In one of the treks organised by the people behind Oman Outdoor Adventure which I joined recently, I got into an interesting discussion with one of the participants about the availability of jobs in Oman.
This is actually what I love about going in these adventures — it gives me the opportunity to meet people — Omanis and expats alike from different sectors of the industry — and we discuss about anything under the sun while walking. (People are really chatty when their feet are busy.)
In this discussion, the young Omani was complaining that not enough opportunities are given to them and he hopes that more jobs will be made available especially to the fresh graduates like him.
Knowing that the government has different initiatives in place especially in support of small and medium enterprises, I proposed to him the idea of starting his own business.
Having worked almost all my life in corporate, I told him that what I learned over the years is that if there is no opportunity, one has to make one. So if companies are not giving him a job, it’s even much better if he can create one for himself and his peers.
I also told him that the government has the capability to give him a loan (which is in fact in effect in the country today). I told him that all a young person has to do is think of something that aligns with government programmes and creates a business that would benefit from government’s efforts especially in industries where much of the focus is being placed on.
The long discussion delves into tourism and how it is becoming one of the most important industries the Sultanate is tapping into today.
“What do you think the tourism industry is lacking these days,” I quizzed him. And so began my long narrative about how historical ruins without context are just stones on the ground and with Oman rich in history and heritage sites, there is a need for people who can tell factual, reliable stories.
“Most people who serve as tour guides are expats,” he said.
“Why do you think that is?” I asked.
He is aware of course that registered tour guides earn quite handsomely especially during the peak months in the winter season.
“Is there anything embarrassing about a business that offers tour guides services? And why is it that expats can tell your country’s story better than you?” I asked.
The reason we discussed business in tourism is that he has always seen himself as an outdoor person and having visited almost all interesting places in Oman, it just makes sense to launch a business that aligns with his interest.
“It sounds like a lot of work,” he said.
“Everything usually is, in the beginning,” I retorted.
The discussion went on for a while. We navigated different waters, talked about different opportunities until we reached our destination.
“I’ve never really thought of owning a business. I feel like having one requires a lot from a young person,” he said.
So I told him that when you are working for something you are passionate about, it doesn’t usually feel like work. I told him the story of Haytham, the student who now runs his own business.
“He’s just a kid who loves to skate and skating is technically something frowned upon in Oman. But he figured out a way on how he can create an opportunity for himself and better serve a segment of society that is underserved in Oman,” I said.
“Yes, it is a lot of work. Imagine, he has to take a loan from his Dad. Instead of using the money for a car, he decided to invest it in a business. Every day, he goes to school, has to employ a friend to watch the store and the skating park in the morning while he is away and then work from 6 pm until midnight. If you think about it, it is a lot of work but based on our conversation, not a day he regretted anything cause now, skaters have a place to go,” I added.
I explained to him that sometimes, young people complain about not having an opportunity but not really looking at possibilities. I also shared that as a young person with so much energy in him, he still has the power to change the direction of things.
“Not all people get lucky and are freely handed things,” I said, drawing from my own personal experience.
“If it is work you are looking for, it is everywhere. But most of the time they require you to get your hands dirty. It also usually begins with the first step and above all, it requires courage and understanding that even if you fail, you just have to work until you no longer feel you are a failure,” I ended saying.