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Global Talents, Dream Jobs, and Beijing Hukous

(2014-05-03 10:43:43)
Recently, I’ve been partnering with a friend and colleague named Matthew Cuerdon to design and deliver a series of seminars and workshops on the subject of career development, specifically focusing on high-salary positions within global MNC’s. I decided to do this program following several months of research into what I call the “psychology of global talents.” I have written this article to present the results of my inquiries, and to encourage anyone who is unhappy with their job to believe that it is within their power to find the job of their dreams.

高富帅 (gao fu shuai)

Global <wbr>Talents, <wbr>Dream <wbr>Jobs, <wbr>and <wbr>Beijing <wbr>Hukous

Why does高富帅represents the secret to your dream job?

Most people think I’m crazy when I tell them they have to be 高 (tall) 富(wealthy) and 帅 (attractive) if they want to score one of the best jobs in the world. This is normally the set of tags used to describe the man who can hand-pick any woman he wants. If you’re reading this right now, you probably think I’m nuts also. But give me the chance to explain- I think you’ll agree that this little metaphor packs some timely wisdom.

First, I’d like to discuss some depressing trends about the employment situation in Beijing. We are in the capital city of the country boasting some of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Roughly 20 million people live and work here (though many are not actually FROM here). Thousands upon thousands of foreigners from all over the world live and work here. Almost every global brand in the world has some kind of representation here. It’s the center of politics, the center of education, and the center of arts and culture. Sounds like it should be an AWESOME place to find your dream career, doesn't it?

Let’s tune in to reality- average salaries upon graduation for some of the hardest-working students in the world from the best schools in the country is barely 4500 rmb per month (estimates vary). Annual turnover for entry-level positions at some companies exceeds thirty percent (as high as 60 percent for one of our clients). Internships are usually boring, unrewarding, and in most cases don’t provide any real business experience. Scores of staff work overtime simply because their other colleagues do. Working for SOE’s presents a unique set of problems, among which are having to master the dreadful art of party politics, butt-kissing and not being too outstanding, lest your colleagues conspire undermine you. For the average young person, unless for family has some awesome guanxi, the situation is pretty grim.

But it doesn't have to be so bleak. With a bit of investigation, I have discovered that many outstanding people here, both foreign and local, do in fact find high-paying (by global standards), exciting, rewarding careers in global MNC’s. Without family money or connections, it is entirely possible to earn salaries comparable to US salaries in China. Over the past three months, I have interviewed many such people to discover their stories of how they ended up in the positions they are in. During the process, I met foreigners that earn as much as 50,000 rmb / month, and are also paid a very large housing and car allowances. I met local Chinese managers that never went abroad, making over 30,000 rmb /month after only three years of work experience. Most people think salaries like these are impossible, because all they know is “average” salaries. Average salaries are for average people. Exceptional salaries are for exceptional people.

How did these people get jobs like these? Their answers were all roughly the same: 高富帅!

Part 1: 高

Tall, in this metaphor, refers to visible. Being “visible” to the right people is critical to finding your dream job. Think of it this way- when you’re on a packed Beijing subway during rush hour, who is going to stand out the most? The tallest guy (or girl) on the train, obviously. To be noticed by the right people, you have to be visible. Obviously, you don’t necessarily have to be tall, but you DO have to physically (or virtually) be present where they are looking. So where are they looking? For average positions, most companies adopt the same techniques- posting ads on job sites, websites, etc. This is a great way (especially in China) to get hundreds and hundreds of applicants for one opening. If the screening system works well, they might find one or two truly amazing people, but it’s hard to stand out in such a big crowd.

Every person I interviewed admitted that their job offer was not the result of an advertisement they responded to. In most cases, they knew someone who was already in the company (NOT guanxi), or they were a member of a professional organization, or they were other somehow discovered by a recruiter. Job offers came to them, instead of them chasing job offers. Some of them were involved in charity work, and in doing so, met many other like-minded people. Others participated in regular international networking events and made sure people know and like them. Others had very strong “LinkedIn” profiles and group affiliations that made them very visible to headhunters. The point is this: sitting in front of your computer mass-mailing resumes to every company with an advertisement is exactly what millions and millions of others are doing. Don’t be like them. Find a way to be noticed- be 高!

Part 2: 帅

Let’s put 帅 before 富for now. Handsome, in this metaphor, refers to your attractiveness. Not your attractiveness to ladies, of course. In this case, to get the job of your dreams, you have to be attractive from the company’s perspective. What is attractive to MNC’s? When filling or creating a high-level position, the ideal candidate will have to demonstrate that they satisfy four main requirements:

   1. They will be productive in the new position as quickly as possible
   2. They will provide the highest possible contributions to company goals
   3. They will be a positive addition to the work environment
   4. They possess great loyalty, honesty, and integrity.

1. Productive in the new position as quickly as possible

Training new staff is often one of the biggest and costliest challenges that businesses face. Therefore, companies tend to prefer people who do not require a lot of time and money to be spent on orientation and training. This is obviously why they like to require a minimum amount of experience for each position. But direct experience is not always necessary- sometimes “equivalent” experience will also be attractive.

