Posts tagged Waggener Edstrom
A new job is always difficult to adapt to, especially if you’re not expecting as much culture shock as you run into. Each company can be like its own country in a way, so I’ve found that a lot of same the skills and lessons that help someone thrive after moving to a foreign country lead to happiness and success at a new job, too.
Eight months ago, I started my second Seattle-based full-time job in my desired career, and skills I learned out of necessity while living in China for two years that have helped me change jobs include: Learning new vocabulary, acknowledging and overcoming culture shock, and creativity and patience with communication and process.
Learning new vocabulary
Every job has jargon, acronyms and proper nouns, specific to industry or the employer itself. If you aren’t accustomed to living in an environment where you don’t know the vocabulary, your initial lack of comprehension of meetings, emails and documents can be overwhelming.
In my job, I have essentially three sets of jargon, acronyms and proper nouns to learn: Microsoft/information technology, Waggener Edstrom, and public relations agency (see the Jargon Jar at 99 Problems But a Pitch Aint One.) Learning Chinese vocabulary made me comfortable not understanding everything I hear or read in meetings, emails and client marketing materials, and teaching myself the vocabulary by looking up definitions to reference on an ongoing basis.
Acknowledging and overcoming culture shock
Most people think that culture shock is an initial big shock that wears off. However, culture shock is more of a slow roller coaster along these lines:
1. You think everything about the new place is perfect.
2. You feel homesick in increasing amounts, discovering things you never realized you would miss about home and things about the new place you don’t like.
- This is often the most intense about three months in and then reappears in subsequent months. If someone doesn’t know this is culture shock, they blame their emotions on external factors, such as: “My boss/roommate/the traffic in this city is crazy.”
3. You either figure out how to overcome the homesickness, grow a lot as a person, and become super attached to the new place or you don’t overcome it and you leave. A pretty effective coping mechanism can be taking occasional out-of-country vacations.
I’m so proud that I got through every wave of culture shock I experienced in Beijing. Over time, I had to become okay with disliking certain things about the country (for example, its pop music) and not letting those bother me, instead focusing on what I loved about the place (contemporary art and independent music). It was also key that I tried to surround myself with a combination of internationally minded Chinese people and China-minded Westerners. There are a lot of non-Chinese people in China who constantly complain about living there, and I recognized that spending lots of time around them would not help my experience.
Culture shock is present in both countries and employers, especially large employers. Eight months into this job I’m still discovering elements of our culture that I had no idea to even look for when I started.
Creativity and patience with communication and process
Psychologists have said that living abroad makes people more creative. This makes sense to me given that in China I would encounter ways of doing things that I had never even considered or have to get really creative to effectively communicate across the language barrier.
For example, one day at my first job in China, my boss asked me to train a Chinese co-worker with almost no English ability to perform administrative tasks in Microsoft Outlook. When I wasn’t sure how to say something in Chinese or she wasn’t sure how to say something in English, we entered it into Google Translate and communicated to each other that way. This was a creative way to overcome a communication barrier to complete a task.
I also experienced an example of how living in a foreign country can enhance your creativity and patience with processes by challenging your basic assumptions. I didn’t fully grasp the concept that China doesn’t have a culture of financial credit until one day when I told my roommate our power had went out that morning, she looked at our electrical meter and said in Chinese, “We’re out of electricity.” I thought, “How can we be out of electricity?” Turns out, we paid for our electricity by pre-loading a card at an ATM at the nearest bank and then inserting it into our electric meter, instead of paying an electric bill monthly, so we had run out of the dollar amount pre-loaded into the meter.
Have you lived abroad? What skills would you add to the list?
Photo is a screen grab from a 99 Problems But a Pitch Aint One post.
I’ve been fortunate that my current employer values my experience and interest in China. Therefore my team’s leaders have connected me with colleagues who have spent time in our Asia Pacific operations, culminating in my connecting with my Singapore-based colleague Sim Yee when she visited my office through Waggener Edstrom’s Global Exchange.
