New start, new you

We meet the people who left their jobs and turned their lives around. The credit crunch saved their lives, but how?

New start, new you
Naomi Jones Image #2
Naomi Jones
Mark Richards 
 Image #3
Mark Richards
Jonathan Warmington Image #4
Jonathan Warmington
Alex Light Image #5
Alex Light
Jill Downie 
 Image #6
Jill Downie
Virginia Munro
 Image #7
Virginia Munro
Hanan Nagi
 Image #8
Hanan Nagi
Becky Kilsby 
 Image #9
Becky Kilsby
Peter Cowan Image #10
Peter Cowan
Naomi Jones

Was Business development manager
Now Promoted as a general manager for an events company

‘I was made redundant after returning from my Christmas vacation. At first I was in shock, however I soon learned to hold my head high. Luckily I had already been talking to a well-established events company in the UK that has an Abu Dhabi office, which was looking for a general manager. Very quickly I started having interviews. If I hadn’t got it I was thinking about doing an MBA. But I did get it and now I love my new company and job and the many opportunities ahead.

‘I wouldn’t wish for anyone to be made redundant. It is very difficult – especially as an expat. While there is a labour law in place here, it can be misinterpreted, which can make the whole final settlement and getting your visa switched more difficult. There were stressful moments between jobs. One of the things that kept me going was networking with people in the industry. I read all the industry press and kept aware of what was happening. I refreshed my CV and sent it to my professional peers for advice. I also threw myself into being a tourist in Dubai. I spent time with my boyfriend, Jon, doing free things, such as walks along the Creek, beaches and Safa Park.’

Top tip: Stay motivated, keep abreast of developments within your industry and network as much as you can!

Mark Richards

Was Real estate agent
Now Kitesurfing instructor

‘At the beginning of the year, when the market was going flat, I decided to take a short break from my job in real estate and get an additional skill. So I went to the Caribbean for two months and became a qualified kitesurfing instructor. It was a blast; I was doing it for a bit of a laugh really, to teach my mates – I hadn’t thought of doing it as a job. Then, while I was away, my company closed down – I completely didn’t expect it. I’d actually just moved into a more expensive apartment. I was massively disappointed. It was a great company that had come over here from New Zealand. I still keep in touch with my old workmates. Some of them are working in IT, some of them haven’t got jobs, and some are working in real-estate with different companies.’

‘While I was between jobs I decided to start teaching kitesurfing, just as a side job while I get things sorted out. Right now I’m looking at a few different options for full-time jobs. I might go into golf, but I don’t know yet. Has my attitude changed as a result of losing my job? I think so. If anything has gone wrong before it’s generally been my own fault. Nothing has ever been out of my control. I guess it’s made me more cautious for the future.’
For lessons call 050 886 0874, email

Top tip: Find something you enjoy, then try to create an income from it to fill the gap

Jonathan Warmington

Was A legal recruiter
Now A legal recruiter – with the competition

‘I’d been working in London for an international recruiter where I focused on the Middle East market for four years. I wanted to be with all the action, so when the opportunity arose to relocate to Dubai I jumped at it. Literally on my arrival last November the market went into downfall. I had been out here two months when I was made redundant. I was in shock. It was my first experience of working abroad, coupled with the fact I had never been made redundant before. I’d shifted all my possessions out here and taken on a 12-month apartment lease. Once the anger had subsided I went directly to my company’s main competitor – and got a job within a week! My new employers appreciated my skills, and the fact I was out here already.

‘I think the experience has made me better at my job – it helps me empathise with the people I speak to daily about looking for work. I tell them to get out there and utilise their work/social networks as much as possible, not to just sit at home watching DVDs. What got me through the low points? I met my girlfriend, Naomi, a month before I was made redundant. Having someone you can talk to about ideas is invaluable.

‘Being made redundant I now find I’m planning more for the short-term. I don’t go to restaurants as much. Naomi and I will think about what we want to do and eat throughout the week, plan it, then only buy the items needed. Otherwise you end up chucking money in the bin. I’ve also started to think about things in terms of work hours – a glass of wine costs Dhs60, which is like half an hour in the office!’

