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How to prepare now for a job search after Chinese New Year

Job search Asian banking

The next two weeks may not be the best time to actually apply for a banking job in Asia (January isn’t a busy month for vacancies).

But you should make the most of this quiet time by laying the ground work for your post-Chinese New Year job search. Here’s how:

Begin by looking within

“High-potential staff in Asia don’t like it when I tell them that two years at one firm isn’t enough – but it’s true,” says Nick Avery, managing director of Hong Kong HR advisory firm Lyric Human Capital and a former HR director at BlackRock and HSBC. “Banks want people who can demonstrate progression inside a company over three or four years, not job hoppers. So start by finding out what opportunities exist where you work now. This is often hard for Asian talent because they worry their manager will see them as disloyal, but multinational firms see it as a sign of ambition. Talk to your manager and let them know that you’re interested in new roles.”

Decide what you want out of your next job

Don’t be too formulaic with your job-search preparation – updating your CV and contacting recruiters is not the next step. “First ask yourself if you really know what you want in your next role – do you know the type of culture and company environment you thrive in?” says Jonathan Kwan, managing director of career caching company Kwantum Leap in Hong Kong. “If you don’t spend time up-front doing some self-assessment about your career objectives, it will be hard for others to help you.”

‘Interview’ someone senior

“One of the things that separates good talent from the rest is their ability to confidently talk about their career goals,” says Avery. “Ambition is a critical component of potential and at interviews you need to explain what you’d like to be doing in 10 years. If you don’t know, then January is a great time to work it out. To help you, I suggest ‘interviewing’ two or three people who are more senior than you to find out about their career journey. Ask them about the key experiences they’ve had and what they would do differently if they were in your position again.”

Hammer home your achievements 

It’s not only your resume that needs to be focused on your achievements. “I often come across people who put effort into their CVs, but are underwhelming at interviews because they can’t explain their achievements,” says Avery. “Good recruiters use behaviour-based interview techniques to probe achievements to identify specific job competencies. If you’re going to be in the job market after CNY, use January is to think through the impact you’ve had in each of your jobs – ask yourself ‘what did I deliver?’ Highlight three or four key achievements in each role and then practice explaining them to a friend in a mock interview.”

Don’t be too blatant when networking

Attending networking events and catching up with friends and former colleagues in January is an obvious way of discovering jobs due to open up after Chinese New Year. “But you can’t just simply ask whether their company is hiring – that’s too direct,” says Kwan. “The key to ultimately finding out about ‘hidden’ jobs is to show a genuine interest in other people – don’t just talk about yourself – until they ask about you. Remember that even if they aren’t in your field, they may have friends and colleagues they can introduce you to.”

Benchmark yourself

Conveniently, many recruitment firms release their salary surveys in January – read these now to ensure you don’t aim too high or low when you eventually negotiate pay. “And generally make yourself aware of what’s happening in the industry – collect information so you can give market insights during interviews,” says Ada Lee, founder of Hong Kong career coaching firm Interview Hero and a consultant at Morgan Philips Executive Search.

Research recruiters 

During a busy recruitment period you might send your CV to multiple recruiters as soon as new jobs crop up. But right now you have time to actually research – online and via referrals – the best recruiters in your field. “You should choose one who’s experienced and well networked, who understands your career aspirations and who can put together a strategy to ensure your CV is represented to the appropriate hiring managers,” says Will Russell, a director at recruiters Ambition in Singapore.

Expand your social network

“It’s a quiet time in recruitment but this shouldn’t stop you staying in tune with industry trends,” says Evelyn Lee, manager of financial services at recruiters Robert Walters in Singapore. “Start adding more profiles of industry peers on professional social media platforms. This immediately expands your network and lets you stay in touch with breaking banking news via their postings – this information could benefit you during job interviews.”

Include hobbies when you update your CV

“While keeping your resume constantly updated with the new skills is essential, too many banking CVs are all work and no play,” says Lee from Robert Walters. “If you have a keen interest in a sport or play a leading role in a recreational association, that should be listed on your CV. It shows your potential employer that you’re capable of leadership positions inside and outside the workplace.”


Do one task at a time to ensure you do them all well. “There’s no such thing as true multitasking. Our brains haven’t evolved the capacity to perform two completely different cognitive processes simultaneously,” says Alka Chandiramani, a career consultant at Alvo Connexions in Singapore. “Pre-CNY is a good time to stay focused on ‘mono-tasking’ and ponder the key areas of your career that you need to prioritise this year.”

Image credit: P_Wei, Getty

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