HomeCommunity IssuesBreaking Bamboo: from office romances to job search tips

Breaking Bamboo: from office romances to job search tips

Photo from Unsplash by Lily Li

By Dave Liu, AsAmNews Staff Writer

What advice would you have about dating a co-worker given the increased attention about sexual harassment? I am not a manager and the person I’m interested in is not a manager either. Should we be open about this relationship if it develops further?

Dating in the workplace is tricky because of the potential for it to disrupt the workplace as well as lead to sexual harassment. As such, most companies have explicit policies in place that tackle this. Your first stop should be to research your corporate policies either with your HR department or corporate handbook as they will likely spell out how workplace dating should be treated. In addition, there are laws specifically designed to tackle this so be sure to consult those as well. 

In general, every company I have worked for has required disclosure with HR. Since you are not a manager, and neither is the other person, it makes it a little less complicated because neither of you are in a power position vis-a-vis the other and there is little chance for conflicts of interest to arise. However, if you’re working in teams and you’re both on the same team from time to time, the dynamic can interfere in not only your work but also your co-workers. Remember that if your romance detrimentally interferes with work, you can be terminated. So if you continue the relationship, try your hardest to keep it out of the workplace. Romance should really be for after hours.

I’m about to graduate from a prestigious university. What skills do I need to make sure I have that they don’t teach in school? How do I develop those skills?

If you determine that the skills needed are technical, then it’s easy to solve those gaps. Go get after-school or weekend training. But I have found that the softer skills like management, negotiation, and salesmanship is where most people are lacking. These are some of the key skills that you don’t learn in school but you will need in the ‘real world.’ It’s the reason why not all A+ students in university are running the world and why many average people in school are successful in the business world. 

To identify the skills you need, I’d first start with researching the industry or profession you want to pursue after university and try to identify it’s critical success factors. Once you identify them, try to get as much practice in those areas as possible. For example, almost every major business job requires some level of sales ability to be successful. You’ll need these skills to sell yourself to get a job, sell your ideas to bosses, convince subordinates to follow your plan, or customers to buy your product. So if sales skills are what’s needed, try to get customer or sales facing roles. Many of the top CEOs I’ve worked with started their career in sales. It might have been as a newspaper person (when they still existed), telemarketer, or even door-to-door Bible salesman. It was in these early jobs that they started to hone those skills which propelled them throughout their careers.

It’s a tautology but nothing replaces real world experience when making sure you succeed post-university. So try to get part-time jobs, internships, or other entry-level roles to see what it’s like with ‘live ammunition drills.’ 

Can you suggest some good job search tips during this pandemic? Are these tips any different from ones one might use during more “normal” times?

Looking for a great job at any time isn’t easy. It’s even more so during a pandemic. Major industries are in upheaval (e.g., hospitality) and traditional interviewing is on hiatus for now. However, even in the midst of these changes, some industries are on a tear of a lifetime (e.g., online video). So my advice is to first consider fishing where the ponds are growing, not drying up. Your chances will be better there. Focus on growth industries.

Next, I would apply the same rules of networking and make sure you are out there constantly searching for jobs. It can be harder because we no longer have the serendipity of bumping into people at live conferences or job fairs, but in many ways it can be a little easier because some people may have more time. They aren’t spending an hour a day commuting to and from work, and hopefully those three hour in-person meetings have been replaced with more productive one hour Zoom calls. I’ve also found that it is much easier to get 15 to 30 minutes of someone’s time nowadays than before the pandemic because some of us are more efficient working from home. No more two hour lunches or idle chit chat by the office watercooler. So if you have something compelling to offer, I’ve found it’s actually easier to get someone’s attention.

However, you need to make yourself compelling. Instead of mastering small talk, you need to master the art of writing – particularly email introductions. You need to catch someone’s eye when they’re scrolling through their inbox. You also need to get to the point. So figure out your core competencies, determine what makes you unique, and then start sending email and cold calling around for opportunities. Good luck!

Check out these other Breaking Bamboos:

Breaking Bamboo: Secrets to overcommunicating

Breaking Bamboo: How to get that next promotion

Breaking Bamboo: Career advice from an Asian American Executive

Breaking Bamboo runs every other Monday on AsAmNews, providing career advice and guidance from an Asian American executive. All questions will remain confidential. Send them to info @ asamnews . com.

About the Author: Dave is a seasoned executive and entrepreneur.  Prior to founding several companies in entertainment, investments, and technology, he worked on Wall Street for almost 25 years. He started his career by joining a fledgling investment bank, Jefferies when it had less than 200 employees.  Today, Jefferies is a multi-billion dollar diversified public company (NYSE:JEF).  It was there that he rose from the entry level position of Analyst to Group Head of Internet and Digital Media and was one of the youngest Managing Directors in firm history.  As one of the only managing directors of color in the firm, he successfully broke through the bamboo ceiling by not only working hard but also understanding how to play the corporate game.  He has had hundreds of bankers work for him during his career and served as a mentor to many who have gone on to some of the best business schools and companies in America.  He is eager to share his knowledge with Asian Americans seeking to realize their full potential and achieve their career goals.

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