2. Highest contributions to company goals

This can be rephrased as “companies what people who do their jobs really, really well.” Your education is one (small) indicator of how well you might perform, but it’s definitely not the only one. In fact, among global MNC’s that I interviewed, it wasn't even on their list of “top ten” things that contribute to productivity. Communication ability (more than just English ability), ambition, interpersonal skills, professionalism, and other soft skills ranked higher than the school attended by the applicant. Getting the job done requires a diverse range of knowledge, experiences, skills and talents. If you’re strong in knowledge but week in other areas, you’ll need to find a way to build yourself up.

3. Positive addition to the work environment
It is essential that people brought in to key positions will either compliment or enhance the established corporate culture and make the work environment more pleasant. Naturally, teams don’t function very well when members hate each other. This is another area in which personality and people skills rank very highly. Are you a pleasure to work with? Do your staff and colleagues like and respect you? If you can’t answer these questions honestly, you've got some work to do.

4. Loyalty, honesty, integrity

The people that make the most career progress in MNC’s are those with unwavering ethics. In the short term, being dirty might bring you some extra benefit, but when you’re caught (which you will be), you’re out. And don’t think it will be easy to simply switch to a different company- how will you explain your departure? If you lie, cheat, or steal, your reputation as a global business person will be gone. It’s not worth it. Honesty means being honest with yourself, too, about your opinions, abilities, limitations, and so on. Don’t tell your boss that you think his idea is great when you actually know it’s flawed- he hired you for a reason! He needs your honest input.

To be attractive to the company, you have to understand what attracts them, and mold yourself into that person. You don’t need to lie, but you definitely need to re-write your resume to highlight the things they care about. If you’re a bit weak in some of these areas, take steps to improve- read books, take classes, join some volunteer projects, do some internships, join Toastmasters – anything!

Part 3: 富

This character is typically meant to symbolize wealth, richness, abundance, etc. No wonder it is used to describe the ideal boyfriend / husband. But why exactly is 富 so important in China? Can it be as simple as “girls want a guy who can buy them all kinds of Gucci crap”? Some may argue that this is indeed the case, but I’d like to think there’s something a bit deeper to this. Let’s look at it from the parents’ point of view. When considering the worthiness of their daughter’s boyfriend, parents might think in this way: a man with means is more equipped to take care of and her family (and THEM, when they get older). A man of means is likely to be able to ensure the lights stay on and there’s food on the table. A man of means can send the grand kid(s) to better schools. A man with a Beijing hukou means the family can enjoy the privileges that come with it. In short, a man is a better match for their daughter if his family has the resources that ensure a long, prosperous, secure relationship. (Admittedly, a lot of women just want you to buy them a bunch of LV crap)

Great companies think the same way about the candidates for their great positions. And great candidates think the same way about the companies to which they are applying. To ensure a harmonious, prosperous relationship, the two must be a good match. When you’re looking for your dream job, you have to know what that means before you start. If a company senses you don’t know what you want, how can they be sure you’re a match? Your career plan must be something that the company can accommodate. Otherwise, they know you’re not going to stay long. The opposite is also true- you, as the candidate, must be able to accommodate the future strategic direction that the company is planning to take. Otherwise, you won’t want to be there very long. When your career path matches the career opportunities that a company can provide, you’re in the sweet-spot. They can be confident that you do indeed want to be there, not only now, but in the future as well. So think long and hard about what you want to do, and how you want to develop. Be perfectly honest with prospective employers- they will appreciate your sincerity.

There are limitless opportunities in China, and this will remain the case for quite a while. Stop being satisfied with “average” jobs and “average” pay. Join the rest of the true “Global Talents” and find something worth doing. Good luck!

Strategy Summary:

Be Visible

   1. You have to be “visible” to the company or industry in which you want to work
   2. Being visible means you have to be involved in things that other people from the company or industry are involved in – the more the better
   3. Referrals work very well because there is much less perceived risk for the hiring company- if they like and trust the person who refers you, these feelings will be extended to you
   4. Submit resumes when you’ve already been asked for one, not before
   5. Learn to use LinkedIn, build a strong profile, join and participate in some groups you are interested in. Most global MNC’s and good recruitment companies do research on LinkedIn.

Be Attractive

   1. Research – find out what qualities are most valued in the positions you want. Highlight these in your resume
   2. Think from their perspective – remember what they prioritize when evaluating candidates. Make yourself more attractive by strengthening your weaknesses
   3. Make a commitment to be governed by unshakable ethics- highly prized by MNC’s

Be Matched
   
   1. Self-assessment - know what you want, what you don't want, what you like and don't, your strengths, and weakness
   2. Career plan - where will you be in five years? What kind of work do you see yourself doing? Where do you hope you will be living? Will you be married? Have kids? Consider not only career, but your desired lifestyle, too
   3. Rethink interviews - the job interview is also YOUR chance to get to know the company, and to see if it matches your career plans

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