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In previous articles, we discussed job opportunities in Vietnam and we listed the reasons for the booming economy to come in Vietnam post-Covid due to the China+1 strategy started by most developed countries, starting with the USA, which formerly imported from China. This article is based on an interview with a long-term Vietnam resident, CEO of Horton International, a headhunting professional.
We have found that good employees and good leaders come from companies that have been in industries that have historically been highly competitive and high growth; moreover, these industries also had the investment cash flow to support companies to have the budget to retain and attract talent. In other words, these companies saw people as their competitive advantage
One Key to Success: ‘Do As If’ You Already Have a Job in Vietnam and Act Accordingly.
As Napoleon Hill says in his bestseller ‘Think and Grow Rich’, part of the success in finding a job is to act as if you are already in Vietnam, ready and able to show up.
Vietnam may be backward in culture and education, but it is forward in jumpstarting technology and future work. You need to adhere to this cultural ubiquity by showing hard skills and soft agility. In your search, it means acting as if you already know the sector and the people, but also acting as if you are already in the place or deeply committed to working in Vietnam. Being interested as a tourist or as a trial is so common to recruiters that they are trained to filter out ‘amateur candidates’ for any position.
Get ready to be agile and ‘phygital’, i.e. physically and digitally connected and responsive, as the preference will go to the ‘nearest’ fit.
If you are really motivated by a job in Vietnam: do your homework, research, and be on social networks.
In Asia, it is more about who you know than what you know. Being proactive with in-person contact is a clear sign of your willingness to relocate to the uncomfortable zone of Vietnam’s work environment.
Vietnam is known for tourism, an attractive destination, cheap and easy expat life: headhunters want to feel your motivation for a real career rather than for an extended workcation to Vietnam. So do the employers, as they have seen so many candidates’ online applications ending anywhere but Vietnam.
- Know the company, connect with them, follow, like, comment.
- Know their environment: business chamber, the competitors, the sector.
- Know the people: whoever is related to the above
Some headhunters report that they post a job, get applications, and wait for in-person contact from the candidates to be sure there is motivation behind the passive uploading of a resume.
Post or search on the main job platforms.
Here you may want to act as if you are already in Vietnam. In Asian culture, the barrier between life and work is almost merged! A response beyond 24 hours is almost considered as no response. Apart from LinkedIn, where your resume and motivation should show your ‘competitive advantages’ as described in the next chapter, the hiring platforms you need to be present, post your resume and ‘hang around’ are: Navigos, Vietnamworks, Manpower, talentnet, Michael Page, Adecco, and First Alliance.
In your country, you should be connected with the companies established in Vietnam or the ASEAN countries around. Follow the chamber of commerce related to Vietnam and keep track of new business development or market entry they plan. Extend to the companies that are competitors in the EU or English-speaking countries that you spot fit with your first hand experience.
Online-Offline Ready to Apply, Interview and Start a Job in Vietnam
In Vietnam, most expats will tell you they found their job by hanging around, looking for a job… and suddenly an opportunity came out of the blue from a friend ‘with immediate effect.’
Bear in mind that three factors are very different in a developing country:
- Many service industry positions just started a few years ago: there are no talents around in case of a vacant position (suddenly or with 1-month notice). Take IT, ESG, renewable energy, to quote a few.
- High volatility of the talents due to: competitors poaching talents, promotion to developed countries, relocation for children’s college education, end of a work permit, or family issues as most spouses are unemployed…
- Get ready to suggest flying for interviews in person on your next trip around: holidays, family, or friends’ visit.
What is your competitive advantage to get a job in Vietnam? How will you adapt to the environment?
Speaking English is not the key to a job in Vietnam anymore. You are competing in a global market: locals, cheaper-educated Asian job-seekers (Indian, Filipino, or Thai), or expats from the region; some may even be conversational in Vietnamese.
Think about it: The internet has been around for the past 20 years, and most ambitious Vietnamese (circa 15%) want a well-paid job in an English-speaking environment. Every year about 1 million students graduate seeking a job. You are in competition with 150,000 Vietnamese, and 1 out of 10 studied higher education at a university abroad. So, think about what you bring to the table in your resume and subsequent interview. A keyword is ADAPTABILITY to the Vietnam environment.
Have experience in emerging markets in ASEAN or similar?
