The festive season has begun. As a work-obsessed banker, you are suddenly left facing that awkward seasonal dilemma: what to do now that your workload is less hetic and you actually have a few days away from the office?
Thankfully, you need not spend all your hours with family and friends – now is also the perfect time to push your career kicking and screaming into the new year.
Here's what to do in late December to help ensure you get a better banking job in 2014.
“Much as you may know your stuff – the industry, the people, your job – you also want to look the part at job interviews in the new year,” said Paul Heng, founder of NeXT Corporate Coaching Services in Singapore. “Interviewers look at the entire package, so use the festive season to update your hairstyle, make-up, clothes or accessories. The banking industry is in constant evolution – you want to get one up on rival candidates whatever way you can.”
“If you’re going away on holiday, opt for a book focused on career or personal development rather than a novel,” said Gerard Milligan strategic account director at recruiters Randstad in Singapore. “Spend some of your beach time reading up on how to progress your banking career, especially insider experiences and interview tips.”
If you're based in Hong Kong or Singapore, the next few weeks will provide ample opportunities to network at industry events and parties – Chinese New Year celebrations are set to kick off just a month after the December festive season. “You might well find yourself in situations where you can make a short pitch to managers to convince them of your capabilities,” said Emma Charnock, regional managing director at recruiters PSD in Hong Kong. So start practising your pitch over Christmas.
Don’t limit yourself to official networking events; organise your own informal festive drinks sessions, said Lee Tze Yong, head of financial services at recruitment firm Charterhouse Partnership in Singapore. “People are more cheerful, relaxed and open at this time of year, so it’s the best time to network.”
Bankers don't tend to spend enough time reflecting on their long-term priorities, according to Henry Chamberlain, director of Henry Chamberlain Consulting in Hong Kong and a former head of selection at Standard Chartered. “So over the holidays, take a notepad or iPad and reflect on where you're going: do your career goals align with your personal values? Once you’re clear on what’s most important in your life, career choices become much easier.”
Bankers waste too much time musing on what they didn’t achieve during the year. You should instead turn your year-end thoughts towards celebrating your successes and thereby “recharging yourself with positive energy”, Chamberlain said. “We work best when we’re in a positive emotional state, so spend some time over Christmas getting into that state before you make career decisions.”
Reflecting on your successes will also give you wonderful new examples of achievement that you can spout out at new year job interviews. “You need to practice talking through these achievements from start to finish,” said Ben Batten, country general manager at recruiters Volt in Singapore. “Identify the issue, how you tackled it, what the outcome was, and what you might have done differently. Practice saying these out loud, so you come across as confident and articulate.”
“Also remember to document these achievements by updating your CV to ensure you don’t forget the nuances as time passes,” said Kate Harper, director of Hong Kong financial services at recruitment firm Connected Group.
If you stumble across a great job during the festive season, don’t wait until January to apply – barring public holidays, most banks in Asia will still be processing applications in late December. “Banks review profiles on a first-come-first-served basis, alongside the quality of the CVs. The sooner you submit, the higher your chance of securing an interview,” said Orelia Chan, manager, financial services, at recruiters Robert Walters in Singapore.
Recruiters in Asia (apart from expat ones who've gone home for Christmas) are also likely to be at work in late December, but they won't be very busy – pounce on this seasonal opportunity to meet them for a leisurely lunch. “You’ll get an early insight of the market trends: what jobs and industries will be busy after Chinese New Year,” said Sommer Owens, associate director of recruitment agency Morgan McKinley in Hong Kong.
Don’t depend on recruiters to spot all the new year trends in the banking sector. “Research, research and research: Read journals, financial media, and update yourself on the latest industry movements,” Charnock from PSD said. “This will give you a definitive advantage in 2014 when job interviewers require you to present up-to-date information.”
Been too busy during the year to consider which training courses will give your career a boost? Now’s the time to make those long-overdue enquiries, said Anita Gerry Sim, practice leader, financial services, at recruitment company AYP Asia Group in Singapore. “If you'd like to do a management role in 2014, for example, start looking at leadership courses in December.”
Make sure to mix the tasks above with a healthy dose of holiday relaxation. “Your brain needs rest to perform at its peak – nobody gets their best ideas while at work,” Chamberlain said. “Most great insights come while we do something non-work related: relaxing, walking in nature, meditating or exercising.”