A steady stream of investment banks in Asia have announced redundancies in the past few weeks. Most recently UBS axed research and IT positions, CICC laid off 30 bankers in Hong Kong and Beijing, while Macquarie has reportedly slashed 10 per cent of its investment banking team in Asia.
So what’s an unemployed i-banker to do in this morose job market? Hong Kong-based Mark Verrall, practice director, financial services, The MRI China Group, has this advice.
1) Improve your Mandarin
Having Mandarin language skills will certainly be an asset. Chinese firms are increasingly becoming important hirers as they expand globally. Hence, instead of moping, use the time on your hands to improve your Mandarin.
2) Have patience: the market will recover
Being jobless in a climate where firms aren’t aggressively expanding can be demoralising, but Verrall advises: “Don’t allow your confidence to be undermined if it takes time. Being out of work for six months does not make you less valuable, not these days. The Hong Kong cycles are tough, but they come back quickly.”
Although things seem glum at the moment, the second half of the year could potentially see a pick-up in hiring. If that happens, people will be brought back into the game. “Firms won’t care that you’ve not been working for a period of time. Employers know that many good people have been retrenched. Keep applying, keep interviewing – do not get grumpy or bitter.”
3) Stay flexible
Search for jobs outside of your current location and be willing to accept a pay cut. If you speak Mandarin, consider working for a consultancy. Consulting firms in Hong Kong are often willing to consider candidates who can help them gain or deliver projects in the Chinese market, adds Verrall.
Think about changing your career track by doing further studies, perhaps even an executive MBA. That’s one way of boosting your professional network and your chances of a referral.
5) Become a headhunter
Remember too, that some of Asia’s successful recruiters are people who were once retrenched from the banking sector, so headhunting could be an alternative profession. “Base salaries are usually awful in the first year, but it will pay the rent, and if you’re good you can get close to your original income in the second or third year.”