HR Leader Spot in the Middle East? It’s Just Another Check on My Bucket List

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I applaud you for having the gumption to make this moveAre you are really going to do that?

Are you kidding me? You aren’t afraid to move to another country?

Moving to the Middle East? Bon Voyage, I am so happy for you.

All these comments came up over the past month as I completed — yes, completed! — my career bucket list.

I had always wanted a CHRO (chief human resources officer) role since the day I got involved in HR. My other checkpoint was that I wanted to live life as an expat.

Checking off the list

Lo and behold, these opportunities came in one package and allowed me to check off the last two items on my list. Career aspiration done, fineto, was how I tweeted it.

So I resigned my job and eagerly accepted the new opportunity — an opportunity that would allow me to move to another country and head up an HR department. My wife will be joining me later, and my two magnificent kids were our biggest cheerleaders. Having traveled throughout the world, this move was no big deal, really. My wife was somewhat of a skeptic, but she knew me, and, she knew what I wanted and we worked it out.

When we get out of college, we’re all in somewhat of a maze trying to figure out our path and where it will lead. Some people are more fortunate than others and some go through life on a perpetual treadmill. I remember my daughter telling me the story of some of her classmates in college changing their majors two or three times. This is every parent’s worse nightmare.

Where is your bucket list?

Just this past week my good friend, Robin Schooling, former head of HR for the Louisiana Lottery, gave it all up to check off a box on her list. I immediately sent her a note and told her that she will look back on this decision and will agree that this was her best move ever. She left the comfort zone of stability and ventured into the “unknown,” albeit with a plan.

There are so many of my colleagues that are absolutely miserable in their current jobs. Someone once told me that they start getting queasy on Sunday morning just in anticipation of Monday morning. I also know others who got a job out of college and they are still at it, although this is more government-related.

Both these scenarios are basically the same. The occupants are either bored out of their mind or they are on the career treadmill day in and day out.

I came across a blog post this week with the title, What would you do if you were not afraid? I immediately tweeted it out and sat back to see the reaction. Just as I figured, the dreams and hopes of many came alive. I could almost envision someone sitting at their desk, reading that post and looking off into the sunset and having a lovely and inspiring thought.

Just what would you do if you could not fail — which basically means, if fear did not manage your life?

When fear holds us back

I was amazed at some of the creativity and some of their things that readers chose. Fear is an obsessive blanket. It has held more people back in their endeavors than possibly any other reason.

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FDR once gave a speech that said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” I remember reading an article about people that were involved in an air crash, and they were told that the best way to deal with that fear was to confront it and fly again as soon as possible. Outside of that, you will become paralyzed, and many of us have become paralyzed just by thinking about it and how we want it so bad.

There will never be a time in our lives when that little bell will go off and say NOW is the time, because now is always the time to move ahead and conquer. It must start with a step; the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

A few of the Twitter commenters chose something totally different from their current role. My thought was, why not do it? But, I am not advocating that you walk in today and resign with no plan.

What I am saying is that each day the burning desire to accomplish that dream should get you closer to the finish line. Each day your task — whether it is research, follow up, networking, or something else — is whatever it takes to get you there.

When people talk to me about what they want to do, I immediately ask them what is their plan and what have they done to this point to get there? That is almost always met with a stare, and sometimes, with a bogus reply.

Finding the green line in life

Fidelity has a brilliant marketing campaign that stresses staying on the path and following the green line towards your investment utopia. If your career goals were set and you had that green line to follow, we would all check off that bucket list and it would be game, set, and match.

However, a lot of us look for excuses, live by excuses, and never really have our career goal in mind. Or if we do, we head off and get on a threadmill and dream and hope that someday, somehow, someone will tap us on the shoulder and say “now is the time.” Unfortunately, that will never happen.

We all have to find that green line in our life and keep moving towards it. Someday you too will be able to say, done, fineto and case closed.

So as I look outside over the grounds of my new villa in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, there is a calmness that tells me that yes, I did pick up and move halfway across the world. Hopefully, it will inspire others to follow their own green line, because it’s always time to reach for the stars.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.

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