Career Advice Job Market Report

The topical seminars at the Career Forum were a trove of invaluable advice for jobseekers, dished out by top executives

The Career Forum gave aspiring professionals the opportunity to meet with prospective employers and sharpen their CVs, but there was also the chance to hear top-class presentations from some of Hong Kong’s most prestigious companies, highlighting the openings and opportunities they have on offer.

Three of these companies – South China Morning Post, Schneider Electric, and Autodesk – will also be involved in the next Shadow a CEO Programme, during which they will play host to successful candidates who will spend three days working alongside a senior executive.

The presentations were kicked off by Gary Liu, CEO of the South China Morning Post, who cautioned that every industry is in line to be “upended” by technology. Liu recommended that students and fresh graduates should use every opportunity to learn how to code and understand the basics of how artificial intelligence (AI) works. “In the same way that students learn Chinese and English at school, coding is a language that everyone should learn,” Liu said during an onstage interview with Paul Gallagher, director of professional services, Kelly Services Hong Kong.

Explaining how the media industry today looks very different than 15 years ago, Liu said new types of talent are needed to manage how news is gathered, distributed and consumed. “The media companies that will be successful are those that engage with the market place as product technology companies and put the user experience above everything else,” said Liu, who previously led Spotify’s emerging technologies and business strategies for global markets, and also worked at AOL and Google before joining the Post. Liu also emphasised the importance of “learning how to learn”. “It can sound like a cliché but identifying what you don’t know, understanding where to find the information and data so you do know and understand, and how to connect the information to the rest of the world, is a real skill,” said Liu.

A global energy management and automation specialist, Schneider Electric has four integrated and synergetic businesses – buildings, industry, infrastructure, and IT, said Janet Man, vice-president, global talent management. “We have a mission: we work to ensure everyone will have access to energy because it is a basic human right. We develop effective solutions so that future generations will have access to sustainable energy. This underpins everything we do.”

Although Schneider Electric was founded in France, it has three global hubs: Paris, Hong Kong and Boston. “We aim to give equal career development opportunities to all staff members, no matter where they are,” Man said. “Our CEO is based in Hong Kong. It means that students joining the Shadow a CEO Programme at our company will be able to interact directly with the C-suite senior leadership of an international corporation.”

Schneider Electric believes that a company is only as good as its people and that every employee has their talent. “We will do our utmost to unleash their potential so that they can contribute to the creation of a better world,” Man noted. “Our corporate culture values diversity and inclusion. Our work environment is high performance-driven and rewards those who deliver results. Driven, talented individuals can climb to leadership positions in any of our three global hubs and other locations where we operate. We also emphasise equality for women. Our CEO has a clear ambition to provide equal opportunities to everyone everywhere.”

While it is understandable that fresh graduates and employees who are relatively new to the workplace want to notch up immediate career successes, Dr Wendy Lee, Autodesk Far East country sales manager, Hong Kong and Macau, said developing a career takes time. However, this should not dampen their enthusiasm for learning and development.

 “You need to be objective and set goals to be successful, but you also need to be patient,” said Lee, who added there will be challenges that require a commitment to upgrade or learn new skills.

“Creative thinking is not always about using the latest technology tools; it can come from ideas and discussions that use technology to turn ideas into reality.”

Lee said the electrically powered Tesla car illustrates what can be achieved when different technologies and ideas are brought together. Whether studying or in the work environment, she recommended making time to refresh the mind and body.

 “To maintain a creative mind, it is important to have interests other than study and work,” explained Lee, a song composer with over 40 published pop songs who also plays the piano in live performance.

Francis Wong, executive council member of the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management, explained how massive changes in the global business landscape have been driven by unprecedented technological advancement. Some of today’s biggest brands, including Tesla, Huawei and Facebook, did not even exist 20 years ago. “A recent survey shows that around 47 per cent of total employment in the US is at risk due to the likely computerisation of various occupations in the next two decades. These professions include surgeons because hospitals use robots like ‘da Vinci’ to operate on patients,” Wong said.