Top tip: Network and speak to a good recruiter, with a consultative approach for the long term who can help you get your career back on track.

Alex Light

Was Real estate agent
Now Bad Times Boot Camp instructor

‘I was made redundant just before Christmas. It quickly became apparent things weren’t going to turn around any time soon, so I thought about other ways to get on. I applied to do the Ras Al Khaimah half-marathon and started training, which consumed two or three hours of my day and provided the structure that my working day had done previously. As I was training there were a couple of unemployed friends who wanted to come along, so I made it more official. We came up with the name Bad Times Boot Camp – free for unemployed people. I started posting notes in coffee shops and we got more interest, until BBC World did a story on us. Since then everything’s gone crazy – it’s all over the press and we get 15-20 people every day. Now, if I’m feeling rubbish in the morning, they are my motivation.

‘I felt depressed when I lost my job, but, looking back, I’m far happier out of it. Bad Times has turned into an unpaid full-time job for me. I’m trying to get a sponsor. I’d like to set them up everywhere: Bondi Beach, Hyde Park, Central Park. There are millions of people unemployed now. You feel really bad about yourself, and meeting up with people in the same position helps. I know this could help them.’

‘I’ve had to move out of my flat and downsize into a studio. I’ve got a cheap hire car now. I even got down to living on Dhs15 or Dhs20 a day, to see how disciplined I could get. I have to buy for the week ahead, and not go out. Bad Times has made me want to make a difference in people’s lives rather than just think about me. It’s only taken two or three months to completely change me.’

Top tip: Stay positive, stay active

Jill Downie

Was A journalist
Now A PR firm owner

‘I set up Aziza Communications, a bespoke PR and marketing company in November 2008, just as the financial crisis was unfolding. Prior to that I was a journalist for more than 10 years. Attending prestigious fashion shows in New York and Paris and working with talented photographers, make-up artists and models to create fashion and beauty stories was definitely a lot of fun, but ultimately I wanted the freedom to be able to work for myself.

When I first arrived in Dubai five and a half years ago, I always used to joke that I was going to set up my own public relations company, as I was used to receiving a higher standard of relations assistance when working in London. I felt that while PRs in London were generally falling over themselves to help you, Dubai was more of an uphill struggle. After five years of working on some great titles, I decided that I was going to take the plunge – nothing dared, nothing gained!

‘The financial uncertainty only really hit once I had left my previous company, but I was so happy that I had made the decision to go it alone that I wasn’t too phased. I am surprised that I was so calm! I suspect that while the market in general has suffered a downturn many companies are re-evaluating their PR and marketing strategies and looking for the best value for money. As a small business with low overheads I can offer a more competitive rate with a better return on investment than some of the larger firms. I do think that the market is improving slightly in Dubai. Companies who were initially being cautious are now starting to look ahead and that can only be a good thing.’

Top tip: In Dubai things take time. It’s a good idea to have back-up funds so you don’t need to panic if everything doesn’t move as quickly as you’d hoped.

Virginia Munro

Was Communications and marketing director
Now Freelance writer and researcher, post-graduate student

‘In October last year – just before the initial signals that a global downturn was about to bowl in – I resigned from my company. The role was to expand communications and marketing across Middle East and North Africa, and I felt this initiative was changing. But, as my company and others began to downsize, I found myself looking for a job in a squeezed market. Within days the job section of the local paper had halved. Recruiters once passionate about filling roles went quiet, and previous job offers made to me dried up. ‘Just before relocating to Dubai I was accepted into a PhD at Sydney’s Macquarie University. It was a tough decision to weigh up high-level qualifications against a salary mixed with foreign travel, but I took the opportunity to take on what I thought was going to be a challenging job and relocated. Having worked in Asia during the ‘red dragon’ years in the ’90s, I was keen to return to this type of market. But now I am waiting for the market to return to me!

‘I felt the only way to squeeze out of the vacuum was to think outside the square, so I decided to bide my time doing the EMDI Diploma in Journalism and Online Communications in Knowledge Village. The course has enabled me to meet industry heads and share my past experience of working in the media with them.

