Banking professionals in Hong Kong and Singapore are set to spend at least an extended weekend – potential longer – 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 straight 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 expert tips for recharging your banking career this Chinese New Year, without wasting the whole holiday thinking about work.
“For junior and mid-level bankers, CNY is a good time to reflect on the strengths of your current franchise, and whether it makes sense from a career-progression perspective to try for a more senior role at a boutique firm, with the possibility of a significant pay raise,” says Hong Kong finance professional Matt Huang, author of the book Young China Hand. “Being in a big bank has its pluses, including extensive access to clients, but you run the risk of getting lost in a sea of talent and not getting your voice heard.”
If you have front-office 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. “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.”
Bankers in Asia should also take a few hours out to work on pipelining of new clients – a task which often gets pushed aside by the demands of their day jobs. “Identify a potential new client so that after the holiday you can explain to your manager where you see an opportunity,” says Lim Chaileng, a director at recruiters Randstad in Singapore.
“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. Create a list of people who could be most important to your success. Send them a New Year’s greeting and suggest catching up after the holiday.”
If you 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 a US bank. “Keep your accomplishments specific and measurable and summarise them in a way that will provoke discussion.”
Recruiters in Singapore and Hong Kong often return after Chinese New Year to find their inboxes full of applications from candidates who’ve used the holidays to apply for every job in their field. “If you have time over CNY, 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,” says Nick Wells, a director at search firm Webber Chase in Singapore.
“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.”
“As a banker, Chinese New Year is a good time to reach out to people you haven’t had many opportunities to talk to – the secretary who booked your flights when your assistant wasn’t around, or the analyst who stayed up late to rush your pitch book. It makes the office environment a little warmer,” says Eric Sim, a former UBS investment bank managing director who’s now a guest lecturer at Renmin University.
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