Young but experienced
According to a recent survey by the City University of Hong Kong's (CityU) department of marketing, a significant number of young people get promoted to managerial level in their mid- to late-20s.
The department interviewed 731 respondents, of whom 457 held management positions. Their jobs are defined in the survey as those involving co-ordination, planning or supervision.
Among the respondents in the management level, up to 68 per cent were promoted when they were 25 to 28 years old. This finding shows that young people are able to climb up the career ladder quickly.
Leadership expert Emilia Gallo, managing director of Excel Global Consulting, says this phenomenon is largely a result of the information age. "Our society is developing rapidly, with increasing demand for flexible individuals who can adapt to changes quickly and are technologically advanced. Young people who possess these traits are in for a bright career," she says.
Technology-related jobs offer them a chance to move up fast. "The internet and online social media represent the future. Organisations depend on youth who grew up using these tools and are efficient in using them," she says.
The survey reports that 61 per cent of the respondents who work as managers cite their demonstration of leadership as the main reason for their quick rise to managerial level, while about 46 per cent attribute their career advancement to their ability to boost business.
Hon Fung, an alumnus of CityU's department of marketing, was first promoted at the age of 27. He says leadership skills and the willingness to take that extra mile are career boosters.
At 36, Hon is now a deputy general manager at Wonderful Sky Financial Group, with 30 staff under him. He is also the head of investor-relations services.
Hon says his road to success began with his university training. "Nobody is a born leader. While still in the university, one can acquire leadership skills by participating in and organising school events. Being able to communicate and motivate peers is important for young professionals managing staff who are almost their age," he says.
To be recognised by your boss, Hon adds, you have to show you are willing to tackle different tasks even if they are not part of your job description. "Make use of every opportunity to show your ability."
Dr John Leung Wai-keung, associate professor at CityU's department of marketing, and director of its executive MBA programme (Hong Kong), says one's leadership qualities usually surface while working with others and trying to motivate them.
"For young managers, knowledge is never the problem. The challenge is how to work with others and be on the same page."
To communicate effectively, Leung says a leader has to be aware of the differences in culture, age and gender. "Young managers are middle managers. They need to lead staff who are from the same generation and report to senior management from an older generation. They have to be aware that they may have different ways of communicating. They also need to be aware of cultural differences," says Leung.
Globalisation has led to a massive expansion in businesses and different communication styles. Motivating people is not only about encouraging them to work hard.
"A manager has to convince staff that the job they are doing is meaningful, not only to the company but also to them on a personal level," says Leung.
The extra mile
- Take on extra duties
- Try out different tasks
- Be aware of who you are communicating with