Thursday, September 29, 2011

Getting Back to Where You Once Belonged

So for those who keep up with this blog with decent regularity, you'll recall that my current plan is to head to Denver with my dad for a trade show in mid-October, then on to Vegas and from there on to LA, with the intention to fly to Asia from there. For those who don't keep up with this blog, that's my plan, you're now caught up.

Notice the plan was to fly back to "Asia", that is, there wasn't really a specific place I was certainly flying in to. Odds are I'd end up in Shenzhen at some point soon after my leaving the US, but I was dabbling with flying into Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, etc. And who was I kidding? Last night I booked the airfare, and as was going to be the case all along, I'll be going back to the place where my whole Asia odyssey really took off, the greatest city in the world.


video

So now that we've all watched that really awkward Chinese girl play piano whilst singing... schedule is as follows:

Chicago--->Denver October 12
Denver---->Las Vegas October 18
Las Vegas-->Los Angeles October 23
Los Angeles->Hong Kong October 27
Hong Kong-->Shenzhen shortly thereafter

Other assorted things:

Huge thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes yesterday! It was overwhelming to see the outpouring of birthday wishes from everyone, I really appreciate it. Also big thanks to the Baseball Gods for making my 23rd birthday the best day of regular-season baseball ever. Thanks to the mailman for delivering a new National Geographic on my birthday. Overall it was a fantastic day, so again thanks to everyone who made it so!

Had a solid 6 days in Philadelphia working a trade show this past week, it involved a number of very large meals, a lot of building/tearing apart of booths, and basically networking/practicing sales skills. Definitely a cool experience, and apparently I did such a respectable job that I've been asked to come down to Indianapolis to work another one next weekend, so a good way to make some extra cash before heading off to the Orient.

Interesting China fact of the day: I read online (i.e. questionable source) that the collective population of China consumes 50,000 cigarettes PER SECOND. Is THAT all?! I did the math and that equates to 4.3 billion cigarettes per day, or about 3 for every man, woman, and child in China. That number does seem a bit unrealistically high, but at the same time, anyone that's been to China knows that everyone there smokes, so it is possible. Either way, something to think about!

Ended up biting the bullet and taking the cheapest option to get back to Asia, my old nemesis Air China. I could have paid ~$75 extra to fly Air Canada, but that would have also involved a 7:00am flight out of LAX as well as staying like 1 day less in LA, so not worth doing. Consequently I'll begrudgingly be sitting on an Air China flight being the only white person (which will be awesome) and having the Asian guy in front of me immediately throw his seat back into my lap and leave it like that for the next 12 hours as we fly from LAX to Beijing. If nothing else, I get to spend a few hours in Beijing airport, which is a really cool place.

Well that's about it for now, main bit of news being the confirmed return flight to Asia. Big thanks again for all the birthday wishes yesterday, was really cool to hear from everyone. More news to come as it develops.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Sample Cover Letter, and Some Other Updates

It's a long blog post, but maybe it's worth reading. If nothing else, there's some humor in it.

First of all, why aren't you watching this right now?! (and if you happen to have epilepsy, the good reason to this question would be, "it might literally give me a seizure", so if that's the case, you probably shouldn't watch it)

So all I've been hearing for the past few years is how devastating the job market is. "Oh man, it sucks that I'll be graduating soon, I've heard finding jobs nowadays is impossible", or alternatively "I think I'll just stay in college an extra year or 2, maybe get a master's, just to avoid going out into this job market". Well for those of us who don't have an unlimited sum of money from which to draw US$20,000 or so per year for educational expenses, the crappy job market is a harsh reality.

That said, upon graduation I felt pretty good about my resume--I've had international internships in the Netherlands and China, studied abroad in Hong Kong, did a business project in Thailand over Christmas, managed a US$300,000 portfolio as a senior at university, and speak 3 languages pretty well, with my Chinese also coming along pretty decently. The fact that I'm also willing to relocate anywhere in the world, and have traveled through 3rd world countries before, thus making it less likely that I'll experience massive culture shock, was also a plus, I thought.

All that considered, I have applied for 93 jobs since returning from China. And heard back from a whopping.... ZERO. Yes, 0. I've emailed old business connections in Hong Kong and the Netherlands asking them for help, and received some assistance but nothing promising yet. Have a fair number of the jobs I've applied for been out of my league in terms of experience, languages, or other aspects? Yes. Have a large, large number been well within my league? Yeah, probably. Moreso than anything, it's frustrating as opposed to tedious, disheartening, etc. That is, what the HELL am I doing wrong? I have no idea, so I decided for my 93rd job application, I would do something a bit different. I don't want to name the company, because that's probably just not a good idea, but in short, it's for a very good job in Hong Kong that I am, realistically, pretty well-qualified for. The only problem is that the company is one of the most respected in the world, and they simply don't hire people unless you went to an Ivy League school or some very, very highly ranked state school. So I went for the Hail Mary:

Dear Representative of XXXXX-XXXXX,

This is the 93rd job I have applied for since I began applying roughly 3 weeks ago. Ninety-third. I have yet to receive positive word from any job applications, and have thus decided to try a new approach to applying. Consequently, this will probably be one of the more unique cover letters you have read.