The real question is how will you adapt and thrive in a developing (and communist) country. The #1 failure is adaptation. What is your attitude that will make you succeed? Your aptitudes can come later as skills can evolve.
Or you may consider a shift in career to ‘follow the money’ as renewable energy, clean tech, or IT software are in demand to bridge the nonexistent knowledge gap.
What are the skills and attributes in demand that Vietnamese candidates are lacking?
As you show interest in Vietnam beyond the tourist picture of Vietnamese people and culture, you probably know by now their weaknesses, and therefore, what is sought after by companies. Companies will look for your values, ethics, integrity to be aligned with theirs so you can pass on to the Vietnamese team for whom business is very new, and ethics are not even in the vocabulary.
Beyond English, communication, world exposure, competitiveness, and management skills are the exposure Vietnamese had no chance to get through their ‘Marx Leninist’ higher education system, but also bear in mind most have no passport and never traveled.
Get ready to be competitive even on salary at the beginning
You need to bear in mind that the cost of a Western expatriate’s life and employment may start high. ASEAN expats like Filipino or Thai foreigners may require an income halfway between yours and the Vietnamese. You can consider a lower salary to ‘put a foot in the door’ that may increase quickly as your value shows and you become ‘indispensable’ to the company.
The growth trend has been +7% year-on-year since the 1985 Vietnam Opening ‘doi moi’ policy. The best in class beat this average with 15% growth, sacrificing a bit to start and learn. Within a few years, your income will rise. And as soon as you become a manager of a massive number of staff, your income will multiply.
Practical advice on finding your dream job from a headhunter
Headhunters and employers are used to hearing from candidates who say, “It would be nice to have a job in Vietnam” or from tourist-amateurs who waste their time. Today, they are actively seeking candidates who fit the work culture and possess the necessary skills. With globalization, products and services have become more advanced, and customers from around the world demand quality. The internet and the widespread adoption of mobile applications in Asia have added speed and responsiveness as additional criteria for Western job applicants.
Vietnam-based companies can be categorized into three types:
- Those that outsource production or services to jumpstart the current skills levels available in the country.
- Those that start a business for local needs, which means backdating skills to launch products or services adapted to Vietnamese/Asian consumers that were in use a few years or decades ago in your country.
- Those that “follow the money” of startups from the EU or Eastern countries. Some existing business sectors and jobs are seeking entry market strategies in Vietnam for its 100 million clients within the Asian region, which consists of half the planet’s upcoming consumers. For renewable energy, as per the BP World report on Energy supplies, Vietnam is in pole position for sun and wind all year long on 2,300 km of sea coast.
Are you adaptable to a job in Vietnam?
The good news is that not many people have experience in Vietnam at management positions. Recruiters will look at:
- Management potential: past managers you had, career track speed, and past environment to find a potential match.
- Cultural intelligence: diversity of work environment, similar past jobs, and developing country experiences.
- Restarting a past position and accepting a lower salary by the time the trial period and the acculturation period confirms you are the right fit bringing the right skills for your company to grow.
Your competencies extended or back in time.
The keywords for job opportunities for you in Vietnam are timing and exposure. On timing, ask yourself or the people in Vietnam in that sector, what competency, what skills are needed now and in the near future? Knowing that most of your colleagues and new recruits will learn from scratch, seeking practical training and management for output quality.
On exposure, ask yourself what are the past experiences, work, hobbies, passions, charity, or benevolent work you have been exposed to, that the Vietnamese may not even know exist. Your future career in Vietnam may be a remake of your past career or passion.
Take architecture, it is likely that your career work will span from the whole scope of what an architect has been doing from 1900 to 2023. Get your mind ready for that prospective career.
Make it easy for companies to hire you in Vietnam.
You can even arrange your work permit. Sounds self-evident. However, getting a work permit or business visa in Vietnam is becoming more challenging in 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors. Therefore, it is essential to make the process as easy as possible for companies to hire you. Fortunately, you can take the initiative and arrange your work permit, which will save time and effort for both you and your potential employer. It is recommended to consult with a professional immigration agency or lawyer who can help navigate the complex process of obtaining a work permit in Vietnam. By doing so, you can increase your chances of securing a job in Vietnam and jumpstart your career in this dynamic country.
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