I’ve been living in Lebanon for around a year and a half now..and during that time, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve met a few people, experienced a few things, and asked a ton of questions. You know, cause I’m curious like that. And after the positive feedback I received from my tips on finding a job in Lebanon, I decided to take it one step further and come up with a list of what I consider to be the top 5 emerging careers in Lebanon.
This is one of my longer post..but still, well worth the read.
So without further ado, here it goes:
#5. Alternative Medicine/Natural Health Practitioner – I’m a firm believer in Alternative Medicine and Natural Health Care. Probably because I come from a family of advocates who place Alternative Medicine/Natural Health Care Practioners above Traditional Doctors. I’ll admit, I was a bit skeptical about it at first..we’re talking about naturopathy, herbalism, chinese medicine, Ayurveda, meditation, reiki, biofeedback, hypnosis, homeopathy, acupuncture, and nutritional-based therapies here. But after seeing what Alternative Medicine has done for me, my Mom, and especially my brother (who was born with the unfortunate allergy to both corn and eggs), you could call me a believer! Even the makeup I wear is plant based..but hey, that’s a discussion for another time. Back to the point.
Perhaps the most appealing thing about Alternative Medicine/Natural Health Care, is that it’s rooted in “preventative care” and is more about finding solutions to problems than creating temporary (and oftentimes addictive) fixes. (It’s these temporary fixes that keep Traditional Doctors and Pharmaceutical Companies in business afterall..they aren’t interested in curing anybody).
Now from what I know of Lebanese society, the majority of people are over-reliant on their pharmacist/family doctor, and have spent their lives popping pills for even the slightest problem. In addition to that, many people place great emphasis on looking good..even if they go about achieving it in the wrong way (starving themselves, taking diet pills, plastic surgery..etc etc). That being said, I think that slowly but surely people in Lebanon are becoming more aware of the benefits of leading a natural, healthy lifestyle..and eventually, they will begin seeking out (professionally trained) Alternative Medicine/Natural Health Care practicioners as they become frustrated with the shortcomings of traditional, western medicine. In conjunction with this, I think that dietitians and nutritionists like Paty M of Paty M’s Nutrition World, will begin to be in a lot higher demand,.. and schools and workplaces may even start to offer courses in nutrition..as healthy students/employees = more productive students/employees (ok maybe this last part is a bit of a pipe dream.)
#4. Visual Merchandiser – For a society as obsessed with looks and appearances as Lebanese society, I’m really surprised that local businesses don’t take designing their stores and store fronts more seriously! I’ve seen some pretty bad examples of visual merchandising from very well known brands in Lebanon, and to me..this is just unacceptable! Designing a display window and store that is visually appealing is a HUGE part of owning a business..especially a retail business! Shopping is SUCH a visual experience, hence why visual merchandising is so important.
Wikipedia defines visual merchandising as, ”the activity of promoting the sale of goods, especially by their presentation in retail outlets. This includes combining products, environments, and spaces into a stimulating and engaging display to encourage the sale of a product or service. It has become such an important element in retailing that a team effort involving senior management, architects, merchandising managers, buyers, the visual merchandising director, industrial designers, and staff is needed.”
Many other elements are a part of the visual merchandising process. These include color, lighting, space, product information, sensory inputs (such as smell, touch, and sound), as well as technologies such as digital displays and interactive installations. (source)
Before opening a store, or with the arrival of a new collection business owners/store managers really need to work with their team to map out the customer journey in their store. Visual merchandising, when done correctly, can really impact sales and encourage repeat business.
I know a lot of very talented people in Lebanon who are into fashion, architecture and interior architecture, and design. I really think that visual merchandising could be a very viable career option for these type of creative/artistic people..even if on a freelance or consultancy basis. I mean let’s say you have 5 retail clients who come out with three different collections every year.. that could translate into a lot of work (and $$!). Not to mention how dynamic, interesting, and fun this field must be to work in. When I used to work in retail, it was always the visual merchandisers who inspired the most awe..I really wish I had what it takes to do this job!
#3. Human Resource Manager – In Lebanon, Human Resources consists of scolding people when they’re late, and sending out a company wide email to let everyone know when someone has a sick/vacation day off. Unless you work for a multi-national company, HR doesn’t really exist..and if it does, the people in the position of HR Manager are not qualified (most of the time).
There is no such thing as organizational design and development, employee motivation (key performance indicators), morale building, employee retention efforts, or career planning. (Career planning is the kicker for me. If you can’t show someone how they are going to grow within your organization..or if you don’t reward someone for showing initiative, what reason do they have to remain within your company? NONE!) In my opinion, this is why there is such a high rate of turnover in Lebanese companies -because people (especially young people) just move from company to company for as little as a couple hundred dollars pay increase..when they likely would have stayed had they been given more recognition for a job well done, and perhaps a roadmap of when they could expect to receive their next raise. Offering somebody a raise and a title change after they’ve decided to put in their notice, is just not the right way to do things..yet, I hear stories like this all too often!!
The reason that Lebanese companies have neglected investing in/developing a Human Resource department is likely for the following few reasons:
- Financial – maybe the company doesn’t have the means necessary to hire a Human Resources professional (or maybe they’re just cheap, and don’t understand the value of an HR Manager). If that is the case, someone within the company needs to take charge of all of the key HR functions to ensure a happy, productive employee base and a low rate of turnover..or they need to outsource their needs to a HR consultancy (if that even exists in Lebanon).
- Available pool of talent – it’s no secret that Lebanon produces some of the best and brightest and most linguistically gifted. Because of this, many employers would rather let a good employee go in favor of hiring someone willing to do the work for less (like fresh graduates).
