Episode 3 – Working in Asia


If you’re interested in working in Asia then listening to this podcast is a must! Katie and Graham discuss the frequently asked questions they receive from candidates including:

  • Why work in Asia?
  • What jobs are available in Asia?
  • How does working in Asia benefit my career?
  • When is the right time to relocate?
  • What is involved in relocating?

There are many benefits to working in Asia, both professional and personal. To learn more:

And of course, we’d love to talk to you if you’re interested in one of the many fabulous job opportunities we have in Asia so get in touch.


Katie Rosser: [00:00:03] Hello and welcome to the Seldon Rosser podcast where we and our guests discuss how to build a flourishing career in marketing, business development and communications in professional services.

Katie Rosser: [00:00:15] I’m Katie Rosser and I’m Graham Seldon and we’re Seldon Rosser.

Graham Seldon: [00:00:26] Welcome. In this podcast today we’ll be focusing on frequently asked questions about moving your career to Asia. Now Seldon Rosser have been recruiting in Asia for over 15 years and almost half the people we placed now are moving there for the first time.

Graham Seldon: [00:00:42] We’ve always got jobs in Asia. Go to jobs on our website, seldonrosser.com. I’m joined by my esteemed colleague Katie Rosser. Hi Katie. Hi Graham. So Katie one of the first questions we get asked is ‘Why would I go to Asia? Does it really benefit my career?’

Katie Rosser: [00:00:59] I was talking to one particular BD professional looking at moving to Asia the other day and I thought they articulated it beautifully when they said I’m working in a global industry.

Katie Rosser: [00:01:09] I feel I need to understand and experience working in different regions to really progress and add the most value. And I thought that said it was a great perspective.

Katie Rosser: [00:01:21] Global and international firms – there is no doubt they really value global and international experience. And also if you get experience in Asia you’ll be able to learn how to influence and operate in different cultural environments. There is no doubt influencing a group of partners in Singapore is very different to the UK for example. And actually, you can have more responsibility and breadth to your role as well. There’s more scope sometimes to growing your role and evolving it in team structures that are not yet full and are still growing and evolving themselves.

Katie Rosser: [00:01:56] But to be honest if you are only going for your career you wouldn’t go. You have to desire and want to go personally as well. And some people just have that in them from a young age. They want to live and travel around the world. And what an enriching experience to have your career lead and take you to another country that you get to experience.

Graham Seldon: [00:02:17] Absolutely and also I think people think it’s harder than it actually is. We’ve been doing this for so long and it’s actually quite straightforward. Once you’ve secured a job in Hong Kong Singapore to actually move there.

Graham Seldon: [00:02:29] Our networks on the ground means we can help people settle quite easily in those cities. They are setup for expats and have been for a very very long time. So actually the process of moving is very easy. But I would add something else to your points which is that if you’re a marketing or a BD person the reality is that I think Asia is one of the most exciting and dynamic markets for business development and marketing people because there is so much opportunity and therefore there is a lot of scope to do things differently to try new things and to get involved in different types of campaigns across that region. So purely just from a marketing or business development perspective if you’re interested in growing a business then the Asia region is probably one of the most active regions for business development.

Graham Seldon: [00:03:24] On that point how do roles differ in Asia from from other parts of the world that we work in do you think?

Katie Rosser: [00:03:32] Well, traditionally it’s always been the market of the generalist and 10 plus years ago you’d just get a lot of BDM roles with generalists doing all those different things.

Katie Rosser: [00:03:43] And it’s still true that people with generalist experience bases do well there and are attractive to hiring managers. But the teams have come a long way in the last three years and are a lot more sophisticated in larger firm team structures. And we’re seeing more client roles come to the market and there certainly are more comms roles than they used to be before. And there’s gonna be continued investment we’re hearing in their specialist roles. So that’s something that’s following other parts of the world. Now one thing that people have traditionally said about not just BD marketing but all roles in Asia is that it’s typically five or 10 years behind the UK and Australia when it comes to how progressive it is. But personally I’d challenge that now and based on the opportunity in that market that you mentioned Graham we’re just seeing more innovation and a lot more progression coming out of Asia to make it quite an exciting place to be as a BD/marketer. And I would say that anybody interested in this part of the world should go and read an article on our website whereby we talk about being a marketer of the future in Asia and we interviewed CMOs is on the ground in Asia about how their teams were going to develop and change over the next 10 years and what they look for in BD people.

Katie Rosser: [00:05:09] And it becomes very evident reading that article that they the regions very quickly caught up and is taking the lead and some innovations in BD.

