The struggle that most Africans in the Middle East go through in trying to get employment is not talked about enough. Most of them have the skills needed, but the opportunities to prove themselves are few and far in between. In the final part of our Africans Living Abroad series, Tari* recounts the final three weeks in Dubai before her visa was set to expire and the intrigues that ensued.
You may be asking yourself why I didn’t just go back to my home country and try to rebuild myself there. I understand such sentiments but personally, that was not an option. Back in school, my friends nicknamed me ‘the insister’ because I never gave up on anything that I had set my mind on. At that moment, succeeding in this foreign country was my only priority and I wasn’t prepared to fail.
First Meeting with the Manager
The last three weeks of my final month before my visa expired were quite eventful. A friend of mine told me about a certain hospitality company which was recruiting and that I was sure to get employed if I went there. The following day I was there very early, smartly dressed and ready to meet the manager. At the establishment, the receptionist received my credentials and told me to wait as she went to confirm with the manager if there were any vacancies available. A minute later she came back with the words I dreaded the most yet had become accustomed to hearing. ‘Sorry, there are no vacancies. In fact, I will return your CV since it will just go to waste here,’ she told me.
I wasn’t entirely convinced. My thoughts were either she’s too lazy to look for him, she hadn’t convinced him enough or she was just being mean. My pleas to meet the manager fell on deaf ears as she told me to leave since the manager was busy in a meeting. To buy myself some time until the meeting ends and I get to meet the manager, I asked her to let me in so that I could at least order something to eat. I had now turned into a client from a job seeker.
The receptionist walked me to a table and handed me the menu with disdain. Her expression was that of ‘Let’s see if you can afford anything here.’ I confidently asked her to give me a moment as I figured out what I would be having. Honestly, there was nothing I could afford on that menu, it was way too expensive for me. As I looked around the restaurant at the other guests, I noticed that there wasn’t a single black person there, they were all white rich people, mostly golf players. I was the odd one out.
A waitress walked up to me and asked what I would be ordering. I decided to tell her the honest truth and asked if there were any vacancies. She informed me that she had just been hired the previous day and went ahead to give me her number. She would now be able to update me in case any vacancy came up. She went a step further and introduced me to her supervisor who could receive my CV and even take me to the manager. These two were so kind to me.
The supervisor went to the manager and came back with the same news; there were no vacancies. I finally decided to walk away. As I was heading out, the waitress pointed out the manager to me who had just stepped out of the meeting to receive a phone call, urging me to talk to him. Immediately he was done with his call, I greeted him and started telling him about myself. He didn’t even give me a chance to make my case, going ahead to berate me instead. ‘You have already been told twice that there are no vacancies here. Why can’t you just leave? Are you deaf?’ His anger scared me so much and left me speechless. I hastily left.
I went back home, crying the whole way, and prayed to God since I felt lost and it felt like He had also left me alone. That’s the day I felt sorry for myself. I had never felt the pain of job-seeking before coming to Dubai. The manager hadn’t even given me a chance to prove what I was capable of. He had no idea that I had sat in a train for two hours full of hope. That was the moment I nearly lost all hope. I just covered my head because at that moment I was angry at God. The next couple of days, I was so stressed that I didn’t eat anything. Fully aware of my situation, I never stopped sending online applications which sadly enough were never replied to.
As much as I was applying to all these places, my heart was set on getting a job at that British restaurant. I had fallen in love with it. After a while, the waitress told me that she had seen new staff and I should go back and try my luck once more. I went there on a Friday since she had informed me that was when most heads of departments are available. On getting there I found a number of applicants waiting to get interviewed and fortunately for me, the tough manager was on vacation. I had come with a Barista and waitress CV, willing to take either of the positions.
I did the interview and managed to impress the interviewer who singled me out afterwards, telling me to stay for trials while the rest were told that they would be called. I got a five-minute orientation about table numbers and did my best with customer service. The head bartender also asked me to make a cappuccino so he could see my abilities as a Barista, which I did. They also gave me theory exams about coffee and hospitality which all went well. They loved me and we exchanged numbers. I went back home happy and confident that this time around I would be called back for the job.
The following day, my eyes were firmly on my phone as I waited for the call. There was nothing. Negative thoughts started swirling in my head; ‘What if they had forgotten about me? What if they never get to call?’ A friend mentioned the possibility of better candidates going there after me. My anxiety couldn’t allow me to wait for another day so the next day I was one of the first people there and went ahead and allocated work for myself. Before the deputy manager reported to work, I had blended with the other employees and got so active in service.
Persistence Pays Off
The first question she asked me was ‘What are you doing here?’ I did not hesitate to tell her that I was there to talk to her. She gave me a minute to sell my abilities which I used well. I asked her to let me work for them for a week free of charge as they evaluate my capabilities. It would be upon them to decide whether I’m competent enough to be part of their company or not. At first, she was a little hesitant but she eventually accepted, insisting that this didn’t mean that there was a vacancy. She took me inside the bar and asked the bartenders to let me do all the coffee orders, giving me all the necessary training I would need.
Fully confident in my abilities, I knew the company wouldn’t wish to lose me by the end of the week. That’s how I started my bartending career. The general manager reported back to work from his vacation a week later when his assistant, head bartender and supervisors were already convinced that they needed me in the company. He observed me and was also convinced since I had mastered many things and had already blended in.
I just signed my contract with the company two days ago and it feels like a dream. I’m sure the general manager doesn’t remember that I’m the lady he once kicked out of the company premises. I will be sure to remind him at a staff party when I get honored as the employee of the year. He’s actually a good person, I think that maybe he was just having a long day. Sometimes the time you feel defeated and need to give up hope is the time you need a little bit more persistence and prayer, to God, whom I believe touched everyone’s heart to see my potential.
Patience and persistence are key