off with the piece I wrote about identity…
Living the Confused Expatriate Life Part 1 of a Few… Identity By: Ms. Hala
I have lived the expatriate life here in Qatar for over 8 months now. There’s still a few bumps in the road to smooth out but overall, life is good. I’m enjoying my very busy and challenging job in a new industry. I’m apartment hunting for a third time now that my temp rent will be up soon. I’m following my 2013 resolution to a tee thus far… so life is good! Oh, did I mention I’m a legal resident of Qatar now? Oh yes baby I am! Got my residency permit a couple of weeks ago, now I can do stuff like get a monthly mobile phone service… hehehe Yes, mobile not cell… I’m catching on to the popular Euro lingo here. 😉
However, living this expatriate life comes with a couple of interesting confusions. Maybe I just lived in this wonderful tolerant city that is San Francisco to have to deal with this identity confusion that I’m dealing with now. I’m a Muslim Egyptian American expatriate who talks in a lovely California accent but “looks” and talks Arabic like an Egyptian. Confusing much? Apparently so!
When I first took on my new job, the grapevines of the office announced there’s an American among them. Aside from the fact that everyone thought the American was getting paid a bazillion dollars (that’s another entry, I promise you!), no one could tell whom the American was. Many didn’t realize until I started talking to everyone, introducing myself and getting the question, “Where’s your accent from?”
I reply, “I’m American”.
“Yes, I’m from Calfornia.”
“How long did you live there?”
“Born and raised.”
The major problem in Qatar is that everyone here is labeled based on their nationality. Even those born and raised in Qatar don’t even get a Qatar citizenship. They do get treated like Qataris with regards to “Qatarization” but aside from that, they are not even legally Qatari.
There’s this thinking that one or the other has a look, has a personality, has a way of thinking or a way of doing… and everyone’s judging you based mostely on those ideologies and stereotypes. There are so many ridiculous notions about every ethnicity out here, it’s unbelievable.
Let’s start with being an American girl and how exhausting it is to overcome that terrible stereotype. What’s the stereotype here about American girls you ask? Drum roll please… American girls have non-stop wild parties, get drunk all the time and the rest is flushed down a toilet in the morning. Mind you, many conservative expatriates here have come to this conclusion from the many movies and television shows that “always show you American girls drinking and having crrrazy parties.”
*sighing and shaking my head*
Finding an apartment under the American girl banner has simply been the most annoying experience of my life, twice! Having to do it so many times now is just torture at this point. I’m repeatedly asked where I’m from and have to answer with Egypt just to get a viewing appointment. Once they see my “Egyptian look” but hear my “berfect ingelesh”, I get asked, “Where are you from, exactly?” After going through an identity explanation, I have to further explain that the idea that us American girls are drunk party animals is just plain false. I’ve even had to emphasis that family will be joining me in Qatar permanently just so that they don’t think I will be in fact living alone and using this “extra space” for my wild parties.
During my time as a temporary English instructor, I was asked to take on a group of young children. To my hesitation, I accepted and on the first day, disaster. One of the parents whom signed up his very disrespectful son only signed him up because it was exclaimed that the instructor was an American lady. Seeing that I wasn’t up to par, the Egyptian expatriate bee lined it to the director’s office exclaiming false advertisement. What did he expect? A tall blonde woman like the Americans he sees on television. Upon hearing this, I rolled my eyes and walked away before the ghetto San Francisco girl in me came out to bitch slap the stupid outta him!
I’m trying my best to overcome this stupid ideology that I can only be either Egyptian or American. I had an argument with an Egyptian fellow a while back over a remark I found quite offensive. He went on to say, “oh, is your American turned on? I forgot you don’t get some of our jokes.” I didn’t even know we could switch between our bicultural identities… WTF? Apparently, there’s a stupid stereotype about bicultural Americans, especially Arabs… Those whom hold an American citizenship think they are better than everyone else, act like they don’t get some traditional lingo and will use their American identity for beneficial purposes. As a first generation born Arab American, this stereotype is so far from the truth, you’ve got to wait for the six o’clock train to get there! Half my family from both sides hold an American citizenship after immigrating from Egypt in the early 70’s and 80’s. They’ve all worked tirelessly, raised their children and grandchildren, paid their taxes, contributed to the American society just like any other immigrant family from any corner of the world. They all deserve the same respect as every other American out there.
