Wed, Jan 20, 2010
The Straits Times
Work abroad while young and single

By Kenny Tan

DO CONSIDER working abroad when you are young and single.

Having such work experience will help your career, especially with multinational corporations, and you have less to lose if you do not have a family of your own. Working overseas when you are much older may mean sacrificing time with your loved ones.

This was the advice given by Singaporeans working in the Middle East.

As part of a class of 41 undergraduates from the Singapore Management University's Business Study Mission Middle East programme, we visited over 20 companies in Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates from Dec 6 to 16 last year, meeting business representatives, policymakers and diplomats.

We also met overseas Singaporeans in Bahrain, Qatar and Dubai. Most were in their 30s, and they would stay for two to four years, working in professions such as retail, legal services and banking.

Among the perks of working in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region is the high pay. According to a business development manager in Qatar, two years of working in the Gulf region pays the equivalent of 10 years' work in Singapore.

There is also the adventure of working in the exotic and rapidly developing GCC markets. The working environment is also less stressful; your day starts typically at 10am and you knock off by 4pm.

The downside: the lack of entertainment options in many places and having to adapt to a foreign culture. Even in cosmopolitan cities like Abu Dhabi or Dubai, it is difficult to integrate with the local Arabs, let alone in more conservative societies like Saudi Arabia.

But working overseas allows young Singaporeans to see the world before they take up 'headquarters' jobs in Singapore or get married.

As graduation looms, I have decided to satisfy the travel bug while still young and single, starting perhaps with a short stint in the GCC region. I can then refine my goals in life and discover my threshold level of comfort and familiarity.

The writer, 24, is a final-year economics student at the Singapore Management University

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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