How this CA from Dubai moved to India and overcame the challenges of finding a job back home
- “Let me go to a foreign country for some years, mint some money and then settle back in my home country”. Most of you reading may have had this thought at least once, well, I have had a reverse journey as compared to most of you.
- Hi, I am Prerna Jain, an Indian Chartered Accountant. I was brought up in Dubai and moved to India at the age of 17 to pursue CA from ICAI, India.
- If you too are working as an Expat and now want to start your career in India, you are in for a treat!
- Here is my journey of how after living in Dubai all my life, I moved back to India and overcame challenges in finding a job.
Living in Dubai and deciding to pursue Indian CA
I am an Indian but raised in Dubai, UAE & Muscat, Oman (A true Gulf kid).
When it was time to decide on my career path, I went ahead with Chartered Accountancy from India.
I know what you are thinking: Why pursue CA when Dubai serves as an exam center for CPA USA? Why come to India when the India CA Institute has a branch in Dubai too?
My dad, also a finance professional was of the opinion that the Indian CA course would help me greatly if I ever considered moving back to India. To add, Indian CAs are very recognized in Dubai.
With that intention, after grade 12, even though I could pursue my CA from ICAI in Dubai, in order to get a first-hand experience of the Indian Tax Laws and for better practical exposure during my articles, I moved to India. Also studying in India was way more cost-effective!
Returning to Dubai only to move back to India!
Fast forward, I qualified as a CA in 2017 and returned to Dubai to stay with my parents.
While I was there, I worked with BDO International, UAE (World’s fifth largest consultancy firm) as a Senior Associate Assurance for almost a year.
In July 2018, I decided to get married to my longtime boyfriend, an entrepreneur based out of Pune, India.
Alas, I had to take a heart-hitting decision of moving to India permanently. (We all know: love can make us do crazy things).
I took a comfortable 6 months break post marriage and then the inevitable search for a job began!
Exact challenges I faced in finding a job after moving from Dubai to India
Let me tell you about the challenges I faced during this phase of job-search and how you can overcome it:
1. Technical Upgradation
The laws in India change with every 'Financial Budget'.
For someone like me who had experience as a statutory auditor in Dubai (a country with no tax laws), I was no use to the potential recruiters in India.
Learning multiple changes to Tax laws that occurred while I was away, needed a process of unlearning and then relearning.
Finally, changing my field to Internal Audit was what added a boost to my career. This field did not require deep knowledge of any set of tax laws but only Auditing standards that were the same across the world. Internal Audit has a huge potential in on-job learning.
- If possible, plan your decision of shifting back to India at least a year in advance.
- In the meantime, assess whether your current skill set is enough to give you a steady job in India. If not, you can always use online learning platforms like Udemy, Coursera, etc. to give you a base for new skills.
- Probably, you can switch jobs in your current country to gain experience that will help you settle easily in India.
- Most recruiters try to assess how well-versed you are about the current affairs of India even though it may not be required as per your job description. Read the impact that the last 2 budgets have bought on the country, ongoing share market ups & downs, etc
2. Knowing my worth and refusing jobs that would not bring out my potential
I was offered a job for a data analyst position which after careful thought I happily refused! (In situations like these, we may be tempted to jump over any job that is thrown our way, but have patience!)
Instead, I choose a contract job of 6 months (Vodafone) over that permanent job because it was offering a better profile & salary.
At least with that, answering “What is your last drawn salary in rupees?” to hiring HRs just became easier and benchmarking helped me in better negotiations with Kirloskar (more on it later).
- Analyze whether the role you are offered requires your level of experience/degree and whether you can be replaced with a cheaper resource/less qualified resource. If so, you will always end up being more expensive to the company and the first one to be slaughtered during cost-cuts.
- It is important to make a future growth tracker of the role. If this role cannot train you for a better profile in a few years, a higher chance to you will be stuck in the same position for a very long time.
3. Fall in Salary
This is more of a mental challenge I faced. Even though I was aware that every country has different inflation rates and earning in Dubai won’t be the same as India, facing reality can be difficult. I could not demand the same level of salary in India as I did in Dubai.
- Analyze what an average person with your level of experience in the same geographical area will earn in India. Benchmark your salary expectations in the same range.
- Make sure to negotiate well because the salary you accept today, will be used to benchmark your future salary growth rates.
- As a small tip, most companies have a few rounds before finalizing a candidate. During your initial rounds, try to understand the team’s exact expectations from the new resource. Later, while negotiating salary, try to prove how only you can fulfill those expectations better than others. There is always a higher chance the hiring manager will accept it even though you lack some technical skillset if you are able to market yourself well.
