The secret of success of Manar Aburshaid

Setting goals constantly will always lead to success

19 April 2018

Newcomers in The Netherlands receive financial support from the municipality until they find a job, which can take years. Not Manar Aburshaid (1970). When he came to The Netherlands in 2015, he refused to take money from the municipality or the government. Within eight months after his arrival, he found a paying job and never took any financial support.

Q: Why did you come to The Netherlands?

“As an entrepreneur in the fashion industry, I often came to Europe for my business. After I fled Syria, I went to Belgium first. But I didn’t like the atmosphere there and decided to go to Luxembourg. There are a lot of multinational companies there, I thought it would be easy for me to find work. On my way to Luxembourg, I stopped in Amsterdam and had a great time there. Everybody spoke English, people were nice, it was sunny… I loved the atmosphere and decided to ask for asylum there’’.

Q: How did you end up in Rotterdam?

“My wife, who was still in Syria with our children, insisted that we’d find a place to live in a large city. We lived in Damascus, so moving to a small town was no option for us. Unfortunately, the Dutch government doesn’t let you decide where you want to live. They assign you a house at random. However, if you can prove that you have ties with an area, they’ll send you there.

I wanted to live in Rotterdam for three reasons:
– My children went to the international school in Damascus. There is a school just like that in Rotterdam
– Enough big companies to find employment
– The international atmosphere.

To make sure I would get a house in Rotterdam, I signed up my children for the school there. As soon as they were allowed to come to The Netherlands, they could immediately start school. The Dutch government said this wasn’t enough for me to get a house there. So I tried to find my own house in Rotterdam, without interference of the government. The company “Stichting Nieuw Thuis Rotterdam” (SNTR) had 200 houses available for refugees, but they couldn’t give me one without bypassing the system. They did offer me a job though.”

Q: You asked for a house and ended up with a job? How?

“The company saw my potential. I have an American business bachelor’s degree, so my English is excellent. I did a lot of volunteering with COA, the organization responsible for refugees, so I already had a lot of experience in helping refugees and understood how the housing system worked. When I came here, I had one goal: I wanted to find a job as soon as possible. I didn’t want to wait around and waste time. So while I was waiting to get my residence permit, I started my day at 6am every day and went to bed at 10pm. I stayed in my work rhythm. Every day at 8am I went to the offices at the asylum center and offered my services. At first they didn’t trust me, but I just kept showing up, helping refugees and working as a translator for the Dutch officials.

Slowly they started to trust me and gave me more work to do. I was busy every day from 8am to 5pm. I volunteered as a translator, mediator and trainer. I gave presentations about the rules in The Netherlands and helped people with the housing procedure. With this experience, it was easy to get a job at SNTR. It was the same kind of work as I did at the center, but now I got paid.”

The secret of success is to keep setting goals for yourself. Look at other people who are successful. Talk to people. Set your goals and find out how you can achieve them. You need to rebuild your CV and network. We need to show people we are serious workers, we are not here to play around.

Manar Aburshaid

Experienced manager in procurement, sales & marketing

Q: How did you motivate yourself to work so hard?

“A lot of people in the asylum center stayed up late, playing cards and talking. They slept in and didn’t do much during the day. I knew I had to stay active to reach my goals. My wife and children were still in Syria. My oldest son was almost 18, and I wanted to have him here safely before his 18th birthday. Otherwise he would have to join the army and he could get killed.

So I needed to get a house and a job as soon as possible, to save my family from the war. This was of course a very strong motivation. But I also refused to see myself as a refugee. I tried to see this as another business trip to Europe, I had to achieve certain goals. I wanted to be free.

I didn’t want to depend on the Dutch government. In the Dutch refugee system you have to wait a lot. Thousands of refugees are in the asylum seekers centres, doing nothing, but waiting. Wait for the Immigration Services to look at your application. Wait for help. Wait for a house. Wait for money. Wait for language school. Wait for someone to tell you what to do.

I felt detained in the system, so I refused to wait and created my own life. I set goals and worked hard to achieve all of them. By the time my family was allowed to come, I was able to rent a house from the private sector and provide for them because I had a job.”

Q: What is your secret? Did you create this situation by yourself, or were you just lucky?

“I feel very blessed. Of course luck had a big part in achieving my goals. But for the most part I created my own luck. All my travels and my work during peacetime prepared me for these dark days. I didn’t have a culture shock, I was already familiar with the European culture. Language wasn’t really a big problem, because I speak English very well. I quickly understood how the Dutch system worked, so I knew what I could and couldn’t do.

And I didn’t do it by myself. I had a lot of help from Dutch people, they were very willing in assisting me to reach my goals. I know a lot of refugees have bad experiences and have to deal with racism, but I only had pleasant encounters.

Q: What advice can you give refugees who have problems reaching their goals?

“In Syria, the sky is the limit. But in The Netherlands the whole system is slow in responding to your needs. There are too many regulations and bureaucracy here and you need to speak the language to prevent misunderstandings between yourself and the institutions you interact with.

Because refugees don’t understand the language, it is hard to understand the system. You need to learn the language as soon as possible. The Dutch government gives you three years, but you can do it in a couple of months. Put all your energy in going to school and practice a lot at home. You need to finish this period in your life as quickly as possible. Once you are finished with learning the language, you can focus on the future and leave all this behind you. But language is only one part. I speak the language, I have a bachelor’s from an American university, I know the culture and it is still difficult. My life here might seem easy, but I worked very hard.

The secret of success is to keep setting goals for yourself. Look at other people who are successful. Talk to people. Set your goals and find out how you can achieve them. You need to rebuild your CV and network. We need to show people we are serious workers, we are not here to play around.

You don’t need the government or municipality to give you something. You can get everything yourself. Even if you get a job that is not as good as the one you had in your own country, providing for yourself or your family builds self esteem. Doing things the right way gives you self worth. You don’t have to hide. You should live freely.

In the center people asked me why I was coming to work so early and not even getting paid. I told them it gave me joy. What you give is what you will get. I knew the power of giving would turn around one day and give me back a lot of luck in return. And it did.”

Q: ​ Do you consider yourself successful?

“I have achieved some successes here. I am financially independent. My family is safe. We live in a great city. I am very proud that I have a job, I enjoy doing social work. But professionally, I need to succeed within the business world.

I have a background in management, sales & production in the fashion industry. I still have a big network in the Middle East, and my goal would be eventually to help Dutch or European companies to enter the market there. I have a lot of experience in closing deals and am willing to help companies to achieve staggering successes. I’d love to meet companies from any business sector who might have interest in the Middle East markets.

Do you have a business interest in the Middle East and do you want to connect with Manar? Please check out his LinkedIn profile here.

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