Last week, one of our writers wrote about what to do after getting a job in Vietnam. This week, I’m going to work backwards a little and talk about what it takes to get a job in Vietnam. Now that’s of course a very broad topic and successful strategies for getting a job in Vietnam vary depending on who you’re targeting, but I’m going to talk generally today about foreigners looking for jobs with foreign multinationals in Vietnam.
So let’s say you’ve followed our previous advice on how to find a job in Vietnam. You found a company you know is hiring and you’re ready to send out your cover letter and CV. There are a few main qualities foreign companies usually look for in a candidate, and if you can convince the company you’ve got them through your CV, cover letter, and interview then you have a great chance of getting that job in Vietnam.
Like a job anywhere in the world, it’s important to have relevant experience either in the workforce or through school. Unfortunately, there’s no getting around this, so if you want to work as a lawyer, consultant, or marketing analyst in Vietnam, it still helps a lot to actually be an experienced lawyer, consultant, or marketing analyst, or at least have the relevant degree. The good news for job-seekers, however, is that there is still a strong need for skilled labor in Vietnam so the experience/education you have will likely get you further in terms of finding a job in Vietnam than it would in other markets.
So push that CV/resume and the value you can add to a company–they want and need you!
It isn’t necessary to speak Vietnamese to get a job with a foreign company in Vietnam–most expats working in Vietnam probably don’t. Your work will in fact most likely be in English and your English ability will be far more important. However, if you can speak, read and write Vietnamese, this is a HUGE plus. Not just because you can potentially do work in Vietnamese, but because it’ll help you socialize with the local staff, clients and generally adapt to working in the country better.
That means that even limited Vietnamese language ability is a plus that should be emphasized. Companies don’t just value whether or not you can actually use your Vietnamese to help the business (which would however be a huge selling point), but are interested in knowing that you’d fit in with their office culture and the country in general. Most of the staff will likely be Vietnamese, and it helps a lot to be able to talk to your Vietnamese secretary, co-workers or supervisor in Vietnamese. They probably speak English, but whatever minimal language ability you have goes a long way to making both them and you feel more comfortable and ensure that the company is making a good long-term investment in you.
Which ties into our next tip…
Show them that you WANT to be in Vietnam!
Companies want to hire people that they are confident will be able to live in Vietnam long-term. That’s one of the reasons Vietnamese language ability is important–it shows at the very least an interest in the country and sets you apart from other random applicants.
But you need to go beyond that and clearly demonstrate that you are not only able to live in Vietnam, but willing and excited to do so! Since we’re all Vietnam-philles, we tend to forget but it’s not always easy living in a developing Southeast Asian country. Can you handle the weather, traffic, food, people, and culture? Are you really going to be able to spend potentially years of your life working in a subtropical, mosquito-filled environment? Do you think you can survive crossing the street or taking the local transportation? The last thing a company wants to do is hire somebody who comes in to work for a few weeks, decides they can’t take it, and quits.
So show that you’re not only willing to work in Vietnam, you WANT to do it. Vietnamese language ability helps. International experience in similar environments (or Vietnam itself) helps. Being in Vietnam REALLY helps. If at all possible, don’t do your interviews from abroad. Take a vacation to Vietnam and when you’re applying for jobs let the company know you’re already there or will be there soon and are eager for an in-person interview. When you meet them, talk about how much you love the country and and are willing and able to spend the rest of your life there. If you know Vietnam is where you want to be then consider actually moving there before starting your job search. Nothing drives the point that you’re ready for this country more than to tell your interviewer that you’re not just visiting Vietnam, you’ve already made it your home.
Being a person of Vietnamese descent born or living abroad, a Viet Kieu (or VK in expat slang), can also help. Not in and of itself, but because it’s often taken by companies as evidence of the other factors mentioned above. If you’re VK, companies are more likely to assume or believe that you can speak Vietnamese, understand the culture, and are interested in working in the country long-term. If any or all of those assumptions are actually true, great!
However, don’t expect being VK alone to carry you to employment if you don’t speak the language at all and have demonstrated absolutely no interest or personal attachment to Vietnam. Race alone might count for something, but ultimately you’re really no different than that talented white guy who doesn’t speak a lick of the language and has never seen an Asian person in his life (yet for some reason still wants to work in Vietnam).
In fact, it’s possible that being VK in that case might even count against you. It’s unfortunate, but there is somewhat of an Anglo-phille culture in many Asian countries, including Vietnam. People who look like the typical Westerner (i.e., white or otherwise non-Asian) benefit from the association of their faces with economically and professionally “superior” Western countries. So if you’re white-washed but not actually white, be careful because the company might just hire that actual white guy over you simply because a lot of local Vietnamese people will blindly put him up on a pedestal.
To sum it up…
Build up your experience, take Vietnamese language classes, and show them you can and WANT to live in Vietnam! These factors can all make up for each other to some extent, so if you’re lacking work experience, perfect your Vietnamese and vice-versa. There’s a lot of opportunity in Vietnam and Asia in general waiting for young (or old) professionals, especially as it seems that Southeast Asia is recovering from the Global Recession faster than the rest of the world.
So take your best shot using some of the tips we’ve given you here and let us know how you do!