Thinking about switching careers? UAE Residents Share Tips
A lot of people daydream about quitting their office job. But, for most people, that’s all it ever will be – a day dream. Financial restrictions, personal responsibilities and visa concerns are just some of the reasons people stay in safe positions – no matter whether they feel passionately about them or even like them, for that matter. But there are ways to move from one career to another, in a calculated, planned way. Some UAE residents tell us how it can be done.
From writing to training
“Why sign your life away with one career?” asks UAE-resident Devinder Bains. “It’s a good thing to know that you can change your mind somewhere down the line.”
Having worked in the field of journalism for 18 years before starting her own personal fitness company Fit Squad (www.fitsquaddxb.com) two years ago, she is a shining example that one’s career does not always need to fit a neat little box. Hailing from the UK, Devinder was working in The Sun, when an article about changing careers inspired her to take up a seven-month part-time course as a personal trainer. So, when she moved to Dubai four years ago, she continued to work as a journalist – while training friends for free, on the side.
“It was something I was really passionate about – helping other people get fit,” she explains. “It was only when I realised that I could make it work financially that I decided to go into Fit Squad full time. And I think this is key – to have money saved up. Starting a second career can already be stressful – if you have to worry about money, it is doubly so. You need to remove that cost element.”
While Fit Squad was up and running (excuse the pun), Devinder’s love for journalism also drew her to work as a freelancer on the side. Which is how she ended up getting another licence for her writing – and ended up with two equally thriving careers. Was it difficult to get back to her first career after a hiatus? “Not at all – if you have a good foundation in that career,” she says. “If you leave the industry on good terms and with a good reputation, you can find a way to return. If you’re good at what you do, you can always return should your alternate career fail – but don’t ever think you’re going to fail!”
Interestingly, in Devinder’s case, her career in fitness actually helped her career as a writer, as she soon started getting more offers to write health and fitness stories. “I’ve never been busier,” she says. “I get a lot of fitness writing work because I’m now seen as an expert in two fields. There aren’t a lot of people like me who’s been a writer for 18 years and is also a personal trainer. Also, when I’m working on Fit Squad’s website or blog, this gives me the opportunity to use my first career. Both skills have gone hand-in-hand – far better than I could have imagined.”
From HR to singing
As a former Human Resources professional, Anupam Nair has a keen insight on what employers are looking for. So, when asked about whether a change in careers looks bad on a CV, he is quick to answer. “When I worked in recruitment in HR, one of the things we looked out for was reliability,” he says. “But a change in career is very normal in this generation. What’s more important is a person’s attitude. People can always learn and if they are hardworking, the rest is history.”
Although he happened to ‘stumble into a career in HR’, Anupam admits that he did enjoy it – from teaching people in the office to organising training events. However, it was also HR was encouraged him to pursue his other passion – music.
“HR is all about bringing out the passion of a person and getting them more engaged to the company. And deep down, when I was telling employees that, I knew I felt more for my music. Although it started out as a hobby, it was something I have always been passionate about. I was always taking part in competitions in college and university. Then, there came a time in my life when I had to make a choice.”
At first, Anupam and his band Rooh started performing on weekends, but would not be able to take any gigs out of town because of job restrictions. However, when Bollywood discovered their talent and started opening up to them, Anupam realised he had no choice but take up music full-time. The risk has paid off – today, Rooh has worked with Yash Raj Films and performed at a number of local events. They’ve also shared the stage with international artists and have found their own niche within a multicultural environment.
“It’s actually a career in HR that helped me take the leap,” says Anupam. “Because true employee engagement only comes when you feel for the job. Money can make you feel good for some time, but after a few days, you’re back to square one. It is a mediocre way of looking at things.”
That being said, he also believes that passion can only take you only so far – you also need to be smart about a career jump. “You have to know how to market yourself. You have to know who your audience is and how you can reach them.”
From an architect to an artist
Reenu Serene always knew she wanted to draw. “As a child, I was always into doodling,” she says. “When I got bored of pen and paper, I would draw on any other surface I got. I always knew I wanted to be in a field where I could draw all the time – which how I drifted towards a career in architecture. It was more practical, you see.”
While it may have been practical, the restraints of a nine-to-five job just weren’t her cup of tea. Reenu worked in the field of architecture for five years while living in India, and also got a job in the same field when she moved to Dubai two years ago. But somewhere during this time, she discovered her love for ‘customisation’.
“One day I happened to create this sketch on a pair of shoes and put up a picture on social media – and in the span of about an hour, I got around 12 orders,” she explains. “So I started customising shoes, denim jackets, cups – anything that was available, really.”
She and her husband Rintu decided to take the leap last year, and set up the customisation company PiPo MoMa, with her handling the creative side, and he handling the corporate side of the business. Reenu is the first to admit that giving up a secure, salaried job in order to try something so different was absolutely terrifying.
“My parents still don’t understand what I do,” she laughs. “It is very scary and the first year is the hardest. But if you can survive that, things get better.”
While ‘Pursue your passion’ is an adage that is commonly heard, it does not mean one can simply throw caution to the wind, adds Reenu. “Honestly, I think it is the worst way to go about a business. It is just not how the market runs. It takes two years for a business to make its mark. At that time, you have to pay for food and rent. So, it’s important to have a bigger vision of what you want, and sort out your finances. Finally, trust yourself.”
From media to yoga to baking
Kamilla Omarzay is a woman who knows how to take risks – although, if asked about it, she humbly brushes it away. “I get bored easily,” she laughs. “I’m a Gemini and I like trying new things – it kindles my fire.”
Originally from Afghanistan but raised in the UAE, Kamilla started her career in the media, where she worked for years selling advertisements. She then decided to take a career break to become a yoga teacher, and also took her love for fitness to the next level by becoming a certified personal trainer.
“Health and fitness have always been very close to my heart,” she says. “But somehow it still didn’t feel right as a career. I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I got an editing job. But in 2016, I was made redundant – it came out of nowhere and really threw me off.”
It was a trying time for her, but when life gave her lemons, she made healthy lemon tarts, so to speak! “I’ve always loved healthy eating,” she says. “I’m a self-taught baker, and I just started by trying different recipes – energy balls, raw treats and cookies. It wasn’t always easy – for every 10 recipes I try, I’d say about two of them didn’t turn out well.”
Kamilla started creating desserts that were free from gluten, dairy, refined sugar, additives and preservatives and, as people started contacting her to place orders, went on to get a food licence in the UAE. In 2016, Snack Society, which uses wholesome ingredients like coconut, buckwheat, tapioca and almond as flour substitutes, was born.
“I live what I preach, basically,” says Kamilla. “I started Snack Society from home and got a good social media presence – and it just took off from there. Now, I’m also developing products for cafes and restaurants. Early next year, I’m also hoping to launch my own cookbook.”
It’s a huge achievement considering it is a field she has no formal training in. Her advice to those thinking of turning to a riskier career is to start small but set goals. Moreover, it’s important to see if your dream can be a feasible career – and you can only know this if you practise it while simultaneously having another job.
“A career swap is scary,” she says. “When you have a nine-to-five job you know you have a steady income coming in – you don’t have to hustle. But when it’s your own business, you have to work hard. If business is slow, you don’t have that security. It all boils down to how badly you want it.”