“Want to go to Dubai?”
This was the question from a close mate of mine as soon as I answered the phone.
“Sure, when?” I asked.
“Plane leaves at 8.30pm” he replied.
It was just before 5pm and I was about 30mins from home. The airport was about an hour from my place. That didn’t give me much time to stuff around.
“I’ll make it,” I confirmed.
The gig: to fly to Dubai, meet up with some British expats working in the country and help identify possible candidates for a “train the trainer” contract in Iraq.
I was working at Australia Zoo at the time and quickly ran over to my boss, told him the story and said I needed two weeks off.
He granted my request and wished me luck.
With no time to waste, I jumped in the car and headed home. I was unprepared to say the least. No bag ready, not enough clean clothes, I needed a hair cut and a shave…
No time for that. I grabbed what I could, shoved it all in a bag, secured my passport in my pocket and headed out the door.
I met my mate in the airport parking lot where he handed me my itinerary, plane ticket and some details about the gig in Dubai. The scene reminded me of an old spy movie, except I was substituting a Rolex with a G-Shock and my Holden Barina looked nothing like an Aston Martin (although it was silver.)
I got through customs and security and made the plane on time. I settled down into my seat and caught my breath. I went over the details of the job.
The two guys I was meeting in Dubai were former British Officers who had also completed stints in the Oman Army. They spoke Arabic fluently and had lived and worked in Dubai for a number of years.
I started to feel a little uneasy as I went over exactly what was to be required of me on this trip to the Middle East.
Basically my job role was to conduct interviews of local Dubai Soldiers and ascertain the competency of those suited best to take on the role of training Iraqi Soldiers. A new contract had just been secured and was to begin in a couple of months and this was the first step in fulfilling that contract.
I felt a little out of my depth. I had no experience in this type of work and began to wonder what the guys in Dubai were expecting.
They weren’t expecting me.
I was 24 years old, had recently discharged from the Army where I had reached the dizzying heights of private, and I looked unkempt to say the least. I hadn’t been to the Middle East previously, I had no experience in fulfilling this type of contract, and I was currently working security at Australia Zoo.
The guys I met in Dubai didn’t seem too happy with my arrival and began peppering me with questions about my background and experiences. When I informed them I had completed the basic Arabic language course in the Army they hit me with more questions, but this time in the local language…
How do you say this in Arabic, and what’s that in Arabic? How would you pose this question, and whom would you ask regarding this?
How do you say hello and good evening? What’s stop and go? What are the different commands you would use? What’s the word for gun, bomb, knife, and shoot?
Okay fellas, I thought, I’ve only completed a 3-month course and I’m certainly not fluent. I could see what they were doing though. They were testing me and I was falling short. It was soon apparent that they didn’t think I was suited to the job… and neither did I to be honest.
They had a discussion between themselves and informed me they needed someone with more experience and my services were not needed. I was to spend the night in a hotel and head back to Australia the next day.
My first stint in the Middle East lasted just under 24 hours.
I analysed what had happened…
I had jumped into a situation I wasn’t prepared for.
I didn’t have the relevant experience.
I hadn’t researched the job in depth.
This resulted in me feeling…
On the 15-hour flight back to Australia I vowed never to put myself in a situation like that again. While I am a big advocate for getting out of your comfort zone and taking action, that day made me realise that there is a huge difference between having the courage and discipline to commit to a task and blindly taking the plunge without due diligence.
I crawled back to my job at Australia Zoo the next day, learned from the experience and bounced back.
8 weeks later I had secured another gig, this time in Iraq and on a contract I was suitably experienced to fulfil. Over the next two years I developed my Arabic language skills, my Soldier skills and my life skills.
If you ever find yourself in a similar situation…
- Do your due diligence before committing.
- Research exactly what you’re getting into.
- Be prepared.
- Realise when you may be over your head and out of your depth and be ready to take action to rectify the situation.
- Learn from your mistakes.
- Be willing to constantly improve.
- Keep your head up.
Remember, just because someone may have more experience then you, doesn’t mean they’re better then you. Be ready to learn, adapt, overcome and employ a growth mindset.