Many graduates talk about wanting an international career. Indeed many do, working for a multinational company with operations and careers across the globe. Others may find themselves based in one country with regular visits to clients, companies or offices in other regions. Working for an international organisation, geographical mobility is key as your career is determined by country priorities and needs. But how many graduates go abroad with little more than a plan to travel and a general idea about what they might want to do and then end up pursuing a career with an international company in a country on the other side of the world? This is exactly what Christian Tooley, an LSE graduate in Geography, did:
You could say my career story was not a typical LSE one. I did know I didn’t want to work in investment banking but wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do! In 2013 I graduated with a 2:1 (Hons) in BA Geography and still did not want a career, yet. Instead I pursued an MSc at The Bartlett, UCL in International Planning and obtained a distinction. Still not eager to wear a suit for most days of the week I decided to go travelling. With a Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach attitude, I booked a one-way ticket to Bangkok and never looked back. With no plans of settling down, about six months into my travels I went to meet an LSE friend working in Hong Kong. Within minutes of walking in the city I fell in love, and decided that when I had solo-backpacked myself out I’d settle there.
On returning to HK in April I began my job search. It was tough and took me three months to secure a job. Now I am an analyst/consultant in commercial real estate and really enjoying it. Through utilising LinkedIn mainly, I messaged probably half of the professionals in Hong Kong. Here’s my top tips (trying to be as specific, blunt and alternative to other lists) that I hope other people looking for work in Hong Kong, and other countries, will find helpful:
1. Be very, very, very social
One thing I learned about Hong Kong is that it is social in a very, very, very unique way. London can be an anti-social place, but in general you could say all ‘world cities’ are quite sociable, Hong Kong is in a league of its own. The city grows, thrives and functions through social networks. Be that finding the latest bar to go to, making friends to go on a junk boat with…or finding a job. You have to be fearless and very extroverted. Anyone interesting you meet, just start a conversation with them, ask them questions. Tell them your story and what you’re looking for, you’d be surprised how many people will smile, offer you their business card and agree to meet/hook you up with a contact or just try to be as helpful as possible, which leads me on to tip two…
2. Make business cards
Hong Kong thrives well on social connections because everybody has a business card. You might think this is expensive and unnecessary if you are jobless and job hunting in one of the most expensive cities on earth, but you’d be wrong about both. First, you can print a pack of 200 incredibly cheap; mine were around 15 pence each from a great, reliable shop in Wan Chai. You can probably find them for even cheaper in Kowloon. Secondly, they are very necessary. If you go to any events, conferences or meet any business person in any scenario, they will hand you a card and you should hand one back. Hold your card with both hands and do the same when accepting a card. It does not have to be overtly elaborate, or a mini CV. A clean simple card with slight design stating your name, email, LinkedIn (definitely) and add in any titles eg. BA, MSc. Depending on your experience, and if you know what specific field/position you are looking for, a title may be appropriate.
3. Make people feel special on social media
This is how I got my job, LinkedIn is professional but I still consider it as a unique social media platform. Message alumni and people in your sector and make them feel special. You may both have gone to LSE, or both love private venture startups, but what makes you different to everybody else? Make sure your profile is updated; grammar proofed and specify what you are looking for. Honestly speaking, I was open-minded with my job search but said this in an enthusiastic manner. Read people’s profiles and ask them specific questions about their work tasks in their previous positions. End with a question, ‘Would it be possible to meet up for a coffee to further discuss XYZ?’ When you do meet people, be ready with your business card, CV, and do a follow-up even if you think ‘I will never need this person and this was totally unhelpful’ because, especially in Hong Kong, everybody is helpful. The longer you live here, the more you expand your network.
4. Just do it!
I really enjoyed back-packing and was ready for a break when I’d finished my degrees. Taking a ‘break’ doesn’t mean you won’t have a career. If you’re reading this and thinking, actually, I’d rather do the back-packing… then do it. I could not even imagine working at the start of my trip. Now I am really getting stuck in, enjoying the consulting, strategising and networking!
LSE Careers works with students and graduates across the globe at different stages of their careers and can offer Skype and phone appointments to those of you based outside London. If you’re interested in finding out more about how to apply for jobs in other countries check out our subscription to Going Global which has information and advice on over 40 countries including Hong Kong.