Written by
Changeboard Team

07 Oct 2015

What drives your career ambitions?

07 Oct 2015 • by Changeboard Team

Research from Ashridge Business School found Generation Y in the GCC wants to work for organisations that develop leadership and soft skills, foster more visionary and democratic managers and advance their careers through access to education and qualifications. Last issue, we examined which soft skills were important to develop in your career. Here, research authors Carina Paine Schofield and Sue Honoré place the focus on motivation.

The prevailing economic and cultural environments have a strong influence on the drive to succeed in individuals. In the GCC countries this ‘pressure’ is very positive and can provide a strong motivational force in the workplace.

More than three-quarters of Gen Y (76%) report the pressure to succeed in their career is ‘strong’ (see figures below). The percentage of Gen Y who report a ‘strong’ pressure to succeed is highest in Qatar (80%) and the UAE (80%), and lowest in Bahrain (66%). Around half of Gen Y in Kuwait and Oman report the pressure is ‘very strong’ (50% and 52% respectively). A higher percentage of males (79%) than females (70%) report the pressure to succeed in their career is ‘strong’, and more than half of males (51%) report this pressure to be ‘very strong’. Overall, the pressure to succeed was felt most by males in the UAE (81% reported a ‘strong’ pressure to succeed).

Who is driving Generation Y to succeed in work?

Where does this pressure to succeed come from in GCC nationals? Is it extrinsic or intrinsic?

Gen Y locals who feel pressure to succeed in their careers report that the strongest drive comes from ‘myself ’ (59%).

This figure was higher for Gen Y in Kuwait (69%) and Saudi Arabia (67%) compared with other countries, and higher for females (66%) than males (56%).

Females appear to feel a stronger personal drive to succeed than males, apart from those in Kuwait. The highest figure was for females in Saudi Arabia – 81% reported the drive for success comes from themselves, compared with 58% of males agreeing. Oman also showed a strong gender difference, with 78% of females but only 54% of males agreeing.

After ‘myself ’ the next biggest driver was ‘parents and family’, which was reported by just under one-fifth of Gen Y (18%). In the UAE the influences were more evenly distributed, with 37% coming from the individuals themselves, 30% from parents and family and a strong contribution also coming from ‘society’ (14%).

‘Religion’ was more of a driver for males than females (10% and 6% respectively) and for those in Oman and Saudi Arabia (14% for both) compared with other locations.

Local Gen Y employees feel a strong drive to succeed and see that it comes from within themselves. Managers should recognise and support these ambitions. There is also a great opportunity to tap into the motivation of young women in the GCC countries.

Tips: as a highly motivated professional, how can you get ahead in your career?

Strategically network: Be thoughtful and deliberate about where you put your networking energy. Be focused and tactical in your networking strategy, ensuring that your network includes people you enjoy being with, can learn from, find challenging, or will be beneficial to your career success. Join professional organisations and social groups outside work to expand both your network and knowledge of your industry and profession.

Make and create opportunities: Gain an early opportunity to take on ‘stretch’ assignments, work internationally or join a challenging project team in an area outside your professional comfort zone. Don’t wait to be asked but look for opportunities and put yourself forward for tough, challenging projects to help get noticed within your organisation.

Be confident and prepare: If you are in a situation where you do not feel particularly confident, it is important to focus on your strengths and think positively. Preparation, planning and rehearsal will help. If you are set to deliver a presentation, think about your audience, who is involved, what’s in it for them, how will you influence them and what style and processes you will use. Ask a trusted mentor to help you prepare by simulating an event audience, and ask for tips afterwards on ways to boost your confidence and influencing skills.

Get more face time: Employees, especially Generation Y, tend to use email, instant messaging, and video to communicate, yet face time is still extremely important when interacting with management. The more your manager sees you and knows what you’re capable of, the more you’ll be viewed as a future leader. It is of paramount importance for you to develop face-to-face relationships with those who have power and influence over decisions that impact your career. Building relationships of trust and aligning yourself with these people is absolutely critical for your success.

Develop your soft skills: A good rapport can contribute to creating the right impression with senior stakeholders as it helps create trust and openness. You can often tell if you have a rapport with others as your body language will be matching and your pace and energy will be similar. Observe how people react to you and others. Make a note of what works and does not work and adjust your behaviour accordingly. If you do happen to find yourself in a situation where you are unable to influence someone, ask for feedback and guidance from others.

Finally, your voice is a vital tool in effectively communicating and influencing. Think about the pace that you speak at and the tone, projection, intonation and words you use – vary your pace to add some colour and emphasis to what you are saying.

Career drivers

With a young demographic, GCC countries are seeing more young professionals taking on senior roles and, given the right support, they are a huge asset to their organisations and the economy. A new report, A New Generation: The Success of Generation Y in GCC Countries, which is based on a survey of 300 local Gen Y employees across the six GCC countries, reveals that Gen Y is a very strongly motivated workforce.

The research from Ashridge Business School shows that 76% of GCC Gen Y locals say the pressure to succeed at work is ‘strong’, with the highest percentage coming from Qatar (80%) and UAE (80%). The strongest drive comes from their own personal ambition (59%) and is higher for females (66%) than males (56%), although parents/family and religion are also very influential (26%).

In today’s complex and competitive global workplace it is increasingly important for employees to have well-developed ‘people skills’ or ‘soft skills’, along with well-honed technical expertise.

Carina Paine Schofield, research fellow, Ashridge Business School

Carina’s interests are in the areas of psychology (cognitive, social, developmental and forensic), technology (in particular, issues surrounding trust and privacy and the effective use of technology in enhancing learning) and multi-generational workforces.


Sue Honoré, associate, Ashridge Business School

Sue has interests in multi-generational workforces, blended learning and innovation in executive education. She has researched, published and presented on a variety of business topics worldwide and worked in management in IT, logistics, finance and educational consulting. Sue holds an MSc in networked learning from
Lancaster University.