Her Expat Life had the opportunity to chat with Zeta Yarwood - a proficient certified professional coach in executive, career, and life domains, as well as a LinkedIn Top Voice and the Best Career Coach of 2021. Discover your purpose, enhance your self-assurance, and accomplish success in your career and other spheres with Zeta Yarwood's guidance. Gain insight into her expertise and life as an expat here.
1: You have lived in some incredible places! Can you tell us about your experience as a female
expat? How have you overcome challenges and gained positive experiences?
My experience as a female expat overall has been great. When I first moved to Dubai in 2007 there
were a few challenges being a woman. When I arrived with my partner I didn’t have a job. We also
weren’t married. As a woman I couldn’t get a visa, a driver’s license, an alcohol license etc, without a
“no objection certificate” from a company or a husband. This in turn meant I couldn’t open a bank
account or have anything in my name. The first few months were a little challenging. But once I got a
job I managed to sort most of these things out. Because I came with a partner, and socialised with
his employees who were all the same age as us, we transitioned into Dubai life well. The biggest
challenge was losing my job in the financial crisis. That was tough. But I used that time to really
figure out what I wanted out of my career and retrained as a coach. I recently explored Singapore as a long-term destination but now as a single non-Singaporean woman it was virtually impossible to get a visa and set up a business there.
2: As an Executive Coach, Career Coach, and Life Coach to leaders worldwide, what advice do you
have for women looking to make a change in their career or make a life-changing move to another
When making a life-changing decision such as changing careers or moving to another country, it’s
important to understand WHY you’re doing it, exactly what you’re moving towards to and make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Moving abroad or into a new job or company can seem exciting and “shiny” but that doesn’t mean that’s the reality. Be conscious of what the risks are and be clear on what you’re willing to risk and what you’re not. Running away from a painful job or situation might help in the short term but if you’re not clear on what you want and why, it won’t help in the long run. Chances are you’ll pick anything just to get out and run the risk of running into another problematic situation because you didn’t do your due diligence or you ignored red flags because you just wanted to escape. Do your research, speak to as many people as you can who can share their experiences with you; educate and inform yourself as best you can before making any big decisions.
Remember – it doesn’t matter where in the world you go, or what job you do – you are taking YOU
with you. If you’re not happy with yourself, changing jobs or locations might give you temporary relief in the beginning, but it won’t “fix” your problems long term.
3: What would you say are key components to gaining employment internationally? There is a feeling
of intimidation or lack of preparation among many women in cross-cultural situations. What advice
do you have?
Change is scary. And the mind will always come up with whatever images and videos it can to
convince you to stay put. This includes stories of potentially feeling intimated in cross-cultural
situations. People are people. Treat them as you would like to be treated. You will learn cultural
traditions as you go and most people will appreciate if you’re new to town then you’re not going to
know them all. Do your research about the different cultures you’ll be working with and their traditions. Learn about the market, the challenges, the country’s history and aspirations. Same with any potential company in the region – as you would prepare for any job search – but going in with an understanding of what happens in that particular market and region compared to say in your country. If you can learn a few words in the other person’s language they will really appreciate it.
4: You Lived in Dubai for 15 years? What was your lifestyle like? Would you recommend Dubai for
fellow female expats?
I had a fairly routine and simple lifestyle in Dubai. Same as my life in the UK. My loves include nature
and spending quality time with friends. My lifestyle was quite outdoorsy – often at the beach or pool
or on a road trip into the desert or mountains. I did the famous Dubai brunches and parties for the
first two years but after a while the novelty wears off and building roots becomes more of a priority.
In terms of recommending it to fellow female expats… Dubai is a place of extremes – the more
insecure you are about yourself and what people think of you, the more vulnerable to the dark sides of these extremes you will be. I personally found a really grounded, lovely group of friends who valued the same things as I did. They didn’t get caught up in the “extreme wealth and extreme beauty” culture that Dubai often conveys. But I saw many people, including clients, who did get caught up in it all. Many ended up in serious debt trying to “keep up with the Joneses”. Goals of saving money in moving to Dubai going completely out of the window. Women constantly on a new fad diet and doing extreme exercise in a bid to keep up with the beauty standards of Dubai. Not to mention that workplace environments in Dubai have their own unique challenges. Nearly everyone I know is in therapy trying to cope with the demands of this fast-paced, hustle-centric city, extreme wealth and beauty standards often in a toxic workplace – all while thousands of miles away from home. Dubai is a land of opportunity – I would never have had the success I have had in my business in Dubai back in the UK. I met some incredible people and made some friends I will have for life. For 5 months of the year, the weather is incredible too. But if you’re deeply insecure, have mental health issues or are generally unhappy with yourself and life – don’t believe for a second Dubai is the answer to all of your prayers. Remember –you take YOU with you. If you’re going to make a move, finding your tribe, having a positive outlook on life and having a loving support network will be key.
