This Way to Work

Despite dismal job markets at home and abroad, good timing might be the best credit. This piece also ran in the Spring 2009 issue.

By Daryl Cheung

Students have enough trouble trying to find a job in the United States given the current recession.  For some, though, job markets abroad appear as both favorable and frail, where opportunities arise from determination and luck.

Johnny Ng, a senior finance and accounting major, is one of the lucky ones.  A graduating senior of the Whitman School of Management, he has already secured his position at Pricewaterhouse Coopers, based in New York City.  He knows that the global job market, however, faces the same problems that the U.S. market has, which is why our current recession didn’t make a difference for his job search.  Economists define recession as a period of economic decline in gross domestic product for two consecutive quarters.  Most of the industrialized world’s economies are currently in recession, according to this standard – from much of the EU to parts of East and Southeast Asia to most of North America.

Ng realized after studying in Hong Kong two semesters ago, however, that while American companies were having massive layoffs, some of their Asian divisions were still experiencing explosive revenue growth.

Those days are over, according to Mary E. Lovely, an associate professor of economics at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs of Syracuse University.  “Asian countries’ main cash flow comes from the export industry,” she says, and the export industry doesn’t fair well with countries in economic stagnation.

On Sept. 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. announced it would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, citing a total bank debt of $768 billion.  Banks have collapsed, and the American economic system lies in shambles.  Economists say that the current U.S. recession, however, began in December 2007 and will continue through 2009 at minimum.  But the economies of Asian countries, such as Japan, Korea and China, are suffering too.

Japan and Korea just experienced the largest contraction in GDP, Lovely says.  This recession affects almost all industries, with the exception of non-tradable fields, like education and management.

For Ng, worldwide recessions have made economic opportunities abroad almost meaningless.  “If the economy is this bad and it’s worldwide…you can’t base your job decisions on that because everyone’s doing poorly,” he says.  Therefore one of the factors of consideration for him was the fact that he has grown accustomed to Asian-American culture over Asian culture.  Ng, a New York City native, also finds that establishing your career is easiest in your home city.

Most of Ng’s friends, many from China and Korea, have not been as lucky.  “They have the same major and apply to the same jobs, but [they] don’t receive the same opportunities,” Ng says.  Last October, he called the HR department of a firm to find out why.  He was told that the major reason that firms reject international students is due to the difficulty they would have in securing work visas.

But Lovely wants students to remain positive.  She believes that Asia will boost up the world economy soon.  And despite the economic turmoil, she insists that students continue to look for jobs in Asia because it is one of the least affected countries by the downfall of the economy.  The job search may take a bit longer, but jobs can be found if students demonstrate commitment and focus.  Lovely also says that learning a new language, particularly Mandarin, gives students a competitive edge, and Ng agrees.  He knows that companies are still hiring, just at lower amounts, so now it’s more important than ever to stand out from the crowd.

Lovely recommends that graduates shift away from the export industry, though, perhaps going into government and political fields.  “It’s all luck and fate,” she says.

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