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Tips for success in the city

Published on Friday, 17 Oct 2014
Photo: Berton Chang

Although Hong Kong is constantly changing, its position as the gateway to mainland China remains constant. That positioning creates a jobs market that is unique in Asia-Pacific.

With Hong Kong having one of the region's lowest unemployment rates - around 3.3 per cent - and its standing as a world-class city, graduates here enter a market that offers both abundant opportunities and intense competition.

"The outlook for graduates is very positive, especially compared to other markets," says Natellie Sun, director of Page Personnel. "Hong Kong is also an attractive location for employment, which means there is also tough competition to secure the right role. Hong Kong graduates are competing for top positions within the local community, as well as competing with candidates returning from overseas."

The number of job openings stems from the city's relatively healthy economy and proximity to mainland China. Regionally, Asia's growth compares favourably with the West, adding to the range of opportunities available.

The banking sector, traditionally one of Hong Kong's most favoured areas, has been hiring steadily, with an emphasis on compliance and risk roles, Sun says. Meanwhile, Hong Kong's appeal as a shopping destination continues to ensure plenty of opportunities. "In other commercial areas, frontline roles such as sales are still very much in high demand as organisations look to grow their top-line revenue."

So how can graduates best match these opportunities to their career aspirations? Sun says quality preparation is needed before sending out applications.

"It's important to take a step back and think about what you are good at and what you enjoy doing," she says. "Talk to people to understand what sort of opportunities are out there and prioritise what is important to you in your first job - whether it's the role, the organisation or the industry. Take your time to narrow things down with some research.

"Your first role isn't just a job. It could be the beginning of a great career, so pick wisely."

Graduates can feel overwhelmed at first, but it is wise to remember that being honest about what is important to you and taking feedback onboard will help ensure your success, Sun says. "It's okay to change your mind and it's okay not to go into an industry that you didn't major in at school. Determine what is important to you and what you will be successful in and go for it."

Remember, your first job does not necessarily set the tone for your whole career, she adds. "Ten years down the track, when you look back on your career, your first job isn't always that important or relevant to your current role. However, for some lucky ones, their first job can be a great foundation for the years to follow. It's okay to not get it 100 per cent correct the first time."

Most graduates will not have much work experience to list on their CVs, but for many companies this can be an asset, as they look to groom employees themselves. A positive attitude and the ability to learn and adapt are highly rated skills, and English and Mandarin language skills add competitiveness.

When you find a job vacancy that appeals, research the company before applying. "The first stop would be the company's website to understand their product or different lines of business. It's also good to research their competitors.

"If you have friends working in the company, ask around and get a gauge of the culture and working environment. You may also find blog pages which comment about the organisation and working there."

If you are invited to an interview, remember that first impressions are very important. "Dress appropriately for the role you are applying for and be on time. Prepare before the interview, and it is also a nice touch to follow up after the interview with an email."

The interview itself is a chance for you and the employer to assess each other. Prepare by thinking about the aspects of the job that are important to you - perhaps the learning and development opportunities, the company's culture, and the challenges of the job - and focus your questions on those areas.

"In regard to what not to ask, definitely at the first stage, do not ask questions around salaries, annual leave or sick leave, and benefits," Sun says. "Keep questions professional and focused on the organisation and the role."

The number of options can be overwhelming for graduates who are unsure of which career path to follow. One way to narrow down the choice is to try several roles through internships, which give a reliable feel for the hands-on work experience.

Speak to as many people as possible to find out about roles you may not have considered. Sun also suggests trying some of the career or personality profile questionnaires that are available free online to help whittle down the choice.

If you get a job offer - or even more than one - look beyond the money and weigh up the offers according to your priorities before making a decision. "I don't believe salary is the number-one thing a graduate should be looking at," Sun says. "More important is the training and career prospects the company and role can provide as a basis, as well as what opportunities might be possible down the track."

Don't forget to make another good impression on your first day at work. "Pump yourself up - your first day is exciting," Sun says.

"Remember to be on time, dress appropriately and be open to meeting people, asking questions, and taking everything on board."

When the time comes to move on from your first job, don't leave too quickly, Sun advises. Ask yourself whether you have learnt everything about the position before you decide whether it is right or wrong for you. Have you given it a good shot?

"If you feel you have maximised everything, then it might be time to move on," she says.

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