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Thursday, March 12, 2020

CEIBS Career Development Centre holds webinar on finding opportunities amidst crisis

March 12, 2020. Shanghai – With the emergence of the COVID-19 crisis and its negative impact across all major businesses and operations, there is now concern about how to make the best of this situation. To help sort through the adversity, the CEIBS Career Development Centre organised their first sharing session of the spring, inviting three industry experts to share their insights and advice. More than 130 current MBA students, as well as MBA and GEMBA alumni participated in the session.

According survey findings shared by Peggy Zhu, Eastern China Director of Michael Page, HR and business leaders have different concerns about the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the middle- and high-end talent markets. For example, 29% respondents were concerned about production capacity and business achievements in Q1; 24% about efficiency and staff return plan; 17.5% about personnel structure and hiring in future; 14.5% about their company and the industry’s future; and 13.5% about staff welfare. Will the COVID-19 affect candidates’ decision on job searching? The survey showed 41.5% were afraid to change jobs; 40% remained neutral and tended to favour stability; and 18.5% had no concerns and were continuing to actively search.

In terms of market segments, Peggy also said that challenges lie ahead in automotive, travel, tourism and hospitality, retail and luxury, global supply chain and logistics industries. On the other hand, e-commerce, gaming and home entertainment, healthcare and life sciences, insurance, online education, personal care and hygiene, and technology sectors could all come out as potential winners. To capture potential opportunities, Peggy suggested that candidates develop a growth mind-set during this unusual period of time. For instance, practice interviewing through Skype or WeChat, invest in oneself by reading and studying, build a wider network and be more open and flexible to job opportunities.

For Sharon Yang, Managing Director and CHRO from SPDB Silicon Valley Bank, the current epidemic reminded her of SARS in 2003. That crisis offered several examples of how companies such as JD, Alibaba, SF and C-Trip converted these situations into further business success. “The success of these companies lie in the founders,” she said. “They’re not predicting the future – they see the opportunities that are not seen by others.” Sharon also pointed out that to become anticipatory leader in a VUCA era, one should be future-based, aim for long-term goals, be cautious about what will happen, be willing to take risk and be a creative thinker.

Sharon said that MBA students need to become both futurists and strategists. On one hand, with sharp eyes and business acumen, students need to explore ideas and future trends in other industries that might be replicated. On the other hand, with critical thinking on the corporate strategy level, they need to ask probing questions, such as what might impact the outcome in a negative way and whether there are unintended consequences of going down a particular path. “Just like the things that happened in the technology sector, new firms seemingly coming from nowhere have quickly surpassed or even acquired conventional top players, so you have to see the business context from a higher perspective all the time,” Sharon added.

From Sharon’s perspective, life span increase or technology transformation could be seen as a “hard trend”, but the epidemic situation as a “soft trend”. She believes that an anticipatory leader will be able to build an organisation to deal with various “soft trends” by absorbing different opinions, coupled with an attitude of actively questioning oneself proactively.

Besen Fu (CEIBS MBA2016), HR Director for Alibaba’s Local Service Company, shared his view from a corporate angle. Amidst the epidemic crisis, many companies have focused on cost savings, specifically by reducing and freezing headcounts. By doing so, they sacrifice organisation and talent optimisation for survival right now. However, other companies have done the opposite and invested more resources in building-up, with the aim to maintain their competitiveness and position in the long run.

In Besen’s view, “opportunities and challenges will coexist.” Citing a recent real-world case, he said a senior candidate completed two rounds of interviews at Alibaba which led to the final one, but finally decided to quit the process due to the COVID-19 virus because she preferred stability to change. In that sense, this turned out to be a good opportunity for other candidates who were also pursuing this opportunity.

Besen also suggested that MBA students be more open-minded and do not lose confidence and patience. He stressed that now is a very good time to leverage personal networks, because getting an internal referral is the best way to land a job, and companies love internal referrals.

After the sharing session, students and alumni interacted further with the speakers during a Q&A. A common piece of advice for this challenging time, from all three presenters was to be brave, to jump out of your comfort zone, and to be more proactive and more open.

Finally, the speakers mentioned that no matter how up-and-down the market is, it is essential for candidates to understand themselves – particularly their interests, motivations and values – in order to clarify their long-term career and life goals.

Loewe Wang
Michael Donald Thede