Whether you’re already employed or you’re ready to take the plunge back into the working world, getting started can be daunting. Our expert offers some tips and tricks to get you on the right track to employment.
Planning to move to Hong Kong – or have just arrived – and are looking for a job? For many people, including myself, approaching a recruitment agency and checking online job-boards are the first starting point. But panic can quickly start setting in when one realises that the majority of jobs require proficiency in Cantonese and/or Mandarin. Not surprisingly, 95% of Hong Kong’s population is fluent in one or both of these languages, and those who fall outside of that 95% will not be the primary target of many agencies.
Whilst at first glance the odds may seem stacked against non-Chinese speakers, many do secure employment here. Here are a few tips and tricks for finding work which I have pulled together from conversations I have had with recruiters, HR professionals and others who have successfully secured jobs here.
Let’s start with the usual suspects. Non-Chinese speakers should be aware of organisations that specifically target the expat market such as, AsiaXPAT Careers and niche recruitment agencies like Pivot and FLEXImums who exist to help women who are seeking work. Pivot connects highly skilled women with project work and FLEXImums offers both recruitment and coaching consultancy services, focused on empowering women and corporations to strive for gender equity and work-life balance. Both firms also offer workshops and information sessions aimed at enhancing the job search success rate of participants.
Furthermore, an increasing number of multinationals are developing specific back-to-work programs designed to access the talent pool of people who have had a career break – usually of two years or more – and are looking to return. These can offer great opportunities to test the corporate waters (again).
Let’s assume, however, that 70% of jobs are not advertised. Simply relying on agencies and job boards will severely narrow the scope of your job search and your access to different opportunities. Therefore, here are some of the other things you should do if you are serious about finding work:
Use, and expand, your network
More than any other place I have lived in, Hong Kong offers so many different ways which allow you to do this. Meetups range from storytelling groups to “funky salsa parties”, and offer great opportunities to both socialise with expats and locals alike. Various national Chambers of Commerce organise public events which are open to all. On Eventbrite you are bound to come across many events that are of interest to you.
At the same time, do not underestimate the value of your existing networks. These can be friends; people you meet dropping your kids off at school; or stretching next to at a Yoga class! For example, I was recently approached about a job by the HR director of a company who was the friend-of the husband-of a mother I met at a playgroup I last attended with my daughter eight months ago!
Show off your skills
It is one thing to expand your network, but people need to see what you are made of. Explore freelancing opportunities, for example on JobDoh. Alternatively, consider ‘skills-based volunteering’ if your job search is taking longer than you hope or even if you have chosen to postpone getting a paid job for a few years. In this way, you spend time using your skills to support a charity or other organisation. This will also, allow you to expand your network, show people what you can do, keep your skills fresh and updated and give you motivation in your job search knowing that you are adding value to something you care about. Local Motion is a Hong Kong-Based organisation which explicitly works to connect people with such opportunities; but also do not be shy about approaching local charities and NGOs directly.
LinkedIn really does work. It allows you to expand your network, and gives people a quick and easy insight into who you are and what you can do for them. Given that so many jobs are not advertised, a lot of employers are proactive in directly seeking out people with the skills that they need. Keeping your LinkedIn profile up-to-date and professional – and backed up with a strong CV – is a must.
Consider working with a coach
Finally, all of the advice above rests on the assumption that you are clear about your career goals and aspirations. Knowing these can help give you direction and motivation in your job search. However, if you have moved countries, or taken a break from work, all of this might not be so clear. A certified coach – such as myself – can work with you to enable you define your goals and design a workable strategy for you to get there.