Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Do you know who I am? Right now, neither do I!

It was fairly inevitable that there would come a time, shortly after arriving in Hong Kong, when the honeymoon period wore off and the reality of being so far away from my friends, family and everything that is familiar struck.  Over the past week that has, without a doubt, become a reality.  The catalyst for this has been the realisation that I am unemployed and as a result I feel like I have lost my identity and what defined me.

When  you meet new people one of the first questions in the polite conversation repertoire is generally -  "what brought you to Hong Kong?".   When I respond that it was my husband's job there are usually two different responses.  The first response is an assumption that I am simply an expat lady of leisure or 'Tai Tai' in Cantonese (one of the few words in Cantonese that I have reluctantly picked up).  The second response is the follow-up questions - "so, what do you do?" - and when I respond that I am looking for a job in PR and marketing, this is often followed up with the assumption that I am a 'Tai Tai' in denial.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against ladies of leisure, it is just not a role I want to adopt yet.  If I had come out here with children, I would have felt comfortable with being a 'lady of leisure' and spending quality time with the kids.  And to be perfectly honest, I know that spending a full day with children is exhausting and unrelenting - hardly 'leisure' as far as I'm concerned!  However, it seems a bit self-indulgent, as a married woman with no children, to skip between coffee, the gym, lunch, the spa, afternoon tea, tennis lessons and dinner.  For one - I need more purpose in my life, and secondly David needs to be making much more money so I can afford that lifestyle!

It has also become apparent that the quest to find a job here in Hong Kong is going to be more tricky than I had anticipated.  Most of the recruitment agencies will only put you forward for a job if your CV is a precise carbon copy of the job specification - transferable skills are an unknown concept to most.  I had a run in with one of the recruitment agencies who, on receiving a job application from me, instantly emailed back to say that I would not be put forward for the role.  When I asked why - they explained that it was because I had no digital marketing experience.  I pointed out that my CV clearly stated that I had digital marketing experience and every role I have worked in since 1997 has involved digital marketing and I reiterated my precise digital marketing skill-set.  The recruitment consultant responded to say that she was still not going to put me forward for the job.  Again, I asked why - and this time the response was that I only had UK experience.   I referred her back to my CV again and to the fact that I have been working for an international PR and marketing agency for the past three years.  Nevertheless she was still adamant that I would not be put forward for the job and eventually snapped that it was because I didn't speak Cantonese - which she knew I could not dispute!

From speaking to other expats it is clear that my experience is the norm, and the best way to find a job is to network, network, network.  I have been extremely lucky in that the General Manager and Marketing Consultant at David's company have introduced me to some fantastic senior level PR and marketing contacts.  Also, I have got in touch with people from my London agency days, who are based in Asia and they in turn have made invaluable introductions for me.  In the two weeks since I started scoping out the job market here in Hong Kong, I have met with and been put in touch with almost thirty people.  Fortunately I am comfortable with networking and enjoy meeting new people and I am sure that it will pay off in time.  There are simply a limited number of senior level roles where Cantonese or Mandarin are not a requirement - and it is all about speaking to the right people at the right time.  As a result, looking for a job is becoming a full-time job in itself.

So, right now I fill my days with emailing new contacts, meeting new people and scouring the job sites in a desperate attempt to rediscover my identity and shake off my 'Tai Tai' label.

My Office

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