I’ve learned over time that I’m not alone in this odd confusion. The citizens of Qatar themselves are also in this weird situation where stereotypes about them isn’t only false, but many act upon it to the point of disgraceful. The stereotypes about Qataris… they are extremely conservative, snubby, spoiled and unkind individuals seeing all others as second class citizens. Not only is this stupidity far from the truth, but many dress in traditional Qatari attire in an attempt to act upon these stereotypes and intimidate others. Yes, this includes bullying people on road to outrageous behavior towards others… just disgraceful!
On New Year’s Eve, a Qatari lady was discriminated against for, get this, looking and dressing Qatari… WTF? According to Doha News, a Qatari lady was not allowed into a hotel restaurant on the said day because it was deemed inappropriate for Qatari ladies to attend. Again, WTF? Sadly, this this happens a lot across Qatar.
I must say however, for the most part, Qataris are the complete opposite of these stereotypes just like any other ethnicity being treated according to whatever stereotype is drawn up of them. Qataris are quite polite, kind and generous. They may be wealthy but not many act like it’s their forsaken right to the wealth or OK the ill treatment upon others.
An interesting example I see all the time: in Qatar, you are not to fuel your own vehicle (similar to the law in New Jersey), you are to stay in your vehicle or go to the many shops at the station while an station employee fuels your vehicle. On any given day, as I sit comfortably while another fuels my car, I’ll see a Qatari gentleman step out of his vehicle, have a small talk conversation with the employee fueling and washing down his car, before tipping and driving off. Every time I see that scene, I see the employee with a huge smile on his face. Many of these employees can use the extra tip for phone cards to call home or even save up for an occasion.
Other times, I hear of stories of how someone had their tires blown out and a Qatari pulled over in their designer attire to help out hands on. That I’ve personally experienced personally when I had my car accident. Yes, people from various backgrounds pulled over and offered to help but I gotta say, the Qataris were the ones whom stepped out of their vehicles, yelled at the rude police officer on my behalf and moved my car because, “She’s a lady and should be treated with respect.” Chivalry is still alive and kicking! Even the Qatari police officers at the police station gave it to the non-Qatari police officer for discriminating against me because I was American. “That doesn’t matter, she’s still a lady, have some manners brother!” Thank you. =)
I do have to admit that my identity has brought up many a funny conversations.
At an event a few months ago, I was blessed to meet some wonderful people. One of them was an elder businessman whom owns one of Egypt’s first timeshare businesses. We got to talking business until I mentioned how the timeshare business in the USA works. Once I stated that yes, I was an Egyptian American, he just stared at me. “And you wear hijab?” I couldn’t stop laughing before it was like, man you just opened Pandora’s box! I went on and on about the wonderful community that is the Muslim American community; from the San Francisco Islamic School where I volunteered to the advocacy work of CAIR to the masjids where I’ve prayed at. I had to stop myself at one point because I realized I was missing my community to the brink of tears.
I know Qatar is trying really hard to create a tolerant, diverse and welcoming community. I know it will not happen over night and not by one feeling superior or the other feeling intimidated. I see the problem in Qatar as people coming from the many corners of the world with ignorant, close-minded and/or just confused and conflicted as I am. The thing is, it’s going to take a long time before the ignorant to be educated, the close-minded to be tolerant and the confused to take it all in one day at a time.
I’m in the process still of taking it all in, one day at a time.
I owe my readers an apology for my lack of postings. If it is any consolation, one of the reasons I’ve been busy is due to critiquing your resumes and having career counseling sessions. Now you know I haven’t fully abandoned my job seekers!
Last year I wrote Fasting While @ Work to help both sides through the Islamic fasting month. With Ramadan just around the corner, I’ve decided to rewrite this piece to include more information and resources.
The Islamic fasting month of Ramadan begins on Wednesday, August 11th. For working Muslims, fasting while at work isn’t the easiest of things to do; especially when you feel like the only one fasting during the month. If you’re a working student, it can be much more difficult. Trust me when I say, “I know the feeling”! When I was a junior in high school, I used to be in class all day before going to my night job and breaking my fast just an hour or two before going home to my moms’ home cooking. All through my time in college and grad school, I’d break my fast during my evening courses while some classmates look at me in amazement at the fact that I’m eating.
With that, I think a few pointers for my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters observing Ramadan this year as they work or go to school is just as appropriate as it is necessary.
The Dreaded Lunch Hour
Being from San Francisco, I must say that we are blessed with the number of mosques in or near the downtown area, including the financial district. Muslim employees should try during their lunch hour to go to a mosque near by. As this is the month to celebrate the scriptures of the Holy Quran being brought down to Prophet Mohamed (pbuh), what better way to pass that hour then by being in a place where others are worshiping and reciting the scriptures, right? Not sure if there is a mosque near your place of work? You should be able to find one through IslamicFinder.
