There is no such thing as being prepared for a job loss. “Even more difficult if you love your job and spent years on building your skillsets,” shared Dubai-based Indian national Venicia Dmello during an exclusive interview with Gulf News where she spoke about how pandemic-driven job loss led to her recent career change and lessons learnt along the way.
Dmello has spent a total of 26 years in the GCC, the first 9 years in Qatar followed by 17 years in the UAE, so far. During this time Dmello has changed her career path thrice, choosing completely industries.
Career switch for the third time
In her early 20s, Dmello moved to Qatar and started working as cabin crew with one of the leading airlines. “Well-paid, exciting but difficult,” is how Dmello described her job as cabin crew that she pursued for nine years. In 2005, she left her aviation job and moved to the UAE to join her husband.
“Maintaining a long-distance relationship was getting difficult and we also wanted to start a family,” she shared. Although she was interviewed by a UAE-based aviation major, Dmello couldn’t join due to a non-compete agreement.
Sometimes we are faced with difficult situations that drive us to take life-changing decisions, the switch from PR to property consulting was one such in my case.
As someone who travelled constantly, sitting at home for too long wasn’t an option. Eager to restart her career in Dubai, Dmello took up a front desk executive job. It was a fresh start but wasn’t “exciting enough”. In a few months she eventually found a junior level job with a PR agency that she pursued for the next 15 years, learning new skills and rising through the ranks.
However, in 2020 a phone call caused massive disruption to an otherwise settled life and career that Dmello had built painstakingly as she lost her PR job. “Besides having to rethink expenses and our lifestyle, the loss of a job that I truly loved caused severe depression. It took me 1.5 years to get a new job and this time as a property consultant,” she said.
Lesson #1: It’s never too late to start something new
“Sometimes we are faced with difficult situations that drive us to take life-changing decisions, the switch from PR to property consulting was one such in my case. But what I’ve realised is there is always something new to learn. PR was a new domain for me after almost a decade spent in aviation. After 15 years of working in PR and stable pay, the adjustment to my new role as a property consultant is far more difficult, but one that offers new opportunities especially for someone like me who thrives on building relationships.”
Having said that real estate brokerage is a tough industry where the usual remuneration structure is 100 per cent commission-based that’s often divided between the agency and the consultant. It’s also hard to close deals if someone is new to the field like Dmello who has spent around six months in property consulting.
“There have been days when I felt like giving up, but I remind myself that every new career path takes time to build. I’m taking this opportunity as a learning curve and I strongly believe that persistence, hard work and faith will ultimately pay off.”
Lesson #2: Be flexible to readjust expenses
When the Dmello household went from double to single income [between 2020 and 2022] they had to rethink expenses and re-evaluate their lifestyle to avoid dipping into savings.
“Our big expense heads have remained the same such as rent and utilities. Having two teenaged children we were ready to move into a two-bedroom apartment that we’ve had to put on hold for the moment. The second big expense head is children’s education [Dh95,000 annually]. Instead of touching my gratuity, we decided to withdraw money from National Bonds that we had built over time to pay for children’s school fees. We also reduced their transportation cost [Dh18,000 annually] as I started dropping and picking them up. However, now that I’ve a full-time job my children end up spending a substantial amount on taxis. Hence, we’ve had to find other ways to keep our regular expenses under check. For example, I’ve literally compared prices of each grocery item purchased from different supermarkets in and around Bur Dubai and zeroed in on the ones that are most economical. I buy different items from different supermarkets to avail the best price.”
On the other hand, some expenses such as fuel cost has increased. In the past few months, Dmello has spent approximately Dh1,500 on fuel on an average which she is not able to recover completely from her commission. “That’s why my husband supported me to buy a pre-owned smaller car to save on fuel expenses, especially because now I’ve to drive around a lot more than before.”
The family has also reduced their discretionary spending. “For example, we used to travel abroad at least twice a year, which we haven’t done since 2020. We’ve gone for staycations but that too after finding good deals. It’s impossible to stay cooped up at home all the time for us, so we plan more outings with family members in the UAE and overnight stays with them.”
I regularly check the excel sheet to see where I can minimise even a tiny expense and how I can put that money as savings.
Lesson #3: Mindful saving is crucial
“Nothing in life is permanent. If anything, this is one of the biggest lessons that I’ve learnt,” Dmello shared. “There will be highs and lows, so it’s important to be mindful about how we live through the good and bad times by being mindful about our spending and saving habits.”
Some of the things that Dmello and her husband have done over the years is invest in a property in India. She has also kept aside a major chunk of her gratuity as savings for the future. Dmello has started a simple yet effective practice of maintaining an excel sheet where she records her big and small expenses as well as savings.
“I regularly check the excel sheet to see where I can minimise even a tiny expense and how I can put that money as savings. We also consciously teach our children to save even if it’s a couple of dirhams from their daily expenses or a substantial chunk from money that they occasionally receive as gift,” she concluded.