Before speaking to Sim Yee, I knew that Singapore played an important role in business and media in the Asia Pacific region. One example is that several international news organizations’ largest bureaus in the region are in Singapore. I’ve also known public relations professionals who start their Asia careers in Singapore then get jobs in Beijing or Shanghai, or vice versa. What I didn’t know was how closely its public relations industry was entwined with mainland China’s.
Basically for public relations, Singapore and Hong Kong are the “hubs”, and mainland China is the biggest “spoke.” This is because for global brands, regional headquarters tend to be located in these places.
What colleagues with experience in Singapore taught me about China and its relationship to Singapore:
- It’s really common to pitch new business in Singapore for work that will be executed in China.
- Client companies locate their offices and staff for work in China in Singapore because they don’t trust the Chinese government. Secondary factors in Singapore’s success as a media and business hub: English language, central geographic location in APAC for business trips.
- Most of the media in China is in Beijing. Chinese media amplify stories more than other countries’ given the heavy presence of wires and syndicating websites. Singapore-based employees need to know Mandarin so they can pitch stories to Chinese media.
- Unsurprisingly, new business opportunities for China more frequently come from word-of-mouth to request attendance for requests for proposals (RFPs). This is in line with China’s cultural emphasis on guanxi.
- There is a growing business opportunity for communications work related to health care in China given that the government is pumping money into health care. I already knew about the huge demand for consumer and crisis communications in China given the rapidly growing consumer economy.
View Sim Yee’s blog post on her experience visiting my office here: Seattle: 18 to 29 March 2013. Do you have thoughts on public relations and marketing in Singapore versus mainland China? Let me know in the comments.
(photo courtesy of Sim Yee’s blog, http://meowsyy.com)
Whenever I participate in an event for students aspiring to work in public relations, I try to publish a helpful blog post for them to check out. Today, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide‘s Bellevue (Seattle area) office is hosting an agency tour of students from Allen Hall Public Relations, my alma mater’s student-run public relations agency, and I’m lucky enough to speak on a panel of University of Oregon graduates to answer their questions.
After much deliberation on what kind of blog post to write, I’ve decided to raid my blogging history and Twitter favorites to compile a round-up post of tweets and posts that I think are especially helpful for students.
Some of these blog posts and tweets are quite old. I promise I’ve read through them and only included ones that, in my opinion, are still 100 percent true today.
Tweets by others:
“If you don’t figure out what you want to become, someone else will define it for you.” goo.gl/n0ZPI
— Justin Tsang (@justinjtsang) November 8, 2011
— arikhanson (@arikhanson) June 12, 2012
— Lori McNee(@lorimcneeartist) June 14, 2012
— Pat Rhoads (@patmrhoads) January 29, 2013
— Derek Belt (@derekbelt) January 26, 2013
Blog posts by me:
- 2008 Student vs. 2011 Professional: The PR Industry and 2008 Student vs. 2011 Professional: PR Agency Job Duties - Note: I’m happy to report that entry-level public relations hiring is better than when I wrote those posts. Some agencies now have a shortage of good intern candidates. Everything else about those posts are still true today.
- Student Interviews Me About PR and China
- How to Survive the Undergraduate to Post-Graduate Transition
- Tips for Students on Finding Post-Grad Jobs Abroad – Part 1: Before You Leave
- Tips for Students on Finding Post-Grad Jobs Abroad – Part 2: Visa Advice
- Tips for Students on Finding Post-Grad Jobs Abroad – Part 3: Once You’re There
- NGO Public Relations in Uganda – Interview with Jessica Lomelin
- UO PR Grads Who Now…Teach English in Korea
Students and aspiring public relations professionals, let me know if you have any questions about working at Waggener Edstrom Wordwide in the comments or by emailing me at beth dot evans 4 at gmail dot com.