Graham Seldon: [00:05:16] One of the exciting things about the region developing also though is that yes it is behind in some areas and some aspects so if we think about bid pursuit management for instance in the legal industry there is no doubt the stock market is behind where maybe Australia and the UK law firms are but here’s the advantage quite a lot of our clients in that region are investing heavily into bringing their bids and pitch management pursuit management operations up to speed with the rest of the world.

Graham Seldon: [00:05:54] And what that means is that if you are experienced in an area like that then going to Hong Kong or Singapore is that you can take all of the experience and the skills that you’ve learnt over the last 5-10 years and actually help them build its capability in a certain area like that. So the other area that we’ve been doing a lot of work in is client management. And again, even though most of the clients that we work with the global clients we work with would have a very strategic global account management plan, you tend to find that Asia may not be as as advanced as the rest of the world for that particular business. And so what they’re looking for are experience client relationship managers to go to Asia to actually help them to sort of and leapfrog from where they are now to where they need to be to get up to speed with their other offices around the world. Or, in fact, we’ve seen some clients who have chosen Asia as being in the market where they will trial something first and this is really exciting. We’ve had several jobs in the last 12 months that I can think of where they have particularly wanted to hire somebody with experience in a particular area like client relationship management or sector development et cetera et cetera. And they’ve said we want to start this off in Asia. So, not only do you get to go to Asia and experience Asia for all the reasons we talked about before but you’re also championing a new strategy for them or any operation for them and that is really exciting.

Graham Seldon: [00:07:33] That we’ve talked about how exciting and dynamic that market is and how beneficial it can be for your career. Let’s not talk about how easy or difficult it is to secure a role in Asia. Katie, what are your thoughts?

Katie Rosser: [00:07:46] Well the first thing I’d say is that we do need a longer lead time when we’re moving internationally. So we suggest that people get in touch with us at six to 12 months out of an ideal relocation time because you don’t often get the first role that you go for and there’s a bit of a learning curve and experience required in how you interview in a different region. So give yourself enough time and talk to us early. But in terms of how difficult or easy it is in the process it depends on your level and your background and it actually depends a little bit on the market. The thing that you can’t control is supply and demand, who you’re up against on the ground when you go to market. So we might have a conversation with that candidate who might be a BD manager in the UK and be saying now is actually a really good time to look because there’s a dearth of people with with your background on the market at the minute so firms are much more likely to import talent right now. Six months later firms might be hiring more people on the ground because there’s more people on the market. So it’s important to stay across those things when you’re talking to us. In a general sense, I’d say at the BD and marketing executive level it’s a little bit harder than it used to be. Just because in Hong Kong at least there’s a greater emphasis on requiring language skills at that level.

Katie Rosser: [00:09:11] Now, that’s not to say it’s impossible. We’ve certainly been moving executive level people to the region but you won’t be able to apply for every role and there is an increase in local language skill requirement there. Less of an issue in Singapore but again you’re going to be competing against local talent who might be able to step into a role more quickly and easily. So I would say at that level then the more can do you are about the process and the more willing you are to sort of throw yourself at it the easier it is. So spending time on the ground we’ve had just pack up and go (that has to work for you) but you know being willing to do a visit and then to be on the ground has helped.

Graham Seldon: [00:09:54] I think we we’ve definitely helped people who have said I really want to move to Hong Kong. If you call us and say ‘I’m thinking of going over there for a week’s holiday’  – it’s fantastic because if we know that you’re going (particularly we’ve got two or three weeks lead time) we can get you in front of clients. Even if they’re not hiring at that moment, they still want to be kept in touch through us with really really great candidates you’ve got good experience. So going for a few days holiday to either of those locations is a really good idea.

Katie Rosser: [00:10:28] Absolutely. And actually you raise a different point there which is a bit of an aside but that hiring managers & directors sometimes have a bit more opportunistically in Asia because they know their team is going to grow in a different direction and they might have in their mind I’m going to hire a person like this in the next six to 12 months and they brief us to make sure they’re across people like that interested in moving into the region. So whereas in other markets you might get a job description decide whether I have the full brief and then be put forward. It’s a lot more opportunistic. Let’s have a coffee. Let’s keep in mind if something comes up and we have a lot of success working that way in Asia. But I suppose back to the question of how how easy or difficult to is the next level I was going to mention is is the manager level you know whether you BD, client or comms manager whichever discipline is by far the easiest time to go and that’s whether you’re a junior manager or mid-level doesn’t matter. Most firms that we work with are still hiring a lot of people without language skills for roles at that level and you’re senior enough for the business to see value in relocating and waiting for you because you can credibly be bringing something new into the team. And so that’s the time where you should really be making sure that you’re looking at that market. If you think you’ve got it in you at some point in your career.

