The Chinese New Year is at its end, and this means two things – most folks in Hong Kong will have received their year-end bonuses, and headhunters will be a-calling! Hong Kong still seems to be a place of opportunity – the three-month period ending December 31, 2011 unemployment rate for Hong Kong appears to be a low low 3.3%, and from my own anecdotal experience, I don’t see people unemployed for long in Hong Kong. Plus, I’m not the only one I’ve known who has arrived in Hong Kong unemployed with limited connections and resources, but lucky to emerge at some point later with a steady paycheck.
In a past post, I promised to write on the topic of job searching, noting that some readers might find it interesting. Below, I will share some of the avenues I explored in the two years leading to me finding my current job, which, as I’ve mentioned enough times, I really love. But please take note, my search was oriented for someone with a law degree and mid-level experience.
Headhunters (or Recruiters for the More PC)
At times Hong Kong feels absolutely saturated with recruiters. There is even a free circulation handed out periodically on job hunting, most likely funded by loads of ads from such headhunters. The thing with Hong Kong is that job hopping isn’t looked down upon as it is in the U.S., and with so many switching jobs even in under a year’s time just to make a better dollar (or even to get a better gym membership) at another outfit, headhunters stand to make good money on this constant revolving door of hires.
The problem is that given such a job-seekers market, headhunters don’t need to be particularly skillful, or socially conscious. Within a month of my joining my current firm, a headhunter cold-called me to see if I wanted to look at options — why on earth would that make any sense? Clearly this guy didn’t do any diligence except comb the internet for potential candidates without doing any careful reading!
The better headhunters tend to look for “easy” hires only, so when I was not as marketable as I am today, few quality headhunters gave me a moment of their time. But I will admit that I’ve met at least 1 headhunter that took the time to get to know me and think about possible placements that would suit me through thick and thin – so it exists. Generally, though I don’t recommend the headhunter route too much.
Networking does work, and especially in Hong Kong where the interconnectivity of people, particularly people with influence, is so great given how small the community is. Indeed, that is how I found my first job — a friend from New York mentioned having worked with a lawyer who moved to Hong Kong, whose husband had a litigation background. I reached out, and we met for more of an “informational interview,” and then a few months later, on following up just to catch up, he brought me my last opportunity.
When I first came to Hong Kong, I was just trying to find anyone who would meet with me. I found people from my personal networks, alumni networks, even through people I’d just meet. Hong Kong expats are incredibly friendly and alwayas happy to help. Given how small the community is, giving to others is how you get, so don’t be shy.
There are also numerous regular networking events in Hong Kong, since the market is so hungry for better jobs on a regular basis. There’s “Thirsty Thursdays” and many other similar events linked in with bars or clubs — whether attendees are looking for jobs or dates may be unclear, but you will find lots of name cards being exchanged at such events. So if you are unemployed, you should consider making up some cards — they are very cheap in Hong Kong (just check out any of the stands over by that alley across from Wing On).
This is not a paid plug, but I honestly found LinkedIn to be extremely useful. Again, due to the high volume of jobs in Hong Kong, professional networking online takes another level for groups associated with Hong Kong. With a fairly informative profile, I found lots of headhunters requesting to connect, including the in-house recruiter for a large international insurance company. And while I warn that headhunters aren’t the most useful, they post job requests on LinkedIn feeds frequently. Also there are many LinkedIn groups that do the same, and are also very useful to join to get an idea of what jobs are floating around out there.
The Law Society regularly posts a weekly circular where job ads, complete with employer names and requirements (unlike those posted by headhunters), are posted. If you aren’t a member of the Law Society already, ask any registered foreign lawyer or solicitor if they can forward these to you. I ended up answering many of these ads myself, and found a decent level of interest from this platform. Whoever says that firms don’t read these job applications was wrong – they do and they are interested in avoiding paying headhunters’ fees!
There are also quite a few good websites in HK that you can look at to find relevant jobs:
– JobsDB posts just about any kind of job (from tea lady to corporate counsel)
– eFinancialCareers does have a finance bend to it, but if you’re interested in compliance, and other bank-based jobs, this is also a good spot
– CQrecruit is a site where law firms directly post and can post interest in your resume – kind of like the monster.com of law jobs in Hong Kong. I’ve gotten a few pings here and interviews too, though it will have more “local” jobs. The big firms also post here (I’ve seen posts from large US and UK law firms).
Also be sure to troll law firm websites. Though not as common among the US sites, UK firms tend to post their vacancies. Either way, it never hurts to take a look.
These are all resources I employed when looking to be employed, and I got bites from each of these avenues! For anyone looking to find a new job in Hong Kong – best of luck! My advice is to stay diligent and just go for it!