Odds are you will not seriously consider this application due to my having graduated from a state school without a reputation for outstanding academics. You may also scoff at the fact that I do not have any connections within XXXXX-XXXXXX which would allow me to get to the top of the pile of applicants for this position. These preconceptions are no fault of yours, that’s simply the way the business world seems to work. That would be an unadvisable course of action in my case.

I went to Illinois State University because I didn’t give a damn about grades in high school, and my parents could not afford the tuition for the smaller private schools I was accepted into. It’s safe to say I made the most of my opportunities at Illinois State—my GPA was over 3.50, my major GPA over 3.70, I won two awards including the Outstanding Junior in International Business, appeared on the College of Business Dean’s List, completed a study abroad in Hong Kong, and participated in international internships in the Netherlands and China. I also managed a stock and ETF portfolio of over HK$2,500,000 as part of a senior seminar course.

As a human resources representative, the next aspect of my resume that you’re likely to sneer at is my perceived lack of work experience. This is correct. I have only worked a combined 6 months when not considering my restaurant job from high school. However, it is important to consider what I accomplished at these jobs. During my internship in summer 2010, I analyzed just under HK$1 billion of contracts for a satellite company and created, without assistance, a long-term sales plan with the goal being to increase the company’s share-of-wallet with key customers by 25%. Additionally, during an internship in summer 2011, I traveled to Hong Kong and Shanghai to conduct a market-entry analysis for a company looking to expand into Mainland China. This analysis included detailed research on real-estate and labor markets in Shanghai and Dalian, as well as a considerable deal of information on legal and regulatory considerations when expanding into China. I also have experience with supply-chain logistics, having traveled as a consultant to Bangkok to help arrange the creation of a supply chain for a startup company in December-January 2010-2011.

Overall, I understand that my pedigree is probably not typical of a XXXXX-XXXXX hire. My university is not top-tier and my work experience at this point is minimal. However, I encourage you to at the very least consider this application with some degree of seriousness. I assure you that, given the opportunity, I will exceed all expectations put upon me by my superiors. If you do indeed decide to seriously look at this application, I expect to hear from you soon. If I seem under qualified for this job in particular, I would be willing to consider other jobs within the company if they are a better fit for me.

So that's the old Blaine Curcio Hail Mary on a cover letter. I will keep you all informed as to whether I hear back. I'm not holding my breath. In other news, I may have lucked into a cheaper way to get back to Asia. In short, my Dad has a trade show in Denver, Colorado (for those not familiar with the geography of the US, that's further west than Chicago by a wide margin) in mid-October. They need some extra help in terms of just laborers, so my dad says I can fly out there on his company and get paid to work 5 days there. Not bad. From there, I can fly to Las Vegas for what's essentially free. I would be able to stay with Dan, my very good friend from HS/University that I went to Japan and Thailand with, in his beautiful, ~400sq. meter house in Vegas for a few days. Not bad. From there, Dan could drive me to LA, where I would be able to have a few days of great times with the lovely Ms. Catherine Bumble and her legendary future husband Maximus Stompf, both absolute superstars of Hong Kong. From there, I would be able to fly to Hong Kong for ~US$150 cheaper than from Chicago. So I think that's what I'll do. This plan does have some drawbacks, the main one being that I'm returning to China a bit later than I'd previously hoped (was hoping to get there by like 2nd week of October, this would be 4th week of October), but the combination of being paid handsomely to work in Denver, being able to see some friends out west, and being able to save money on the airfare, makes it worthwhile. So it looks like this young man may be heading west to go back to the Far East. Is that all?

On a related note, I also came up with the debatably insane idea of bicycling from Shenzhen into the inner part of China yesterday, which I may end up doing at some point soon after my arrival if the opportunity arises. Given that the main reason for my return to China is to learn Mandarin, this would probably be a decent idea, as I'd certainly encounter a lot less English as I got up into places like Yangshuo, and maybe even as far north as Hunan province, Sichuan province, etc. Anyway, all preliminary. And again, quite possibly (or even probably) insane. I have no idea if there's even a way to bicycle through that part of China.

Other than that, things just continue to saunter along here in Chicagoland. I'll be heading to Philadelphia with the padre for a trade show next week to make a bit of extra cash and hopefully network a bit. I'll be seeing a friend who works for True Value Hardware and spends ~120 days per year in China, so hopefully I can pick his brain a bit on how to find a job in Asia. I've recently discovered a job posting with the company I worked for last summer--position would involve me being rather underqualified in terms of work experience and language skills (it's located in Singapore, and they request at least one Asian language), however the general gist of the job is pretty freaking similar to what I did competently last summer, only now I have another year of university, a few consulting projects, and more confidence on my side, so maybe, just maybe I'll luck out and get an interview with that. Have already emailed my supervisor from last summer asking his thoughts on my prospects of getting the job, so we'll see how that goes. Well this blog post is getting obscenely long. If for whatever reason you've decided to read up to this point, I hope it's been entertaining! And if not, feel free to let me know about it through hate mail. Really, though. Until next time, stay hungry, stay foolish.