Finance professionals in Hong Kong and Singapore are set to spend at least a long weekend away from the office. But while the Chinese New Year holidays are mainly about meeting up with family and friends, the busy season for recruitment at banks in Asia begins immediately afterwards.
The break provides the perfect opportunity to take a fresh look at your banking career and to decide your next move.
Here are some quick tips for recharging your career this Chinese New Year, without wasting the whole holiday thinking about work.
Do some genuine networking
“Chinese New Year is a good time for pinging people in your network without appearing to have an agenda,” says Jeremy Stunt, a former COO of cash equities at Standard Chartered, now an executive coach in Hong Kong. “It’s incredibly useful to have people you can go to for career advice but you’ve got to keep these relationships fresh for when you need them. Take a few minutes over the break to review your contacts and create a list of relationships that could be most important to your future success. Send them a New Year’s greeting and suggest catching up after the holiday.”
Check whether your career is challenging you
Paul Heng, founder of NeXT Corporate Coaching Services in Singapore, advises finance professionals to follow his ‘one-third rule’ of career management by categorising their key job activities into the following three buckets and assessing the amount of time spent on each. 1) Learning – new activities you can learn by being trained or by doing them on the job; 2) Stretching – tasks that you know to some extent, but need to better familiarised yourself with; 3) Eyes-shut – the parts of your job you can carry out with ease. “If all three categories are roughly in equal proportion, you have an ideal job – I’d recommend staying put,” says Heng. “If you lean heavily towards number three, it may be time to move jobs unless you enjoy just being on a career treadmill.”
Assess your achievements
If you want a new job in the Year of the Rooster but don’t have time over the holidays to revamp your whole resume, focus on your achievements first. “If the roles on your CV don’t include two or three concise bullet points that highlight your achievements, you had better get on to this,” says a Singapore-based recruiter at an international bank. “Keep your accomplishments specific and measurable and summarise them in a way that will provoke discussion – stick to the core points so you can then discuss them further at job interviews.”
Dig deep into your deals
If you have front-office job interviews lined up after Chinese New Year, you should prioritise preparing for questions about the deals you’ve been involved in. “As a banker, all that matters is deal experience – the more comprehensive your deal list is, the more you will impress the employer,” says Jan Dorgeist, an M&A and corporate finance consultant in Singapore. “An imperative piece of advice would be to review your past deal experience over the holidays to fully understand the role you played on each transaction so you can give more colour when asked about your responsibilities.”
Create a career plan; don’t spam
Recruiters in Singapore and Hong Kong often return after Chinese New Year to find their inboxes full of applications from candidates who’ve simply used the holidays to apply for every job in their field. “Almost all the banks I speak with mention the job-hopping attitude of many people in Asia,” says Nick Wells, a director at search firm Webber Chase in Singapore. “If you’re taking time out over Chinese New Year, start building a strategic long-term career plan so you know where you want to be in five years. This doesn’t involve scatter-gunning your resume to every recruiter in the market.”
Ponder potential clients
Client-facing staff are advised to take a few hours out to work on their pipelining of new clients – a task which often gets pushed aside by the demands of current customers. “Identify a potential new client so that after the holiday you can explain to your manager why you see an opportunity and propose some next steps,” says Lim Chaileng, director of banking, finance and accounting at recruiters Randstad.
Reflect on your “old” resolutions
“Chinese New Year can give us a second chance to look at the career resolutions we set at the start of the calendar year,” says Stunt from CTF Asia. “Check whether you’ve got your core career priorities right and examine what’s stopping you advancing with them. Identifying your barriers and taking appropriate action is a critical part of moving forward to where you want to be in your career.”
Set small goals – and write them down
“One of the best ways to start the goal-setting process is to write down a few small things that you could do after the holidays that would make your work and your life more enjoyable and healthy,” says the Singapore recruiter. “The trick is to start small and work your way up from there. If you begin with something big like ‘leaving work every day at 5pm’ or ‘give up alcohol completely’ you are setting yourself up to fail.”
Image credit: Kai_Wong, iStock, Thinkstock