Good career cities in Asia
- Hong Kong
- Kuala Lumpur
Once you know where you want to go, you have to come up with a list of specific companies you'd like to work for.
While approaching each of these companies, you will face numerous obstacles.
Above all, you will have to answer these questions:
We covered most of these issues earlier. The final one is incredibly important and frequently underestimated: how badly do you want the job?
For a minute, think about this decision from the point of view of an expat managing director in Shanghai. There is an ambitious young person, contacting you from London, Sydney, or New York, who wants to work with you in your office. This person looks decent so far. However, how can you be sure that this candidate is going to enjoy living in Shanghai? What if the pollution or culture shock proves to be too much? What if you train this person and then he or she gets poached by another company?
Is it worth the risk to the manager?
If you can ease these fears, then you can get an offer.
This may all seem overwhelming. This process takes some energy and dedication. Ultimately, you’ll find that the rewards far outweigh the costs if you follow the system correctly and execute on each step. You are now about to take the second most important step, compiling your target companies.
If you are interested in management consulting in Shanghai, your list might look like this:
Notice that the last two are smaller outfits that only have a Shanghai office. In addition to identifying the global juggernaut brand name companies you’d like to work for, you should absolutely seek out some companies that operate only regionally or locally, preferably run by a team of talented expats and local. As both we and many of our clients can testify, working in a smaller company is very frequently far better than working at a large one - particularly if you want to take on more responsibility and projects and rise up the ranks. Alternatively, larger companies are more likely to be able to fund travel, industry events, and provide training.
However, it’s possible that you do not envision yourself working in the corporate world and that you want to get into the startup game. What to do if this is the case?
There has never been a better time, historically, to enter the startup world as either a founder or an employee. Your options are numerous both in the United States and abroad and the means of breaking in are no more difficult than they would be for the corporate world. In some ways, they might actually be easier.
The main startup center in the US is the San Francisco Bay Area, also commonly referred to as Silicon Valley. In the latter half of the 20th century most of the high growth startup activity occurred outside of San Francisco in places like Mountainview, Palo Alto, and San Jose. These places in Silicon Valley are still as vibrant as ever.
However, with the explosion of opportunities in the mobile space and the general ease with which founders can scrap together product prototypes and raise capital, San Francisco has emerged as the juggernaut in the tech startup scene, particularly for consumer facing software. Some big names that are based in or have major operations in San Francisco include:
This list is by no means conclusive. You have thousands of options to choose from, all you need to do is get your foot in the door.
The San Francisco Bay Area eclipses all other startup hubs globally - and the contest isn’t even close. Having said that, there are certainly other vibrant startup hubs that we would suggest you look into:
If you are interested in both internationalization and the tech startup space, there are still many options for you to choose from, although you will face at least as many of the obstacles you would have faced if you tried to join a multinational.
We define a startup hub as a place that is good either for finding full time employment with someone else’s venture backed (or just profitable) startup or a place where you can successfully bootstrap your own startup while living for pennies on the dollar.
Some of the destinations we consider great startup hubs include:
To get a clearer understanding of specific costs of living and lifestyle factors that you might have to consider, we recommend that you visit Nomad List. Nomad List is a great resource that will help you be able to figure out what sort of bootstrapping plan you need based on your goals and budget.
"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page."
- Saint Augustine
You can bet that prospective employers are at least going to be doing a due diligence check on you with Google. Go ahead and search for yourself with a Google search right now. What do you find?
The results will depend on a range of factors, such as how common your name is, whether you have a highly trafficked personal site or if you’ve been featured in videos or articles on other sites - but if you haven’t been deliberately working on your online presence, you probably won’t find much.
There are some things you can do immediately to change this and start controlling what people find about your online.
The first step you should take is to set up a Linkedin profile. This will be useful for you no matter what line of work you intend to enter.
If you haven't already, get onto LinkedIn.com and set up a profile. As you go through the steps to complete your profile, LinkedIn will tell you, to the percentage, how complete your profile is.
Begin adding contacts, particularly managers and colleagues that you've worked with in the past. Request a recommendation from them so that it shows publicly on your profile to anyone who might come across it in the future.
If you have experience in management, you should also source recommendations from people who you’ve supervised. The hiring manager will be interested in seeing what your previous subordinates have to say about your management style.
Make sure you upload a professional looking picture! This is not facebook.
Finally, if you’ve spent time in your target city or country, make sure you put that experience down. As stated earlier, the hiring manager will want to know that you are already familiar with and comfortable in that specific city and country and that you can assimilate smoothly.
If you are interested in the tech startup world then you should definitely put a profile up on Angel List. This website can be succinctly defined as “the linkedin of the tech startup world”. In many ways this website is identical to linkedin but with a stronger focus on enabling specific startup-specific interactions to occur, such as:
Angel List is a great network because it is tighter knit and less spammy than Linkedin is due to its stronger focus on the startup world. As such, any job leads and connections you source there will probably be higher in quality than that of Linkedin.
Finally - do you have your own website?
Linkedin and Angel List are great because they allow you to quickly set up a profile and begin connecting to people. However, if you truly want to brand yourself online, the best option for you to consider is setting a personal website. You can use options such as Squarespace and Weebly to build a clean looking website without the need to know to code.
Regardless of where you are in setting up your personal brand, we strongly suggest that you check out Quicksprout’s Guide to Personal Branding. This offers a comprehensive blueprint that you can use to build your own presence online and control the narrative that is being written and spoken about you.
"The beginning is the most important part of the work."
