The center of the global economy is gradually shifting towards Asia. Anyone who has managed to secure an internship in the economically booming region of the world has a big plus in their curriculum vitae. But how do Western trainees avoid possible cultural traps and make their time at an Asian company a successful one?
1. Do not harbor prejudices about the corporate culture
The individual companies have a reputation for a very specific corporate culture and many a student applies to an institute that meets their expectations. However, no intern should believe that the new Asian colleagues adheres to the stereotypes that come from Europe or the US. “Instead, you should be prepared to adapt to the office culture as you find it. This usually consists of different attitudes, levels and nationalities,” advises headhunter Paul Pozarowski of Matthew Hoyle Financial Markets in Hong Kong.
2. Don’t go home before your supervisor
In Asia, people do not like to get away from work as long as the supervisor is still working. Even if you have done your job, you should look for another task while your boss is still in the office. “If you work in corporate finance or anywhere in investment banking, you should be prepared for the same long working hours as your manager,” emphasizes career coach Paul Heng of NeXT Corporate Coaching Services in Singapore. “Remember, these extra hours are an investment in your future careers.”
3. Do not promise too much
In Asia, interns are expected to show a certain respect for authority. Still, no intern should take on any tasks that are simply impossible to fulfill. “It’s easy to say ‘yes’ and take over too much work. However, promising a lot and delivering little does not work out well – even with an experienced worker “, warns Sze Ming Ho, who is responsible for the graduate recruitment of Deutsche Bank in the Asia-Pacific region. “The managers pay attention to their ability to communicate and assert themselves with top trainees. Therefore, you should be open, realistic and manage the time and expectations of your colleagues and supervisors. Provide them with proper updates on your work progress and ask for feedback. Supervisors and team value the communication of milestones.”
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Many interns think asking for help is a bad thing. But this isn’t true. “An internship is an opportunity for you to learn from some of the brightest minds in the industry, including asking questions and asking for help when you need them,” says Daniele Cosentino, Managing Director of internsinasia.com. “Be resourceful when solving challenges at work. Do not hesitate to take advantage of the skills of various colleagues, mentors, product experts and trainers to avoid the cliffs.”
5. Take the lunch break
Both Hongkong and Singapore have an upscale dining culture and employees tend to enjoy long lunch breaks. So, eating at your desk does not show how hard you work, but that you are a poor team player. “Try to accept as many invitations to lunch and coffee breaks as you can,” recommends JP Morgan banker and career coach Alex Wong of EntreNet in Hong Kong. “Take a look at the conversations and actively participate in the conversations over lunch.”
6. Offer your help
In Asia, finding the right balance between too loud and too submissive is a challenge. If you are too loud and too dominant, you risk that your calmer colleagues are losing their face and you are getting branded as a bad teamworker. “Try to find supporters among the experienced bankers. Answer their questions during training sessions and give 120 percent of your performance when you’re assigned a task, ” says Wong. “But you should not overdo it. The team should not get the impression that you are not fully available and disloyal. ”
7. Understand who is responsible for your evaluation
Although it is welcomed in Asia, if you pay attention to higher and more experienced personnel, you should not just worry about building a network among such colleagues. “In the introduction, you may be told that your team leader is performing your evaluation, but in reality, it may be written by the associate you work with directly,” warns Wong.
8. Speak a little Chinese
If you are doing an internship in Hong Kong, then you should be aware that banks are increasingly demanding knowledge of Mandarin in Hong Kong because the banks are trying to penetrate the continental Chinese market. Even if your internship only requires English language, knowing Mandarin is a great advantage.