By Kelly Downing
Is it a blessing or a curse to find yourself in Saudi Arabia unable to legally work? A curse of boredom and uselessness or a blessing of the opportunity to reinvent yourself and discover new ways to prosper? I’d encourage you to embrace the circumstances you’re in and take a page from Ariana Grande’s book (song) by loving yourself. It turns out that the empowering woman you need may be found within.
The wonderful thing about our position is that it gives us the freedom to pursue our interests and develop new skills that the rat race back home may not afforded us the time to do. Take the chance to develop skills that you can use on your resume in the future. Develop expertise that you can take anywhere in the world.
Riyadh offers a welcoming professional networking scene as well as a consumer-base that is open and eager to try home-based businesses. By networking and volunteering, you may find a position that will give you skills that are easily transferable back home (e.g. event planning, fundraising). By pursuing a marketable interest (e.g. party services, baked goods, coaching, beauty, fitness, crafts), you may find yourself making a little more than pocket money. The options are here for you to choose.
Two years ago, I became a licensed Realtor in the United States and decided to open a real estate business here in Riyadh. I practiced here and enjoyed the work a lot. Yet, despite earning praise from clients, I found it was nearly impossible to be paid. I had the ability to put up a fight and force payment but I decided that is not how I wanted to use my energy. Realizing that I need work that pays in cash instead of compliments, I chose to put that business on hold. (I still freely give real estate tips, which need to be paid in neither cash nor compliments.)
Although I didn’t turn into a real estate mogul, I did gain professional experience and expertise. The option is always there for me to return. Yet, at this point, the empowering decision was to choose to disengage from the business I built.
Disengaging opened me up to other opportunities. I now write as a freelancer for select Riyadh-based publications. I enjoy the work and the benefits that come with it. I meet many interesting people and expand my mind through exposure and experiences. I love the challenge of making pieces both unbiased and genuine. I am very conscious that there is not much written about Saudi Arabia and, thus, it is an honor to do so. At this point, this is my perfect fit.
That is what’s so lovely about living here. We have the luxury to find our perfect fits over and over again. We have the ability to challenge and mold ourselves, both professionally and personally, through the experiences we choose.
Now, if I’ve persuaded you to turn a new leaf, so to speak, but you could still use some thoughts on how to get going, connect with me. I do enjoy giving tips when I can because supporting other women empowers us all. Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.