In this step, you are looking for a decision maker within each target company that will help you bypass the entire human resources and recruiting process. You are engineering a way for yourself to have an internal company referral without actually knowing anybody in the company, by using some social media hacks.
You will be using LinkedIn's search function to find these people.
When you are trying to get hired as an expatriate, there will usually be several other expatriates in the office you will end up working with. On the whole, expat managers seem more friendly to semi-unsolicited or totally unsolicited contact from job seekers than Asian/Local managers.
For the purposes of this exercise, Asian/Local managers who were educated and have work experience abroad count as expatriate managers.
You want to find your special expatriate manager who will be your means of securing a final round interview - before you even step on a plane and leave your home country.
At this point you should have set up your LinkedIn profile, added dozens or hundreds of connections, and sourced several references from former bosses testifying to your technical prowess in your position as well as your ability to "be a team player" and "synergize" and "take one for the team" and "shift paradigms."
If you are from Canada/US/UK/Australia, you want to find someone in each of your target companies with a name like "George Campbell" or "Emma Watson" or something as close to your native country as possible. You are targeting people with positions like "Managing Director" who clearly have authority over hiring decisions. Other things you want to look for are people who went to the same university as you – alumni connections become really strong and important when trying to get your foot in the door.
Simultaneously, if you're French you might want to seek out an "Amelie Petit" or a "Laurent Bordeaux."
If you want to get into management consulting in Hong Kong, your list might look something like this:
I suggest you compile a list of 20 companies with a target manager in each company. Of all the attempts you make, 20-50% will not even respond to you. Some will respond but tell you that nothing is available. You should go into this expecting a certain amount of rejection. The important thing is that you end up securing yourself those interviews.
Now you have to create an "Inmail Pitch".
An inmail is basically a private and unsolicited message that you send on LinkedIn to someone with whom you are not yet connected. Since it is unlikely that you will be connected to any people with hiring power in companies you like, you will have to buy inmails.
Yes, buy inmails.
Basically you can pay around 40-50 dollars for one month's worth of inmails. I believe you get 10 inmails when you purchase one month, so that is 4-5 dollars per inmail. This is worth the cost because you are bypassing most of the recruitment process and eliminating the vast majority of your competitors. You are also saving the 30-45 minutes that you'd otherwise spend filling out an online application that would inevitably get deleted anyway.
In most companies, and particularly abroad or in emerging markets, people hire internally or they do so from internal references. The point of this exercise is to have someone give you an internal reference without having known them for months or years. That's why it is worth the cost.
The desired result of all of this is that a decision maker, someone who wields hiring power, is internally circulating your information, CV, and email around within the office. Once that's happened, you've immediately leapfrogged 9/10 other applicants, whose CVs get deleted into human resources oblivion.
NEVER do online applications. Your CV and application is digitally scanned by a computer to see if your application contains certain keywords and if you don't make the cut, GOOD BYE
Get your opportunity from a human being, not from a computer.
You are going to be sending a private inmail to each of your target managers in each of your target companies. It should be structured something like this:
-State that you are looking for a position and specify the particular position you are looking for
-State the reasons you are qualified
-State the reasons you want to work there (try to show a uniquely passionate voice while doing this)
-Request a skype or phone interview
-Mention that you are still in (London/Sydney/New York) but that you will be arriving in (Hong Kong/Singapore/Beijing) in 4-8 weeks.
This structure does many different things. First of all, sending an inmail will warrant them to at least take a look at your profile and background, because it is very rare that people receive inmails in the first place. Second, this person will be able to immediately look at your academic background, work experience, and your recommendations that you should have sourced by this point.
You are conducting this search from your home city, so you are requesting a skype call or a phone interview, which will significantly reduce the risk for both parties. Primarily, they do not have to spend time and money bringing you in for a live interview if they do not initially like you. More importantly, you do not have to fly to Asia without having several final round interviews lined up already.
You will repeat this with all your target managers. Some will respond, some will not. Some will respond to tell you that no, they are not hiring at this moment. When this happens, request that the two of you keep in touch and connect to them on LinkedIn. People who have used this strategy have been rejected initially, then been hired elsewhere and worked for a year, only to later on be hired by that same managing director who initially refused them.
Your contacts and network abroad are incredibly valuable.
Your goal from this is to have 5-10 phone or skype interviews set up, all during the following week. Since the time zones are different, you will usually have to do these calls at strange hours.
"The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary."
- Vince Lombardi
Ideally by this point you have set up 5-10 skype and phone interviews, scattered throughout the week.
Do lots of due diligence on each company and each manager. You should know as much as possible about that specific office and about the specific person who is interviewing you. Learn about the prominent projects they have done, so that you can cite them later in the interview and show them that you've done your homework.
Also, look at their LinkedIn profile and see if you have any similarities with this person – if you play a similar sport or went to the same school, you can pick up the interview with some personal banter. This will help both parties become comfortable with the other side and humanize you a bit more to that individual.
Once you go through the Skype or phone interview, most of the companies will offer you a final round interview for when you show up in person to that country.
Schedule all your final round and in-person interviews to take place over the course of 1-2 weeks, preferably with no more than 2 in one particular day, so that you can get your mind focused. It's also possible that you will be going through several rounds of interviews with the same company, particularly with companies like McKinsey or Bain that will require you to do case studies during the interview.
Hopefully you've scheduled at least 5 final round interviews before you go. Of this, you will end up with 1-2 offers.
If you schedule 10 final round interviews, you will end up with 2-5 offers that you can negotiate between.
Once the final offer is given, all the other logistical aspects of getting a work permit and visa will be taken care of for you.
Good Luck! You’ve been given a powerful tool in your arsenal for an international career launch.