The Year of the Snake is ideal for goal setting and strategic planning—an opportune moment to hone your skills and create a career plan. MBA and master’s graduates can increase their chances of landing a job with Asia-Pacific companies with thoughtful decision-making, careful planning, and some tactical maneuvers. At a session hosted by the MBA Career Services Council during the recent NAAMBA Global Career Forum in Hong Kong, employers and career services professionals shared similar advice for graduate business school students—particularly those from outside the region—about successfully navigating the Asia-Pacific job market. (BTW: These tactics apply to candidates looking to land a job anywhere in the world.)
1. Refine your 10-second elevator pitch. Asia-Pacific companies had the greatest demand for new MBA and business master’s degree-holders in 2012, according to GMAC’s Corporate Recruiters Survey. With so many companies seeking the best talent, many firms aim to find it fast. Research shows that first connections between applicant and potential employer are a matter of seconds, and the résumé or CV is often what opens that conversation. Make sure you have a brief statement at hand about what you can offer a company—you never know what opportunities may come from even a brief encounter!
2. Develop deep industry knowledge. Survey results suggest that employers seek at least three years work experience and select candidates to interview based on job function and industry expertise. Employers also want job candidates who show awareness of a company’s profile and business goals. For example, more than half of Asia-Pacific firms surveyed in 2012 (52%) sought to expand their customer base, 37% intended to launch new products or services and 42% of firms planned to expand into new geographic markets, even as 30% would focus on overcoming economic challenges. Emphasizing your skills and industry knowledge can help meet these goals and increase your chances of grabbing a recruiter’s attention.
3. Begin your networks with internships and immersion. Internships, company treks, immersion weeks, and other experiences within the region can be invaluable for gaining cultural fluency and building your in-region network. Seeking an internship in the Asia-Pacific region while still enrolled in school may bridge the work experience gap and help you qualify as a recruit employers may want to hire early. In GMAC’s year-end poll of employers, 65% of companies worldwide expected to offer internships to MBA students, and 13% planned to increase the number of internship spots they offer to MBAs in 2013—great news considering research shows internships not only help a candidate get hired but also earn more. Social media can be another means of building up your network of personal contacts and potential job connections. Last year 53% of Asia-Pacific companies reported using social media both to advertise jobs (55%) and network with potential candidates (50%). As universal as Facebook is for social networking, consider adding sites like PaGalGuy in India or Weibo in China as part of your regional job search
4. Develop a compelling story and deeper connection to the region. Convey your passion to future employers about why you want to work in a region beyond the tourist’s adventure. Developing language skills or studying art or cultural traditions are tangible signs a potential employer might view as a commitment to the region since they often cross personal and professional dimensions. Demonstrate your interests in your résumé or CV over time—well before your job search begins. Such relationship-building experiences may be the key that gets you past the elevator pitch and a foot inside the company door.
5. Go for global learning! Get your degree (or part of it) in Asia-Pacific. More than 650 programs across the Asia-Pacific region currently use the GMAT exam in their admissions process. Many Asian schools also offer partnerships, semester exchanges, or joint-programs with schools close to home that might help you ease toward your long-term goals.
Gong Xi Fa Cai! Happy New Year!