If you’re a high school student, only go to a nearby mosque if your campus is an “open campus”. The Career Club does not condone cutting class or sneaking off campus!
If there isn’t a mosque near by, there is always a quiet space where you can be to worship and read the Holy Quran. I’ve worked in many parts of the Bay Area where there wasn’t always a mosque near by. I ended up discovering a quiet small garden I could sit in or an empty conference room I had to myself during that time. Many businesses and organizations are highly respectful of one’s beliefs and practices as long as it does not interrupt their productivity. Do not expect for them to assume your needs, so make the request for space during your break in a professional manner.
For university students, there should be an MSA (Muslim Student Association) at your school where there is a designated space for meetings and worship. If not, please check where you can go, such as the library (where there is almost always secluded spaces for projects) or an empty classroom. For high school students, an MSA should have a similar situation at your campus. Otherwise try to find a quiet space on campus. When I was in high school, we had a few professors that kept their classroom open as well as the library being open during lunch.
The Fasting Breath
As Muslims, we believe that the most beloved scent to God (swt) is the scent of one’s fasting breath. However, that isn’t going to be the same amongst many mortals, Muslim or not. Nothing to be offended about as it is a natural occurrence of halitosis or bad breath when one doesn’t consume food or beverage for a while. What can you do about it? Simple things such as making sure you have good distance between yourself and others. Always brush your teeth, even if it’s rinsing with water. If you have a “miswak“, even better! Click here to read some good tips on things to do during Suhur (pre dawn meal) to assure that your breath stays decent throughout the day.
Etiquettes of Working With a Fasting Muslim
If you know someone is fasting, don’t start eating and drinking in front of them. Be as courteous as you would want others to be if you too were fasting. If you want to know what it is like to be fasting, fast with a fellow colleague then go with them to break your fast. It’s an amazing learning experience according to my many colleagues that have done the same with me. Plan to either fast the whole month of even try it for a few days, you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain.
Also, as many of you may or may not know, Muslims do a physical prayer that does not allow for interuptions. This means that Muslims do not speak to others during their prayers. So if you walk in on someone praying, be respectful by being silent or even stepping out. Prayers shouldn’t last more then 5 minutes.
Lately, I’ve been approached by several well-educated and experienced professionals who are having trouble landing a job. Many of them have started taking out their education and some of their experiences off their resume (tsk tsk) in the hopes of landing that desired job. Why? Due to the reason they keep hearing from these employers, they are “overqualified.”
I personally believe that the term “overqualified” is an ugly myth. I believe this myth was started by the employer’s hiring manager who couldn’t simply speak the truth to their candidates.
An employer tells you, “sorry but you are overqualified for this position”, when in reality s/he meant to say, “you are not what we are looking for.” Plain and simple. There are several reasons why an employer will use that overqualified line. However, that line can cause you, the job seeker, a hit in your confidence. After getting that line, you are walking out thinking you are overqualified for a job you are qualified for. You start searching for jobs with either less or more requirements and you can easily end up in a job that doesn’t satisfy you.
As a job seeker, you need to know what you are applying for and if in fact you qualify for that position. Only you can determine whether or not you qualify based on your evaluation of the company culture and what you can offer to them.
It used to be believed that when an employer stated that a candidate was overqualified, they were referring to their age. According to a post by Starflight Corporation, it’s not necessarily about age but a lot about how the employer’s hiring manager who may feel threatened by the candidate being more skilled than them or in making a “bad hire” decision. Hiring managers can be reprimanded for costing the company money with “bad hires.”
Here’s a scenario to consider: At an interview that is going well, the employer asks, “don’t you think you are overqualified for this position?” How do you answer a question about being qualified? You simply showcase to them how you can take on several roles with your many talents. This appeals to the employer that you are worth the investment as in the long run, you’ll be saving them a lot of money. I think this question is great because they want to know what you determined from your evaluation of the company and what you can offer them.
However, if they give you this line as the reason behind why you weren’t hired, ask them for constructive feedback and/or simply end the conversation on a positive note. Believe me, you do not want to be disappointed, if anything be happy. If an employer can’t give you honest feedback and be honest with you in your face, then it’s not a place you want to work at in the first place.
As you go out there, stay confident and do not let that ugly myth near your confidence!