4. Building Connections
This is a must!! In the current world, not only “What you Know” but also “Who you know” equally important when it comes to finding the right job.
Networking is the need of this era! You never know which connection can end up being super useful to you while you are on a job chase. Moreover, intellectual discussions will be helpful in technically upgrading yourself.
Investing in relationships will take you to places where even knowledge may not.
Being an extrovert, making connections is not a difficult challenge for me. However, for all you introverts out there, I know it’s hard to be the first one to start a small talk but don’t let this be the barrier in your flourishing career.
- LinkedIn can prove to be very useful in building professional relationships. In fact, I got a good response to a linked post I shared stating I was looking out for jobs.
- Attend seminars/ Youth conferences/Leadership training and other professional meets which connects you to the right set of people
- Meet influential people via your relatives/ colleagues etc.
Overcoming obstacles and first job breakthrough a 6-months contract
Trust me, with a 130Cr population that India has, when you search for jobs constrained to a geographical location (in my case, Pune), it can become tiresome.
The question, “Why should we hire you?” came haunting to me even in my dreams.
Yes, I was good at my work and had a lot of potential, but didn’t everyone applying for the job have the same?
Yes, I knew 2 Internationally used languages (Arabic and French) but it wasn’t a mandatory requirement for any of the companies I was applying for!
Yes, I had an International work culture exposure but didn’t every candidate who had worked for a global company in India have that already?
Having never really seen many failures in life, such rejections hit me hard!
I regretted shifting to India, giving up all the luxuries Dubai had to offer. I became full of self-doubt.
Nevertheless, I got my first breakthrough a 6-months contract with Vodafone Shared Services (VISPL) as SOX Control Auditor.
After working at Vodafone for a few months, I realised my contract was about to end.
I even tried to get a permanent position in Vodafone, however, my number of years of post-qualification experience did not fit the permanent position requirement.
All they could offer me were multiple extensions to my contract until I finally reach the desired experience bracket...which of course did not make sense!
Hunt to find the ideal 'permanent job' in India
Initially, I kept trying to dodge away from Consultancy firms (e.g. Big4s) because I wanted a better work-life balance, however, when I realized my contract was soon to end with no alternate job in the pipeline, I decided to give it a try.
Based on my profile I was asked to interview for a statutory auditor role in a Big 4, alas, my rusted technical skills decided to give up that very minute, failing me miserably in that interview.
In many interviews, I reached the final round, just to hear the same old drill that either 'I was expecting way too much salary' or 'that they had identified a more experienced resource than me.'
Urgh, frustrating I tell you.
The same day as I accepted the extension to my Vodafone contract, I received a Pre-offer letter stating monetary benefits from Kirloskar Brothers Ltd as an Associate Manager.
Woohoo!! Finally, a ray of sunshine somewhere!
In fact, I had given this interview nearly 2 months back via Naukri.com and had no hopes left from it. A few negotiations later, I finally accepted the offer.
(Tip: Naukri.com did play the Genie here, also it turned out to be a very useful tool in getting a lot of job interviews for me)
Now it has been almost a year since I have been working with Kirloskar Brothers Ltd. My profile not only enhances my technical skill set and an excellent team to work with but also provides some good travel opportunities.
All-in-All, Jean-Jacques Rousseau rightly said, ‘Patience is bitter, but the fruit is sweet!’
Questions I get asked most often.
“Should you pursue an Indian CA or CPA if based in Dubai?”
Well, both ways work equally fine.
In my opinion, since Dubai doesn’t offer citizenship and one day you may need to shift back to India, it is preferable to do India CA. It will give you a safe cushion to fall back on during hard times. CPA can be easily completed once you have finished CA.
“How did you keep yourself motivated when faced with challenges?”
Family support and being mentally prepared are the only things that came into use during such days. My family was always extending soothing arms for comfort when I faced rejections. Moreover, I was aware of the competition I had around me. I knew it would not be easy to convince the hiring manager why I wanted a certain salary or why I knew I had the potential.
“Why were you okay taking a contract job?”
That myth has busted in the current times. In fact, there are a lot of CAs who freelance and work on a project basis with many MNCs. Moreover, the team I was working with, had nearly all qualified CAs too.
“Was your experience in Dubai included in India?”
The experience definitely added to my personal skillset. However, when it came to interviews and since I was shifting my profile, the experience wasn’t considered very much.
Changing jobs or countries is not a big deal considering the world is one big economy now.
Being proactive is the key to safeguard your professional decisions.
Go out there, chase your dreams and when you are tired, you know where the home belongs!
Now It's Your Turn...
What challenges are you facing in your job hunt? Have you had to relocate back to your home country from a foreign land?
Comment below and let us know.
Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you'd like to share?
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org in the first instance.