A recent college grad, I planted my feet on the cracked dusty pavement of Beirut and found myself in need of shelter. When I got that, I started applying for a job as a copywriter at GoNabit, a Middle East based daily deals site much like Groupon. Every week I expected an answer and every week they never answered me. They loved my copy test but kept blowing me off and I was quickly running out of money… Who would have known I’d end up with a job for one of the coolest companies around, LivingSocial.
The CEO stood me up on my phone interview (management was in Dubai) which made me believe I’d never hear from them again. When I did finally get the phone interview I was practically sleeping and woke up to chat about myself. I knew I nailed it. They asked me what I thought my salary should be and when I told them they incredulously asked “…Do you mean dollars?”
I sat in a cafe with a fellow American and we discussed my negotiation plan. Keep in mind this was my first real job and it was in Lebanon so I was totally out of the loop regarding salaries. I told her I thought I should get… $4000 a month. She choked on her cappuccino and said, “Dude, senior architects in this city don’t even make $4000 are you crazy?”
….I told you I had no idea.
They offered me the position but were very concerned about how much money I demanded, and could only give me a MUCH smaller salary (more in line with Lebanese rates but still good.) Without a second thought or breath of negotiation, I said I’d take it! Two weeks after I started at GoNabit we were acquired by LivingSocial — and that is how I landed a job at LivingSocial in the Middle East.
I already had the coolest job of all my American friends, but five months in I was promoted to Senior Copywriter and was thus responsible for editing deals that were published all throughout the Middle East: Lebanon, Egypt, Dubai which totaled to like 15 markets including Escapes. Our office was decorated with graffiti and everyone was smart, sassy, and cool. I worked there for 11 months.
During that whole time I was hangin’ around with Jorgen and Matias, and it was only I who had a ‘traditional’ job and reliable salary. Until two months ago, when pretty unexpectedly, LivingSocial pulled out of the Middle East, laying off 90 employees throughout Lebanon, Dubai, and Egypt.
When this happened I was shocked, but not sad or upset. They gave us compensation from which I think I can live off (cheaply) for a bit of time. So I would say I learned a few things from my stint in the businessworld and they are:
1. If you want something you better be damned persistent about it.
Regardless of how cool a company is or how sweet and lovely and supportive your boss is, a company is a company and they’re not going to make sure you’ve got the best deal for you. So if you want a raise, make a statement that you deserve that raise. And if you want that interview, email them every goddamn day that they don’t call you. I even experienced it on the other side. When I needed to do ten tasks for ten different people, it was the person who kept bothering me about it who got theirs first. Business is business.
2. Take breaks and keep your health in check.
I was supposed to be at the office for 9 hours a day. Although I did my best to cut that time down as much as possible, I could still clock in a good 7 hours. When I was there I’d get up, do jumping jacks, play around, walk outside and whatever. But I had coworkers who would sit glued to their chairs staring at the comp for the entire time. This cannot be healthy and it’s absolutely never necessary.
3. Don’t eat the cake and cookies people shove in your face.
Seriously, the skinniest hottest girl in the office will walk around to everyone’s desk and demand you eat the cupcakes she got while she keeps her mouth shut and doesn’t eat a morsel. Working with people in an office makes you fat. Stay strong and eat some cookies, but not all the cookies.
4. Befriend your coworkers because those are the people who are willing and able to have fun when you all get laid off.
As soon as I lost my job I was a ball of boundless energy. I was free! I had absolutely no schedule and tons of repressed freedom to exploit. Everyone else was either working or freelancing or not in the mood. So meeting up and day roadtripping or getting wasted on a weekday is the coolest with those like you (plus you can talk shit about your old job, which NO ONE else wants to hear.)
As you can see I’ve learned a few things. But one of the most powerful things I’ve learned throughout this whole year is that for me, it is really important to follow my dreams, regardless of how batshit crazy they are (you know, moving to the Middle East without any security or job or even money). They say you’re supposed to take risks and follow your heart. I did it and while being 23, laid off, and in a foreign country might seem sucky to you, it’s the door to an even awesomer journey for me.