Graham Seldon: [00:11:49] You mentioned earlier about not being so focused on the job description of the process that is so key because so many of our clients opportunistic hirers if they’ve got lead time and and often if will open then that’s fantastic because it means that they can also be flexible about what they what job they create for you. We’ve had several instances just in the past few months where we’ve introduced candidates to clients on a speculative basis to say you know we know that you’re always interested in seeing a bright talented people.

Graham Seldon: [00:12:24] We’ve had two I can think of two since Christmas where the client is actually creates a role specifically around that candidate’s experience knowledge market knowledge sector knowledge whatever whatever it is that they’re looking for and both for were at manager level. So you know the job descriptions are almost written just before they offer letter went out. And so I think you do have to be really sort of I see as an exciting adventure albeit one that’s almost risk free because you’re going to be joining global businesses. They know how to do this stuff.

Katie Rosser: [00:12:56] And actually it’s really interesting the sorts of people that aren’t comfortable in that fluidity in the process are probably the sorts of people that aren’t going to you know enjoy the evolving nature of that market. So you know it tends to attract the right people to be a chameleon.

Graham Seldon: [00:13:14] You have to be a chameleon I think.

Katie Rosser: [00:13:15] Yes absolutely. And be excited when your role changes and not too prescriptive about what your role is – so true.

Katie Rosser: [00:13:23] I look at say senior manager and above you when you’re looking at that market again how easy or hard is it to get into that market. Then you start to be in a world where you are competing with people on the ground who might have know 10 plus years experience in Asia. And so they’re offering something in that regard that you’re not. We’ve moved a lot of senior managers into the market for the first time but it means that it’s easier if you’re offering something that they don’t have on the ground whether it’s global experience and energy whether it’s a more sophisticated sales methodology whatever it may be. But again you have to be mindful of the competitive edge that someone might have if they’ve had 10 years in Asia.

Katie Rosser: [00:14:10] So if you have a choice I’d say it manager level then you start to get that experience but talk to us even if you’re more senior because we can do it. It’s just not every role.

Graham Seldon: [00:14:18] And our clients are really genuinely open to moving people into Asia from other countries. It’s not like they’re just running a process a numbers game process and they’re always going to hire somebody who’s in front of them. We’ve had many situations where even though there’s been competition on the ground a candidate from outside of Asia has secured the job because they do have more experience that particular field or particular sites like you just mentioned.

Katie Rosser: [00:14:47] Yeah that’s that’s absolutely right. And it comes down to you know as with any recruitment it comes down to the playing field of what each candidate is going to offer. And sometimes you know that they’d surprise themselves. And initially for example language skills at a senior level are essential or important and then they meet a shortlist of candidates and actually you know that the goalposts are changed and they want to have somebody that doesn’t have that skill. So it’s always worth the conversation.

Graham Seldon: [00:15:15] Now you’ve talked about managers up to senior managers. We’ve done a lot of director recruitment in Hong Kong and Singapore. But let’s talk about how easy or hard it is to move to that region if you are at director level.

Katie Rosser: [00:15:32] I would say it’s easier if you’ve already had some international global experience.

Katie Rosser: [00:15:37] If you’ve only ever been in sort of one market then it would be hard to compete on a global mindset and on understanding the region so where we’ve had success people genuinely competing against those on the ground and being imported into Asia, it’s perhaps where they’ve had a role that has had oversight of Asia or similar emerging markets. It could be that the UAE but they understand how to work in emerging markets and have international experience already. And I would say rather than or have something that they can’t find on the ground. And it might be extensive team management experience. It might be taking a business through a transformation working through new office openings. But something that they’re specifically looking for that they can’t get on the ground. But they are very competitive when those roles come up Graham. They don’t actually come up too often.

Graham Seldon: [00:16:37] And there’s always a very healthy contingent of candidates who are looking at those roles. It really is a case by case basis. So we would say if you at director level and you are thinking of moving to the region of a chat with us we’ll tell you exactly at that point in time whether or not we think it’s going to be easy or hard.

Katie Rosser: [00:17:02] And be open on job titles whoever you are because that’s just maybe saying that they are so disparate everywhere in the world but no more so than Asia. So I think the last ‘Head of’ person I recruited into Asia was called senior manager. But my goodness that was that was more like a director role.

Graham Seldon: [00:17:20] Yeah yeah yeah. Well about comms recruitment people who are comms specialists.

