Navigating the Recession, Part II: Asian-American Advantages in a Tough Job Market
In this job market, job candidates must scrutinize their life and career backgrounds closely to optimize their chances for success. In addition to the basics of the job search—writing an excellent resumé, networking aggressively—how can you draw on your cultural background to further your career in this tough market?
While your heritage will not enhance the hard job skills on your resumé, Asian-Americans often possess numerous soft skills that are attractive to increasingly selective employers. Given the growing role of Asian countries in the global economy, these soft skills—knowledge of Asian languages, experience with multiple cultures—are important talents that help distinguish job candidates in soft markets. Brad Baldia, president of the NAAAP (National Association of Asian-American Professionals), comments: “Despite the economy, we have continued to see prospective employers maintain a strong interest in recruiting Asian-Americans. They’re often bilingual and bicultural, and are often more mobile and well-traveled; Asian-Americans are known also for achieving high levels of education and a strong work ethic.”
The global footprints of multinational companies are also providing opportunities that may be of greater interest to Asian-Americans. Given the double-digit economic growth enjoyed in China and India in the past decade, American firms have aggressively entered the Asian market. While head offices might continue their job freezes, their Asian operations may offer more opportunities. In his blog, “Asia Chronicles,” Robert Kinney of Kinney Recruiting has noted that he expects the “major law firm deal flow in China” to recover by the second half of 2009, much earlier than in the U.S.
Recruitment firms and minority career groups are also increasingly targeting the Asian-American labor pool. In an interview last year with Jae Hung, Jinho Ahn, the founder of AMBA (Asian MBA Leadership Conference and Career Expo) described the benefits of minority recruitment: “The objective of the career expo portion of AMBA is two-fold: in addition to meeting a company’s diversity and executive hiring needs on the domestic front, it will serve that company’s most pressing executive hiring and diversity needs abroad on a scale never seen before.” For firms seeking to expand in Asia, Asian-Americans are particularly attractive as cultural interpreters of a “Western corporate mindset.”
Budding entrepreneurs can also use their knowledge of American and Asian markets to start new businesses. After all, Asian-American businesses have higher success rates than the average, according to a 2008 National Poverty Center study. Favorable exchange rates, stable governments and developed production streams continue to make Asian companies attractive choices for outsourcing or importing. If you were thinking of importing that beautiful jewelry that you saw on your last trip to Bali or finally put that invention you’ve been tinkering with into production, this could be the right time.
NAAAP can be found at www.naaap.org; The first annual Asian MBA Leadership Conference and Career Expo will be held in September, 2009 in NYC. www.asianmba.org
Having grown up on three continents, Sae Park often explores issues of social hybridity, loss and identity in her work. She is currently finishing her PhD in history and is working on a book on Eliza Bowen Jumel, the first scandalous socialite of American society. Most of the time, she lives in New York with her husband and cat.