Student experience: Asia Careers Insight Series

20 April 2021

MSc Management of Information Systems & Digital Innovation student Eleanor shares her insights from attending several of the Asia Careers Insight Series sessions.

What is the Asia Careers Insight Series?
Sponsored by CPA Australia, the Asia Careers Insight Series is jointly organised by the University of Manchester and the University of Warwick. There are 14 participating universities on hand to help students discover career opportunities and better understand the recruitment market across Asia. With over 45 employee recruitment talks, panel discussion and skills workshops organised, students and graduates are able to be familiarised with the organisations and become more competitive towards local and international employers. The sessions are entirely delivered online for participants regardless of nationality, degree or year of study. Various opportunities are introduced in the sessions, from internships, placements and graduate schemes to part-time roles and roles are undertaken remotely. Ultimately, the sessions and workshops allow participants to upskill, build a global outlook and improve employability prospects in the long run.

Session one: Hong Kong Labour Market Panel Discussion

As the financial hub, Hong Kong, just like London, has vast opportunities to pursue a career in the financial industry. The session encouraged students studying in the UK to make use of the graduate opportunities to explore the Hong Kong market. Various employers were invited to the panel discussion, including Jardine Matheson Group, Citi Group, KOS International Limited and Hang Seng Bank. The main focus of the session is to get top tips for the graduates gaining employment in Hong Kong after graduation, especially during and after the pandemic. 

A new trend in the market: Virtual Internships
Many big companies would like to provide a chance for students to experience what it is like working in the firm through virtual projects. Even the personal contact experienced is being removed due to the social distancing barriers, the company inputs could still guide students with real-life working experience with expected deliverables through virtual internships. Therefore, the importance of virtual internships should not be downplayed. This experience also helps students understand which path or sector they want to pursue as their career by participating in as many internships as possible (typically takes around 5 - 6 hours to complete a project for a virtual internship) to select the career path that best suits their needs. Further in-depth industrial knowledge of the desired career path of the specific division after completing the internships can be researched and gained, given the right track and direction is selected with the participation of the internships. 

Abilities Hong Kong employers treasure
Communication skills, interpersonal skills, leadership skills are doubtlessly the abilities Hong Kong employers looking for. On top of that, it is crucial to show the positivity of the candidate during challenging times (i.e. COVID) and the ways to come up with innovative solutions to settle issues. One of the tips is to get prepared on the topic "What did you do during COVID-19 and isolation time?" during the interviews. This question helps employers understand what type of person the candidates are and how do the candidates come up with solutions. The answer also shows the ability of how the candidate would potentially manage the future challenges at their work, which can be estimated whether the working style fits the firm or not. 

Another ability is to include any unique points of yourself in the CV. Candidates applying for similar jobs do have similar experiences; thus, their CVs are more or less the same. Apart from internships and working experience, it is vital to include hobbies and interests to make the CV more attractive to the recruiters and let them remember you. The interesting CVs attract the recruiters to further go through your CV to understand what type of person you are with the expression of your personality through the unique interests. One of the panel's reminders is "Everybody is good, so how to include the element that is unique to you is important". It is not only about candidates looking for jobs; it is also about organisations looking for a matched candidate. 

Session two: How to Impress Indian employers with your UK experience (by University of Exeter)

Another session I have participated in was held by the career consultant of the University of Exeter, interactively introducing how UK graduates can impress Indian employees during job hunting. The session first allows participants to think of the motivations for studying in the UK. Students are then encouraged to think further on the pros and cons of employers in India hiring a UK-graduated student and an India-graduated student. For UK-graduated students, there are various difficulties encountered during the studies. A SEAL approach (i.e. Situation, Effect, Action and Learning) is used to evaluate steps taken for students to get out of their comfort zone and learn from the difficulties. These skills used in overcoming the issues faced studying in the UK can be summarised as different soft skills. Soft skills, including communication skills and teamwork ability, shall be included in the CVs. Despite many advantages of graduating from the UK, there are three main concerns for Indian local employers: the motivation to return to India instead of staying in the UK for a job; the university grades compare with local students and the high salary and position expectation from the UK graduates. To overcome these potential concerns, students are encouraged to highlight gains and benefits for local employers hiring UK graduates instead of telling what students want to get from the employment. 

Comparison between employers in Hong Kong and India
It is interesting to discover the similarities and differences between Hong Kong and Indian employers' views towards UK-graduated students. 

Both employers believe UK-graduates are with a more adaptable and flexible mindset, especially for students studying in the UK during the pandemic. The diversified cultural experience studying in the UK also helps students gained cultural intelligence with learning opportunities coming along with other students worldwide. 

Indian employers also value the tremendous communication skills UK-graduates gained during their study through teamwork experience and presentation sessions. Students' critical thinking ability built through the study helps them become independent learners and problem-solvers in their careers. 

On the other hand, Hong Kong employer treasures more on the international exposure of UK graduates through the international projects students are able to participate in. Also, networking skills are the main strength UK graduates obtained. With a good sense of humour learnt from the British culture, students can connect with others quickly and expand their network efficiently and professionally. 

My reflections: Insights on gaining job opportunities under COVID

Most of us see COVID as negatively affecting our lives due to the restrictions on social distancing, quarantine etc. However, with the participation in the series’ sessions, I see COVID as a huge opportunity to obtain resources from different firms, which cannot be obtained before COVID. First, students are allowed to attend training sessions anytime, anywhere, without any location barriers and time concerns. Companies are willing to share their working culture and project contents to students for free without any screenings in advance on virtual internships. As long as students feel interested, they can join the online events without any preliminary requirement. These practices broaden the horizons for students, getting to know different organisations' workflow and culture, even those organisations are not their education background focusing industries. Students looking to change their career paths or industries can use the chance to obtain knowledge and connect with people from their desired firms and industry simply through the internet. With good practice in using the online tools, students can easily adapt to the remote working environment, as it is believed that this working model will become a norm in the long term. 

It also provides me with a chance to discover further what types of person we are. Sharing the personal experience on how to cope with COVID with the interviewers allows students to show the mindset on how to handle issues flexibly— learning how to cope with loneliness and stay positive during lockdowns and quarantine period. Employers are interested to know candidates' stories on how they spend the idle time during COVID (e.g. learning yoga, read books that haven't been read for long, learn wine tasting through online courses). It is believed that not only will the working experience be valuable on your CV, but it's everything that combines to say who you are that is even more important and helps you stand out from the crowd.

We should, therefore, never lose confidence in the pandemic situation. It provides an inimitable chance for students to gain as many resources online as possible, connect to valuable networks through online presence, understand themselves better, tell the unique story to the recruiters that others can never imitate and outshine the competitors in the job market. 

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