5: Expats and digital nomads at times experience feelings of being stuck or needing a serious
change of direction yet are crippled by a sense of lost direction ... What advice do you have?
Be brave enough to experiment. Some people know what they want. Others don’t. If you fall into the
latter, the only way to find out what you want is to try different things. I believed I wanted to be a
digital nomad. I didn’t know for sure but it’s something I thought I wanted. I tried it and you know
what? I realised it wasn’t for me. But the great thing was in the process of experimenting and
figuring out I didn’t want to be a digital nomad, I did figure out what I wanted instead. To own my
own home, near nature and close to my family back home. I took a risk. It didn’t work out the way I
thought it would. But I got clarity at the end of it. And that to me is priceless. Working with a life
coach or career coach can also help you gain a sense of direction.
6: You have impressive qualifications such as being a Marshall Goldsmith Executive Coach and
Neuro Leadership Institute Coach. What inspired you to take this path?
It's a really long story. In short, I decided to go down the leadership coaching road because through my own experiences of being unhappy at work and seeing so many other people unhappy at work, I've understood that helping people to have more fulfilling careers isn't just about helping them at an individual level. It also means creating happy and healthy work cultures. This starts with the leaders. The great thing about leadership coaching is not only does it benefit the team and company culture but it also helps the leader find even more success and fulfilment in their career too. It's a win-win.
7: How do you spend your free time when you are not working? How do you take care of your mental & emotional needs to avoid burnout?
In 2016 I took a month off work due to exhaustion. Having learnt the hard way, I am really conscious
of my triggers and my boundaries and how to protect them. In 2016 business exploded. I wanted to
see just how far I could take it. I was booked solid, coaching from 7am to 9pm back-to-back, 6 days
a week. I started to develop insomnia, worried I was losing track of everything and then ended up in
this vicious sugar-caffeine-insomnia cycle trying to stay awake. I knew I was in a bad place but the
fear of saying “no” to clients and letting them down kept me booking myself to the max. I then got a
chest infection which went on for about two months before collapsing in the hospital with walking
pneumonia. I might have pushed my business to the max but I lost my health and my sanity in the
process. After that I put limits on how many hours of coaching I would do a day, only one cup of
coffee in the morning before 10am, no caffeine after that, meditation and journaling after waking up
to relieve stress, either swimming or walking every day to get the body moving and touching base
with at least one friend each day. Love and support are so important to mental health.
8: You are a Life Coach and Career Coach contributor to: Thrive Global, Gulf News, Friday Magazine,
The National, Al Arabiya English, Arab News, Good Magazine, MOJEH and more - These are
incredible achievements! Tell us what you have contributed? How did you get involved with them?
Mostly articles and perspectives on various life and career-based topics, questions and challenges.
How to cope with societal pressure, comparing yourself to other people, job searching, finding
fulfilment in life and in your career etc. They approached me after seeing my content and articles on LinkedIn!
9: What would you say is the most demanding aspect of living the expat life as a career-driven
From my experience, career-driven women often have a high need for independence and
achievement. Relationships come second. They often crave support (which as an expat can
sometimes feel hard to find) but don’t realise how their need for achievement and independence
creates barriers in building the relationships they need to not just be happy but to succeed.
10: Finally, where would be your dream location to live & work? Why?
I recently took a year to explore the digital nomad lifestyle. I love nature, exploring, adventure, and
family. This lifestyle would allow me to work from anywhere and spend quality time with loved ones
– it seemed to tick a lot of boxes so I gave myself a year to test it and see if it was what I wanted. I
went to Spain, Bali, Singapore, Malaysia, Egypt and the US. I had previously been to Thailand,
Lebanon, Sri Lanka, France and South Africa so I’m familiar with these countries too. While they are
all beautiful and great for long stays, I came to the conclusion that the keys to happiness and well-
being are roots and tribe. And for me, that’s moving back to the UK to be with my parents and family.
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