‘I’ve also enrolled in a Masters in Marketing Communications at Middlesex University, which will involve a research dissertation of my choice on a topic that will add value to the Middle Eastern region. Currently I am full-time freelance writing and researching for a number of magazines and newspapers here. By September, I hope to be working full or part-time for one entity again, rather than juggling several entities at once.’;

Top tip: Try not to take the slowness of the market personally and invest some time back into yourself that will put you ahead of the game when the market corrects itself.

A word with the coaches

Hanan Nagi
Life coach and motivational speaker
• The most common reactions after the shock of losing your job is an overwhelming sense of fear, insecurity, blame and anger.
• Misery loves company. For the next few weeks socialise only with positive, supportive people.
• Sit in a quiet place and temporarily let go of all your worries for 30 minutes.
• List five huge problems you’ve experienced before and how you felt at first. Then remember how you overcame each and how you felt once each was resolved. This increases people’s confidence.
• Write down all the opportunities you have now which weren’t available before because you were tied to a job. It could be time to bring that dream you’ve been harbouring for years to life. Be your own boss, change careers, go back to study or travel the world. Opportunities are all around you; it just takes an open mind and a courageous spirit to see them.
• Now inform your family or close friends, because you have a problem and potential solutions at hand. 050 145 7055,

Becky Kilsby
Careers advisor, Middlesex University
• Try lots of different strategies.
• Don’t take any job but only one you can see a value in. Yet lower your expectations – some experience is worth low pay.
• Network in a broader sense. As well as going to formal and informal groups, of which there are a lot in Dubai, Knowledge Village holds seminars and events. You never know where these will lead you.
• Consider an internship. Employers are definitely taking on more interns than last year, and you can learn a lot.
• Treat your search for another job as a full-time job. It’s important to realise that it could be a long haul.
• Volunteer professionally or for charity. This keeps you actively involved in different things and is important for morale. Get involved in every community you can think of – it really stops you feeling isolated.
• Think about courses to add a qualification to your CV – a language, IT skills, something specialised. Employers always want people who are willing to learn.
Becky offers free careers advice to any prospective students,

Make yours a winning CV

Peter Cowan
Associate sales director of a leadership and personal development company
• The number of CVs that companies have been receiving has increased vastly since the credit crunch hit. People need to work harder to make theirs stand out.
• There is no point sending a CV that is not relevant to the position you’re applying to – you’re just wasting your time.
• Do some research on the company you apply to, look at its website. Find the name of the director or the head of HR and address it to them. Not ‘To whom it may concern’.
• Make sure your relevant skills and experiences are right at the top of your CV in a couple of bullet points. Don’t make them dig for information. Keep the CV as short and punchy as possible.
• Get lots of people to proofread it.
• Make any advantages you have clear in an introductory email. Is your visa already sorted? Say so!
• Consider dropping it off in person, but be aware that you have a slim chance of meeting any of the decision-makers.
• If you have a topical reason as to why a firm should hire you, consider calling. Perhaps you heard it’s scored a new Iranian client and you speak Farsi. Get on the phone. Peter offers free one-hour coaching sessions. Real Time Learning,

A word from the recruiter

‘No one knows what’s coming. We’re hearing a lot of noise that things are going to pick up after Ramadan, which is traditionally the case: the summer is quiet after which time things get busier. But we are certainly hearing positive noises in the market. Even real estate is starting to pick up and that was the market most heavily hit. Legal is picking up. Firms are starting to ask if we have people in particular areas, especially in HR and professional support, although those firms aren’t yet hiring. If things are going to improve we’ll start to see the first signs of that at the middle to end of July, because they will start interviewing, taking into account peoples’ notice periods so they can start in September or October.’ Jonathan Warmington, Charterhouse Middle East

Useful websites
• Networking Dubai Human Resources Forum:
• British Business Group:
• International Business Womens Group :
• Expat woman:
• Knowledge Village:
• Recruitment: IQ selection:
• Apple Search and Selection:
• MRL Group:

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