If you’ve worked in Lebanon, you’ve either experienced what I’m talking about, or know someone who has. That being said, I think that there will be a major “paradigm shift” in the near future concerning how employers view the role of the Human Resource Manager within their companies..as we’ve come to a point in this global competitive landscape where companies cannot afford not to have the best people on their team. I see a bright future for people studying, or looking to work as Human Resource Managers in Lebanon..as well as people who want to open a Human Resource Consultancy.
#2. Social Media Strategist/Specialist – Gary Vaynerchuk said it best when he said that “99.5% of Social Media Experts are clowns. If you’re into social media and you don’t know who Gary V is, look him up. (Right Youssef? haha)
Listen. Having a blog, facebook profile and/or page, twitter and linkedin account does NOT make you a social media expert/strategist/specialist/scholar/extraordinaire..whatever you want to call it. Although, I will admit that it’s a good place to start. But unless you have at least 4 or 5 SUCCESSFUL social media campaigns under your belt, I really don’t recommend referring to yourself as an expert..you’re an enthusiast at best.
Let’s be real, most people out there masquerading as social media experts have no idea what the hell they’re talking about. But to be fair, this definitely has something to do with the constant evolution of the title, and the confusion over the different phases and parts of the social media lifecycle. For example, someone could be a great social media strategist, but a really average community manager..and vice versa.. From my experience, this is because people who build strategies usually don’t like to execute, and people who like to execute don’t usually like to build strategies. Despite this, both people need to have a very good idea of what the other person does. (See where this gets confusing??) And I haven’t even begun to discuss all of the different elements that go into a truly superb social media campaign (design, copywriting and content strategy, development, planning, media…etc etc)..
For now, I think it’s accurate to say that social media is still in its infancy in Lebanon. Yes there are a smattering of agencies and brands who have tapped into the wealth of social media, but for the most part..the Lebanese market is wayyyy behind. Brands (and agencies) are still obsessed with traditional advertising (print, outdoor, TV, and radio)..and only a very small percentage of advertising/marketing budgets are allocated to online/digital activations.
This presents a great, yet challenging opportunity for people who work or want to work in social media. If you’re in the field right now, you have first mover advantage..but that being said, it can be a real uphill climb educating Lebanese clients on the benefits of social media, as well as the associated COSTS! Lebanese clients don’t seem to want to understand that social media requires time, effort, and (here’s the kicker) MONEY! It’s not a job for an intern, and it’s not something you tack onto the responsibilities of an employee who already has a heavy work-load..
Yet at the same time, proving your expertise can be difficult..since up until now, there is no formal training in social media..much of what people know is self-taught through personal use, and trial and error..so be ready to put some serious work into proving your worth even before the actual work begins!
There are various career paths for people looking to work in social media. You could work at a number of advertising or digital agencies, you could work in-house for a particular brand/company, or you could freelance with a few different clients. Whatever you end up choosing, be careful not to take on too much..and really make sure that you are passionate about the brands/clients you are working for. If you don’t believe in the brand/company yourself, no one will believe in you or the online presence you create for them.
Eventually, people who work in any and all communication fields (Corporate Communication, PR, Advertising) will be expected to be social media “specialists” in their own right. But I don’t see that happening for a long time..so to those of you who REALLY know a thing or two about social media, I say MILK IT while you still can.
#1. Hospitality Retail Manager/Customer Service Consultant – The Lebanese may be the ‘Kings (and Queens) of Hospitality’ in their own homes..but I can’t say the same for restaurants and other service oriented business (especially retail!). Generally speaking, the people who work in the service industry are grossly underpaid (much like everyone in Lebanon) and undertrained (which is the fault of management). So I can understand how they are not incentivized to work any harder than putting food on a table and ringing up a purchase.
As someone who has worked in a retail environment and in a restaurant/hotel environment, I’m oftentimes sorely disappointed at the lack of training and general disinterest of people working in these roles. I mean, if you don’t like working with or serving people, what the hell are you doing working as a waitress? And this goes for international chains operating in Lebanon as well! I’ll never forget this one time I went to return a dress at H&M in Hamra. The cashier looked at me as if I had asked him to run a marathon. “Do you really want to return this?” he said to me? “Ummm YES!..that’s why I’m here!” I said back. You HAVE to read @ebyking‘s post about his recent shopping experience..and while you’re at it..read @ivysblog post about her “unfortunate incident at Aishti outlet in Ashrafieh.”
I mean, I just don’t get it. Don’t restaurant/business owners understand that your employees are as important to your business as the quality of whatever it is that you serve or sell? I mean, HELLO! This is especially true for very high-end restaurants and stores who you would THINK understand the value of their waitstaff/sales people..but if anything it’s the opposite!!…you go in expecting so much (given what you’re paying and the place’s international rep), and come out with a slap in the face thinking…”Well, what the hell was that? What a waste!”
The market is ripe for people who want to work in hospitality, F&B management, and customer service training and consultancy. Many high-end hotels and international retail chains are hiring (very expensive) consultants from abroad to help streamline their processes and manage their operations. I say, put together your own consultancy and take advantage of this opportunity! Lebanon is very well-known for its shopping, nightlife, and entertainment even with these problems. Imagine what Lebanon could be if these issues were improved/fixed!!
Whewww! ..if you’ve made it all this way, congratulations! I know it was a long ride. (I totally ignored Loryne’s tip about not writing long posts. oh well! I ain’t perfect!).
Now it’s your turn..I want to hear your opinion of my picks and any that I may have left out!