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王李职场评论系列之四:Making Good Career Decisions

作者:Larry Wang:CEO and Founder of Wang & Li Asia Resources 2009年6月26日


The following document offers some fundamental, sound advice regarding what you may what to think about when pursuing a new opportunity or considering an offer from a company that is interested in you.  The viewpoints and information shared come from our years of working with successful candidates of all backgrounds, and from what we have seen as common in their approach to making excellent career choices that are likely to add value and turn out well for them.

The Right Career Moves

Over the past ten years of advising professionals in Greater China, we’ve seen many careers stagnate as individuals hop from job to job.  Or they will take a job for the money that ultimately does not help them build the type of skills and offer the type of exposure that will lead to their success in the long run.  In these cases, the jobs and companies they chose did not lead to where they expected.  To avoid a similar situation, it’s important to always keep in mind that the choices you make today have an impact on your future job marketability and ability to reach your long-term goals.  Therefore, make each career decision using deliberate, sound judgment.  When contemplating a career move, think about how it will fit into your overall career plans.  Ask yourself, “does this new opportunity bring me any closer to my long-term career objectives?”

In China, where people are easily influenced by outside factors, we see many professionals enter certain industries for no other reason than they hear you can earn a lot of money in it.  For example, there is always a strong interest among MBA mainland graduates I meet to pursue an investment banking career.  But when asked why, they have only a limited understanding of what investment bankers actually do, or what skills they possess that would make them successful in this industry.  Many are interested simply because they hear that MBAs abroad actively pursue this profession.  This is referred to as “herd mentality”, or blindly following the course taken by those around you.

One candidate came to us with a resume showing four jobs with four different companies in five years.  He was quite proud that he had received title promotions with each job change, which now placed him as a marketing director.  The candidate thought that his career moves indicated how highly sought after and, therefore, how good he was.  Unfortunately, our clients did not view it in that way.  They questioned his ability to remain with an employer for little more than one year, as well as his “value” given his high salary level and lack of significant accomplishments in any one position.  The candidate had reached a point where he had to defend the moves and decisions he made every time he interviewed.  Many candidates who rush into a career decision can find themselves wondering later if they made the right choice.  Making any good career choice requires being thorough and making careful considerations of the overall impact to one’s future.

Choose A Job For The Right Reasons

In China, the quality of work environments and what they offer varies greatly.  Therefore, it is particularly important to get into a good development situation early in your career.  This means finding a company and position where you will be given opportunities to learn and grow, and where you will be under the guidance of strong professionals.  The most important factors to weigh when considering a new position are the people you’ll be working under and learning from?  What is the scope of responsibilities that the job offers?  What other internal and external business areas does the position expose you to?  What is the likelihood you will be successful at performing the job?  What skills will you learn from the position?  Will the experience you gain help lay a strong foundation for your long-term career development?

You should also look at the company’s commitment to growing its business in China.  Is the operation an established or a start-up one?  What is the company's position within its industry?  What type of management structure and resources are in place to support you?

Finally, look at the industry and its future potential.  Is the industry experiencing growth or at a mature stage?  What is the competitive situation in the market(s) you're being asked to develop?  If these areas look promising, then the advancement opportunities and financial rewards will present themselves, as long as you are able to prove yourself as a strong performer.  This is seen repeatedly for countless mainland professionals working for multinationals in China.

Evaluate Job Opportunities On . . .

¡                         Position - Will you gain skill, exposure, and experience that will add to your future marketability?

¡                         Management – Who will be supervising you? Who will you be learning from?

¡                        Company – What is the company’s commitment and competitive positioning in the region?

¡                        Industry – What is the state of the industry you are entering?

¡                        Self – What is your overall confidence level that you can do the job well/successfully?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Too Much Influence From Outside Factors

In Chinese culture, people are always comparing themselves to others.  It takes maturity to get past the influence of what others are doing and saying when you are making career decisions.  Unfortunately, too many mainland professionals make choices based on reasons that are not substantial.  They are attracted to position titles and well-known company names.  They emphasize the status of the firm, over the quality of the position and the development opportunities it provides.   This is a mistake. 

Finding an excellent opportunity that suits you can present itself in many different scenarios.  For instance, I meet many candidates from smaller companies, whose caliber is even above those from larger, more established firms.  It’s because they have received greater exposure and training through a closer working relationship with their boss, who possesses a well-trained business background.  And that exposure and training comes across in the way they are able to present themselves and handle high-caliber, international-level situations.

