Lebanese abroad are often heard to say that they would return home if only they could find a job that satisfied their professional aspirations. Matching to two can be hard, especially in the limited market that Lebanon represents, but for those able to seize the opportunity, it is possible.
This option is exactly what became available for Malek Bekdache, managing director of L’Oréal in Lebanon. Having moved between France, Dubai and Egypt during his career, Bekdache had the chance to hang his hat in Lebanon last August to develop the subsidiary in the country as the regional hub for the Levant.
Bekdache benefited from the fact that his company gives priority to “international mobility,” as he described it, which easily allows the transfer of executives from one country to another while remaining on the same career track at the company. In addition to participating in a challenging operation, Bekdache is now happy being surrounded by a familiar group of colleagues.
The same choice was available to Lara Doumit, senior accountant at Deloitte Lebanon, who said living in Lebanon with her family as the main reason she returned two years ago. Having grown up between Nigeria, Australia and Lebanon, before working in Sydney for three years, Doumit says she still considers her career promising in her home country, despite having to work in a smaller market.
“The exposure I had in Australia is not available in Lebanon,” said Doumit. “This has to do with the nature of the Lebanese market. Compared to Australia, companies [I deal with] here are small to medium-sized.”
Doing a ‘Dick Whittington’
Like thousands before him, Bilal Alieh, 23, left Lebanon for the Gulf to start his first job. After graduating from University in 2010 with a degree in business administration, Alieh was relieved to have found a job as a sales representative in a medical supply and equipment company in Riyadh.
“I kept waiting for a job in Lebanon, but I got to a point where I couldn’t wait anymore,” said Alieh. Six months after starting his first job, Alieh was given a position as a junior logistics manager, receiving a basic monthly salary of $2,500 in addition to free accommodation, travel and insurance benefits. Soon enough, however, he realized that his career prospects were not very promising and decided to head back to Lebanon.
But it was not only professional concerns that pushed Alieh out of Riyadh — he found living in Saudi Arabia increasingly difficult and was eager to return to a social environment in which he felt more comfortable. The first contact with the job market reality has been harsh, but Alieh is not dissuaded.
“I might have to take a job for half the salary I was receiving in Saudi Arabia, but I am willing to take the risk,” he said, “I have learned so much from my experience abroad, and it’s definitely not going to waste.”
The stay at home
For young professionals who have been compelled to leave Lebanon for economic or professional reasons, Rayya Ghalayini’s career development could be the object of envy as she has never had to leave her country. Ghalayini says she choose the banking sector for its career prospects, and her path has taken her across two different positions in Byblos Bank, leading to a position as a card development officer.
“My priority is to stay in my country and see what I can get,” she said. “As long as I’m getting paid well and doing what I like, I will not consider leaving.”