Katie Rosser: [00:17:26] Yes in the legal space you would tend to have one manager with maybe a junior Big Four accounting the teams are larger and those roles tend to be great roles but there’s not a huge number of them and I would say once you get to the senior manager level. In our client base, professional services, there’s not a large structured career path. So I would say as this comms professional if you’re an exec or manager level it’s the perfect time to go. Usually one we’ve recruited those roles we have imported people from the UK Australia and they’re fantastic dynamic roles and some of them can be Asia Pac focused. And for a few years at that level.

Graham Seldon: [00:18:11] The great thing if you’re moving into a role like that or any sort of senior manager a senior manager role in Asia what you tend to find is that the person that you’re reporting to you may well be based in London for example. So what we found, which has been really nice of some of our candidates, is they’ve been in Australia, they’ve secured a role in Hong Kong as a communications manager but they’re regularly visiting London to be part of the London strategy meetings or be with the rest of the team from time to time.

Graham Seldon: [00:18:44] That’s great for anybody from Australia or New Zealand to wants to see the world they get a job in Hong Kong and Singapore but they go to London regularly for work and if you’re from the UK and you’re moving to Asia then if you’ve got a job like that it’s great that you might get a ticket home to two or three times a year. It’s worth noting. I think we tend to see I have seen it more on comms manager roles because generally the global head of PR and call ins is not based in Asia but based in London. Whereas with BD you tend to find there is a head of BD on the ground there.

Katie Rosser: [00:19:18] But they do still travel a lot if you like to travel. I mean Asia is the place to be. You know whether it’s around the region professionally. But to be honest you know personally as well. We’re always amazed when we go and catch up with people there and then finish work on the Friday and think ‘where will I go this weekend?’ They head to the airport and then to Bali for the weekend of Vietnam and it’s you know it’s just like just like a normal thing for them.

Graham Seldon: [00:19:43] Yeah sure talk about languages because we are a lot of people say yeah well I don’t speak the language so I’m never going to get a job. That’s just simply not true. Talk to us about that.

Katie Rosser: [00:19:54] Well, there’s no doubt in mainland China that’s going to be a requirement and some roles in Hong Kong, as I’ve mentioned, that require language skills. But by no means all there’s so much opportunity to move there for people who don’t have the local language skills and have strong English skills. It just means you can’t apply for every single role. But there’s still so much opportunity and I would say trust us that if we show you a job description that requires language skills but actually that’s flexible. Sometimes that’s the case because really the most important thing to them is that for example strategic client experience over and above languages.

Katie Rosser: [00:20:33] So if you don’t have it one thing there’s no point doing is a course. You’ve either got fluent reading writing spoken Mandarin or you don’t – this sort of halfway house and having done a course isn’t going to help you secure a role that needs language skills but yeah that there’s a lot of opportunity for those for those who don’t.

Graham Seldon: [00:20:53] Now the big question that everybody wants to ask is you know what can I expect in terms of salaries and also how expensive is it to live there. They are interconnected so why don’t we bust the myth on the whole you know maybe to Asia is really really expensive and I won’t be able to afford to live and give them the reality of what’s what the salaries bonus tax system means in Asia and how that’s beneficial for anybody moving.

Katie Rosser: [00:21:27] So big picture moving to Asia is gonna be so financially rewarding for most people certainly people based in the UK or Australia. And in the UK, to be honest, if you’re going anywhere in the world any major market at the minute and you look at currency converter you’re going to find that’s a pretty huge jump and that’s just what currencies are doing at the minute.

Katie Rosser: [00:21:46] And people moving from Australia to Asia it’s like earning your Australian salary tax free. And so you don’t just look at the currency converter you have to take into account tax and everything else as well.

Katie Rosser: [00:22:02] In terms of the detail go and have a look at our website where we’ve recently released some new salary benchmarks and you’ll see on there that in Singapore and Hong Kong salaries are quoted monthly and that it’s perfectly usual to get either a 13th month (a guaranteed bonus of a month’s wage) or a discretionary bonus. And that tends to be at least a month that’s performance based and it is discretionary. There’s information on our website in our Hong Kong and Singapore guide which will have the detail of tax rates. But look high level sliding scale and no more than 15 percent in Hong Kong and no more than 20 percent in Singapore and there are great things you can do in Hong Kong like rental allowance that firms will give you where you slice off your rent (or some of it) before you apply tax. So all these things and more money in your pocket than you might first anticipate until you get under the hood as well.

