Gen Y and the ‘sharp elbows’

November 15, 2013 2 mins read
Gen Y and the ‘sharp elbows’

As part of the growing trend to “look east” when it comes to opportunities for growth and personal enhancement I am often asked about what people need to do to secure the right role in China.

I was recently a guest speaker at a networking seminar for Chinese finance professionals in London organized by SILU, a sister organization of E-financial careers. The event consisted of about 100 people giving up a Monday evening to listen to the views of senior Chinese bankers, journalists in the financial sector and my view as a recruiter on the topic of “Asia Calling: where is the future for financial services professionals?”

I presented points on how challenging it is for senior managers to lead Chinese employees who are “Generation-Y”. This translates as ‘Ba Ling Ho’ literally meaning “after 80” (as in: those born after 1980 – one of things I love about Mandarin is the simple logic of the language).

Culturally it can be difficult for any of us to fully understand the needs of our customers. When you introduce a generational difference as well as a broad ethnic difference these mis-understandings can lead to frustration and a break down in communication which might damage your interview prospects.

The advice offered on the night seemed to somewhat clash. One of the senior bankers informed the audience that to succeed it was necessary to over-come the naturally shy and reserved nature of many Asian cultures. Whereas my experience, and the evidence on the night from the job seekers in the room, seems to indicate this view was incorrect and that China’s generation Y is not reserved in nature.

I would certainly suggest that in a highly competitive market and in a country of over a billion people you will need ‘sharp elbows’ and a bold and confident attitude in order to get to the front of the queue. However we need to balance this desire to succeed with being seen as too pushy or aggressive, which are unattractive attributes. It is certainly something that job-seekers and employers in China need to consider in their recruitment process and one where there are no obvious quick answers to the problems this presents.