Graduates need to adopt a different mindset for career development amid this changing landscape. They should be aware that competition will be international and their knowledge should be global, Wong noted. “It’s important for us to embrace technology because very soon at least 50 per cent of jobs will become technology-driven. To innovate, we need to be constantly curious and ask many questions, then use logic to analyse issues.”

The vibrant banking sector in Hong Kong welcomes university graduates from different disciplines. It provides diverse career opportunities in various streams, including personal banking, corporate and private banking and treasury. Banks also have many supporting divisions, such as HR, marketing, internal control and IT, which are in need of specialists.

“There are different career pathways to senior management positions at banks,” said Dr WH Yeung, assistant general manager of the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB). Taking frontline positions as an example, there are relationship managers in commercial and private banking.”

To impart updated professional knowledge, the HKIB offers a certified financial management planner course, which is certified banker level 6 and the equivalent of a master’s degree. Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority has been working with the banking industry to introduce an industry-wide set of standards – the Enhanced Competency Framework (ECF) for Banking Practitioners – in Hong Kong.

Carmen Law, senior manager, marketing and promotions at Hang Lung Properties, talked about her own experiences in the company’s management trainee programme. “I got diverse exposure in various divisions. I started with investor relations. Then I was involved with construction projects in Tianjin. It was highly technical and I had the opportunity to work with architects and designers. In property sales, I took up the challenge of cooperating with agents to attract buyers,” Law said. “In leasing and management, I devoted my energies to developing marketing campaigns for the group’s shopping malls.”

In her view, it was essential to build a solid foundation for a career in the first 10 years. “We should not let pride limit our development. We start from the bottom, and sometimes our suggestions may not be adopted by our colleagues. We should learn and analyse the experience shared by our seniors,” Law said. “Some may consider resigning when they encounter setbacks. But because companies invest substantial resources in developing employees, they tend not to hire people with jumpy CVs. Every job has its challenges and perseverance is a virtue.”

Headquartered in Hong Kong, PCCW is a leading company serving over 13 million customers around the world. Many macro trends have a positive impact on the company’s business. For instance, the mobile-centric digital world will see exponential growth in personal business that encompasses mobile apps, social media and entertainment. Fast-growing services for enterprises include cloud and data centres, said Rita Chu, PCCW’s vice-president for learning and talent development.

“We are strong in digital and business transformation services for enterprises, as well as in integrated communication solutions for both enterprises and individual customers,” Chu said. “We have seen continuing growth of the fibre network path to territory-wide fibre-optic broadband. We now offer a 4x1000M multi-use broadband service. We also focus on the ‘internet of things’ and operate an IoT concept store to showcase future cutting-edge digital development.”

A major local utility company, Hongkong Electric, has a well-regarded talent development programme that trains quality people for the company to create value for shareholders and deliver high-level services for its customers and care to the community, said Sandy Ng, human resources services manager.

Its well-structured, three-year graduate trainee programme, recognised by the Hong Kong Institute of Engineers (HKIE), has attracted many top graduates, including Polly Wong, an engineer III, who joined the programme in 2015. “We have been rotated to different divisions, which enables us to optimise our networks for future collaborative projects,” said Wong. “The company also attaches importance to our personal growth. For instance, we are encouraged to attend many activities, including those organised by the HKIE, so that we get to know other engineers and enrich our experience.”

In the Hong Kong Police Force’s 2016-17 recruitment intake, around 24 per cent were university graduates, and nearly half the total new hires were holders of diplomas or undergraduate degrees.

 “The Hong Kong Police Force enjoys high recognition globally,” senior inspector Gloria Leung said. “Many police inspectors have opportunities for overseas training and to exchange expertise.”

The training of probationary inspectors at the Police College is as challenging as it is rewarding. The tough physical fitness element requires perseverance and endurance. In a video screened at the forum, many inspectors said they had learned about the importance of punctuality at the college.

The 36-week training helps probationary inspectors build team spirit and enhance their communication skills, and Leung was keen to sell it to potential recruits. “Our recruitment goes on throughout the year,” Leung said. “Students aiming to get some experience can consider signing up for our auxiliary undergraduate scheme and police mentorship programme.