x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Surviving a family vacation: the perfect job interview

If you can manage a family summer vacation - which involves logistics, financing, quality control, team-building, safety - you can manage anything.

You can see us proudly charging through the transit halls of the world's international airports, as soon as schools are out for the summer.

At hotels, eyes turn towards us in wonder as crowds move apart to let our youthful troops through. In tourist attractions around the world, many visitors are so moved that they personally approach us to compliment our style of leadership, compassion and our unedifying courage to go on - even when the screams of discontent signal retreat.

For parents, the family holiday is an interestingly rewarding experience in many ways. But above all it's work, a kind of dress rehearsal for the rigours of corporate life. Consider the skills it takes to make it all happen.

The core goal for any parent, Emirati or otherwise, is returning home safely after reaching the end of a family holiday. That takes lots and lots of planning.

In most situations, for Emirati families especially, the father is the scout and the mother is the gatekeeper. The absolute union of leadership is essential for the completion of the mission. Working in complete harmony, the parents will guide the children safely through all stages of the holiday.

The main reward is received when the parents return home and are left with an enriched character having further developed their management and leadership skills that would impress any world leader.

This is achieved by research. Countless hours are spent studying the plan of action, and playing out multiple scenarios for each outcome. And detailed written reports about the possible vacation can take months to prepare.

Implementation comes next. The physical journey begins at the airport when the parents must take on the role of generals, where failure to adhere to instructions can be embarrassing, or even dangerous. This leadership role allows the parents to understand the managerial skills required to run a team, with treatment of each child tailored to individual needs, similar to the leadership of a capable manager.

Patience is another value that is learnt and highly valued. The parents not only learn how to execute plans but more importantly, how to be patient during times when the plan falls apart. With multiple requirements and preparatory instructions to dictate, parents use patience as their saviour in the most difficult of times.

Multitasking in an art form that is mastered when travelling with children. Picture each member of the family, each with unique needs, views and demands. Managing these competing interests requires the ability to handle numerous responsibilities simultaneously. Thinking on their feet is an hourly concern for parents, proving that they are more than capable of handling the pressure and decision-making of any job.

Upon arriving at the destination, parents then begin their role as quality control managers, ensuring that all planned experiences are as advertised or as close as possible to expectation.

Flexibility is a must. If a plan does not come through as advertised the parents are forced to ensure that their backup plan is just as effective. In any private or government position, this is a quality that is demanded by senior management and can be found in most Emirati parents thanks to their numerous children who provide adequate practice during summer vacations.

Safety is our first priority. This is the slogan for many companies in the UAE and across the world. Ensuring a safe work environment is essential in every company. For Emirati parents, like others, safety is their absolute priority during summer vacations, with zero per cent risk permitted during their travels. The dangers are endless, beginning with airport carousels, escalators, all the way to hotel elevators. With five or more children continuously challenging the laws of physics and testing every mechanical device during a one-month period, parents have no choice but to become the perfect safety administrators.

So for any manager considering an Emirati parent for any position, the endless process of recruitment can be avoided completely by asking their potential employees two questions. How many children do you have? And how many family vacations have you taken?


Taryam Al Subaihi is a freelance writer from Abu Dhabi who specialises in corporate communications