Do Your Own Quality Control

With so many job postings out there these days, it is up to you to do your own quality control with regard to what is a good opportunity for you, and what is not.  Pursuing a new position is a two-way street.  You have just as much at stake as the company you are considering.  Your number one objective in any interview is to sell yourself and to get the company interested in you.  However, once you’ve done that you should be thorough in asking your own questions to determine what kind of skills, exposure, and experience you will gain from the position, and how this will happen.  At the appropriate time during the interview process, learn as much about the job and the company as you can.  This is not being too forward on your part.  Such inquiries are the only way to help ensure that you pick a position and company well-suited for yourself.  If a prospective employer is resistant or unable to answer such questions, then it’s a good indication that they might not be the best employer to work for.  Instead, work for someone whom you feel confident is able to support and respond to your career interests and needs.

Job Now, Money Later

When considering a job, try not to place the money aspect above all other considerations.  Particularly if you are in a relatively early, development stage of your career (e.g. first 7-8 years), seek positions that can add to your knowledge and expertise, and that can provide you with value-added skills first.  Find a position that allows you to build your competencies and experience.  Next, consider the quality/resources of a company and its management team, and your ability to succeed in the position you are considering with them.  The final consideration should be salary.  Unfortunately, too many young mainland professionals today are prioritizing jobs in just the opposite order.

Of course, the desire to earn a high salary is an objective of just about anyone who works.  But making a lot of money is not a plan.  It is an objective, and one that is reached by developing and showing your ability to perform and add high value to an employer who believes you are worth it.  There are many situations where we’ve seen excellent candidates take a much lower salary when moving to a new company and position, in order to improve their career prospects and opportunity in the long run.  The opportunity they took offered them a lot more than their current situation, in terms of responsibilities, exposure, and quality of their environment and work.  It requires a good deal of maturity to see the big picture when facing such a situation.  There are many instances where the pay-off may not be as apparent in the short-term, but are much greater over the long-term, as long as you are able to assess a new opportunity well and are confident in your ability to show your performance in that role.

Being Realistic And Flexible When Making Significant Career Changes

In one instance, we introduced one candidate for a sales manager position in a leading multinational packaged goods company.  The candidate had a successful background as a marketing professional.  Although she had no previous sales experience, the client liked her energy and intelligence.  The position offered the candidate a chance to learn a new job function, prove herself in a revenue-generating role, and add a valuable element to her career development.  It was just the type of position and opportunity she was looking for.

Before the interview, I gave the candidate the compensation range for the position.  I let her know that I thought it was a fair amount for her level of experience.  In addition, I emphasized that the position offered her an exceptional chance to acquire business development, profit and loss, and management experience.  The candidate acknowledged the compensation expectations and her own priority to find a position that offered a promising and attractive career track.

The interview went well and it became obvious that the client was very interested.  At the end of the meeting, however, the candidate couldn't resist resorting back to her original view of her value.  Thinking that she was gaining the upper hand, she told the client she was only interested in the position if it offered a higher salary.  In her mind, she felt that the company should pay her a premium if she was going to give up her current situation for something that would result in a major change in her career. 

It was a "what can you do for me" attitude that reflected both a lack of commitment towards her move and an unrealistic assessment of her value and the opportunity.  The client was willing to give the candidate the opportunity, if the candidate was willing to share the risk.  But he was not interested in paying a premium for someone who was entirely untested in her ability to run a key part of his business.  Not surprisingly, the client's interest in the candidate ended right there.   

The Decisions You Make Now Affect You Later

The decision to enter an industry, to join a company, or take a particular job can have a profound affect on your entire future and quality of life.  Making good choices regarding your career affects whether or not you will enjoy your work and be successful at your job.  It can affect how your life may turn out overall.  Therefore, be sure to make your career decisions based on the right reasons, ones that are personal and important to you.  It can save you a tremendous amount of time and energy spent trying to get on a career track that is more suitable or desirable for you later on down the road.  For your career decision-making, determine personal and professional objectives that are as clear to you as possible, and then stay on track in pursuing them.  Having even a general plan or some guiding criteria to follow can only work in your favor, as you make career choices that affect your long-term success and happiness.

 

For more career development articles and job position information, please visit:

 www.wang-li.com

 

 
 
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