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The PIE Exec Search shares career insight at BUCA event

The PIE Exec Search’s Rongrong Walker was invited to provide insights and advice for Chinese professionals navigating the UK education landscape at the British Universities China Association (BUCA) event, offering Chinese professionals in education valuable tips on navigating the UK education job market.  The event took place on 8 December 2023 in Cambridge. 

Originally from China, Rongrong has had an exciting career in the international education sector, working both in Beijing and the UK in various roles across student recruitment, admissions, programme development, student services and university partnerships. After a career break, she joined us at The PIE as part of The PIE Jobs Board and Exec Search team. It’s fair to say she had a lot of insight to share with her peers at this event. 

In this blog, Rongrong summarises her 15-minute talk on the recruitment landscape and what candidates should be doing to secure their next role. 

1) Be prepared, proactive, agile and resilient 

Let’s start with the basics: prepare your CV. When sifting through profiles, especially for commercial roles, we often find that some CVs are easier to read than others. 

The easy-to-read ones typically include contact details, a summary, work history with hyperlinks to the companies, and 4 or 5 bullet points highlighting key achievements. Education/qualifications, languages if applicable, and hobbies are good icebreakers. Finally, include a statement that says ‘references upon request’ or references.  

When applying for a job, make sure your applications are tailored to the precise requirements of the position. We once received a cover letter with a bracket saying “insert company name”. It was clearly from a template and the candidate forgot to add the company name. This reflects a lack of attention to detail – and while it doesn’t automatically mean the candidate isn’t a good one, it won’t leave a good first impression.”

So, read it thoroughly and use those key points in your cover letter or when articulating your relevant experiences and skills.  Remember, the CV is the first thing the recruiter or hiring manager will see and often use to make the decision on whether to progress your application. 

  2)  Follow up and be direct

It is a competitive market for talent. And sometimes we are not always as direct as we could be to get our point across. It is your responsibility to secure your dream job, so make the most of every opportunity. Check in with the hiring manager or the recruiter regularly, and don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Job hunting can be a full-time job. Stay positive and don’t take it personally. 

The ability to work virtually and collaboration are key. In 2023, most of the search projects we conducted were online, with different time zones such as Pacific times, Singapore times, European times, Beijing times… I’m sure you all have experience working with teams based on the other side of the globe, and you know how challenging it can be to work virtually and collaboratively. Be mindful of people’s working hours, holiday plans, online meeting tools, team structures, etc., to avoid going back and forth or in unnecessary circles. 

3) Network, network, and network! 

You may be thinking, “How do I find job opportunities?” There are various ways: job boards, recruiters, your own network, and the ‘hidden job market.’ This term describes jobs that are not advertised. 

If you want to crack the hidden job market, which some studies have shown makes up nearly 80% of hires (shocking, right?), then you should have a strategy that will automatically increase your chances of landing a job.  

One tip to do a hidden job market search, from the PES team, is to use LinkedIn. For instance, connect with people at companies or institutions you want to work at, and reach out to schedule a chat. Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date as that’s your “shop window” which hiring managers will look at. It would be great if you use it to boost your brand and profile too, but at least, keep it up to date. 

Connect with people on a daily basis. Speak to recruiters; they may have tips and guidance for you. Speak to people you know, tell them you’re job hunting, and ask them to make introductions or recommendations. According to some sources, a referral who gets an interview has a 40% better chance of getting hired! 

Networking is also helpful when progressing from entry-level to mid-level position. Highlight your achievements to your network. Recommendations and references are helpful to demonstrate and indicate your future potential. Knowledge is also powerful; staying up to date with industry trends and news is always impressive to see. 

4) Ask for support 

Do you feel like you need support? Ask for it. Speak to people around you, ask for support and advice. You’ll be surprised how willing people are to help if they can. On average, one job opening can attract over 70+ applications, from that approximately 5 candidates will be selected for a job interview, and only 1 will be offered a job. 

Recruiters are always a wealth of knowledge, and it’s worth getting on their books (you can sign up as a candidate with us here). They usually understand recruitment from both sides of the interviewing table, and as a bridge between employers and candidates, they can give you insights and even tell you how your skill set can be transferable! The PIE Exec Search team is always happy to have a chat so get in touch