Two weeks ago, Irene Bedoyan settled down for a good night’s sleep. The next night, in her Beirut office on the 13th floor of a staffing firm called Recruiters, the world had changed.
“We started to hear bombs and stuff,” Bedoyan says. “We didn’t know what was going on. One night we were sleeping and the next night we have war in Lebanon. We were really devastated. We thought we were going to have an excellent summer, and Hezbollah went and screwed up our lives.”
Bedoyan’s firm Recruiters is a subsidiary of a parent company called Operators, which does business in Lebanon as well as Egypt, Qatar, and other Arab countries.
What Recruiters does when filling jobs — interior designers, accountants, sales managers, engineers, and others — isn’t all that different from what recruiters do in the West. The firm builds up a collection of resumes by attending job fairs,?and taking out ads in Lebanon Opportunities and elsewhere.
Bedoyan’s clients let her know of a job; she sends out twice-weekly job notifications to candidates. She looks through her database for appropriate matches and after a basic screen to make sure the resumes are on the up-and-up, she sends the matches, without?contact?information,?to the employer.
Once the bombing began, Recruiters’ list of jobs shrunk. “No one has the money to hire anyone,” she says. In fact, she says, “We don’t know if we are going to get paid. Many companies are paying half salaries. I don’t know what’s going on.” ?
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Procter & Gamble, she says, temporarily moved its operations to Egypt, and Phillip Morris to Dubai. Her employees stopped working, but are now coming back. One thing preventing some Beirut employees from coming back at this point, she says, is their parents’ safety concerns. “It’s not like in the States — all of us, unfortunately, live with our parents until we are married,” she says, laughing.
Bedoyan says that her country is divided about Hezbollah, a group that for years has been firing rockets into Israel and has killed Americans. (One of its leaders is one of America’s biggest enemies.) “Some of us are against Hezbollah and some of us are with. Someone I just hung up on the phone with [supports] them. I don’t want to hear about them. The Sunni and the Christian and the Druse, we are against. You have Shia who are against them as well. Generally where we live, where I work, we are against. The county is in ruins. The country is broken in two. We don’t work and it’s because of them.”
Meanwhile, she’s frustrated by the way Americans see her country portrayed in the media. “What you see on CNN and what you see on the [rest of the] news — it’s totally different than here. They think that all of us have a veil on our head. CNN shows that part of Lebanon. They show these ignorant people, they throw rocks. They don’t film Lebanon when we don’t have wars.”
Over the last few years, a lot has changed for Bedoyan and for Lebanon. Personally, while still disinterested in politics, she says it’s now hard not to keep her eyes on the news. Professionally, the recruiting field blossomed, in some ways a bit as it did in the United States around the year 2000. She brought her optimism, realism, and endearing sense of humor to America at that time. Though she returned to Lebanon, Bedoyan says, “Now I wish I didn’t.”