Katie Rosser: [00:23:06] But to be honest you mentioned cost of living Graham and this can be a barrier for a lot of people. They get really bogged down in having a look at itemizing absolutely every single thing is going to cost in Hong Kong or Singapore. And this is people coming from Sydney sometimes, one of the most expensive cities to live in in the world. And you know London is not cheap either.

Katie Rosser: [00:23:27] And I think really people get very bogged down in the detail and instead it should be will look this is market rate for a senior manager over there and just trusting the adventure and trusting that you know some things are going to be more expensive. Some things are going to be cheaper and lots of people have gone before me and are doing very well out of it.

Graham Seldon: [00:23:46] Yeah and I think when they compare living in Sydney or living in London they’re not doing is thinking about travel time. But it’s absolutely the case that most people who live in Hong Kong or Singapore live about 5, 10, 15 minutes max from the office. So from that perspective you know you’re shaving off a good hour and a half sometimes in transport to and from the office.

Graham Seldon: [00:24:11] So you are weighing these things up. The other thing worth mentioning about both Hong Kong and Singapore is the amount of development and infrastructure that’s happened over the last five – six years where brand new condo apartment buildings have been built on the edge of the cities and they’re you know five six star buildings with beautiful amenities – swimming pools, gyms – all that sort of stuff – and that is you know a lifestyle change for most people particularly if you’re coming from the UK and maybe more familiar to people coming from Australia who live in apartments with those sorts of facilities. But I’ve spoken to many people who have moved to Singapore in Hong Kong from the UK and they say it’s like living in a hotel. So I think yes it may be expensive maybe slightly more expensive on paper than the rent you’ll pay in London or Sydney or Melbourne (though I doubt that these days). But actually what you’re getting for your money could absolutely be more of a lifestyle.

Katie Rosser: [00:25:06] Onto another point. Actually it’s worth mentioning that stage of life we do move a lot of people who have got young children. And when I say young it tends to be before school age. And one of the things that attracts them to at least Hong Kong is the childcare that’s available there in terms of having help in the home. And so that’s something that can be seen as a great benefit with with young children.

Graham Seldon: [00:25:34] Let’s just close on the issue of relocation. So we often get asked you know will firms pay to relocate me or my family to this region?

Katie Rosser: [00:25:45] At manager level, the vast majority of time, they will. There are occasions when there’s not budget for it. And always ask us at the beginning of a process and we’ll let you know. But the vast majority of the time, manager and above level, yes. There is detail in the guide on the website.

Katie Rosser: [00:26:02] But typically it’s a one way flight (these days economy but it gets you there) moving your belongings and some really nice accommodation for you and whoever is coming with you when you arrive so that you can find your feet. And there’s support from people in the business and outsourced in helping you find somewhere longer term. And if you’re at the more junior level I’m not finding as many firms giving the full relocation at least. Usually I tend to find people who are earlier in their careers find it a bit easier to just pick up take a bag go any way it’s less complex. But you know you should know at the beginning of any interview process what’s on the table and then you make a decision based on that.

Graham Seldon: [00:26:50] It’s also worth mentioning we haven’t touched on that the visa process is managed by the firm and can take anywhere between four to eight weeks depending on what the backlog may be in either Singapore or Hong Kong. Definitely over the last 18 months visas in Singapore seem to be taking longer. It’s case by case basis so if you are really interested in moving to that region, when you speak to us we will guide you through that process but we’ll also talk to you about what types of visas are available and they are all of that information is in our guide which is on our website.

Graham Seldon: [00:27:34] So we’ve excited you about moving to Asia you’re sitting there now thinking I should have done this last year. I’m gonna get on with it. I’m going to put my bag and I’m going to call Seldon Rosser and I’m going to go to Hong Kong or Singapore. So what do I do next. Katie, what should they do?

Katie Rosser: [00:27:50] Well you’ve almost answered the question they should call us. And as I mentioned at the beginning, you know that the longer lead time the better. You know even if you aren’t thinking yourself I want to go there in 18 months. Tell us that. Because it means that if we get a great role that will be perfect for you in eight months time. We know to call you. And it’s an opportunistic market so don’t keep it to yourself. Talk to us, ask us questions and we’re happy to provide information while you’re still doing the planning.

Graham Seldon: [00:28:19] So hopefully we’ll answer the frequently asked questions that we get asked. If there’s any more, feel free to contact us.

Thanks for visiting our site. We’d love you to stay in touch. If you’re not ready for your next job, follow us on social media or sign up for our jobs & news so you can watch the market. When you’re ready, contact us for a confidential discussion about your next role.