ICYMI: My LinkedIn Career Posts

In May I wrote a post titled ‘Career Planning: Building Knowledge’ where I shared a few links to posts I’ve been writing on LinkedIn. After seeing some people in China repost WeChat articles on LinkedIn, I was thinking about how cross-pollination across different networks enables users to extend their reach, so I though it might be a smart move to link to the LinkedIn posts I’ve written since then ICYMI!

Please find them below:

How To Plan Your Professional Continuing Education

How To Become A Ham

Are You In Professional Shape

How To Get Over Your Fear Of Public Speaking

Authentic Networking 101

How To Stay Competitive In Today’s Talent Market

How To Use Social Media To Develop Subject Matter Expertise

Developing Visual Literacy

Career Planning: Building Knowledge

Last December I finally started to write some articles on LinkedIn around career planning because uh oh, I have arrived at the stage of my professional life. 

To date I've written 'Why Blogging Can Be A Career Move', 'Career Planning: Take A Third Person Perspective' and yesterday, I wrote about 'Creating A Career Action Plan' where I identified six key areas to work on which include:

Credentials / Profile: get more bylines, media quotes, consider finding public speaking opportunities.

Network: maintain active network, do more interviews, consider coffee dates or dinners to learn more about different industries, organize events.

Knowledge: take continuing education classes, read and write more, attend classes and talks.

Storytelling: work on how I talk about myself as a professional, keep LinkedIn and other social channels polished and up to date.

Polish: avoid hipster fashion moments during professional life. Learn more industry specific terminology.

Passion: read, take classes, attend talks or watch content around things that I find personally interesting.

For today's quick and dirty post I've decided to briefly focus on building knowledge although the topic is still rather vague for me. But like all things in life, learning something new is a process. Don't let the intimidating learning curve stop you.

So let's dive in. Although it is understood we need to stay up to date with skills that pertain to our current job and industry, what is often left neglected is our continuing education needs around industries we would want to work in, in the future and the skills we need to develop if we want to progress on the career ladder. Not exactly exciting, but being in professional shape is important.  

While I haven't really decided what industry would be right for me I have tentatively decided on a few job roles and industries that I might be interested in the future which has helped develop a general education plan. While I had already considered pursuing continuing education since I didn't know what I was working towards I hadn't really made any forward progress until I completed my five sessions with a career coach.

Here's what I've decided on for now. I signed up for LinkedIn Learning in April, which after writing my January post, I learned was an acquisition of Lynda. Right now I'm mostly watching their more career oriented content to brush up on my knowledge in that area, but I'm planning on progressing to their business content and technology classes. 

I also found a market research specialization certificate program of several courses offered through Coursera by University of California Davis which I tried a class from. I was going to sign up for an online UAL Fashion Buying And Merchandising course for my current job but I kept having issues logging in and my credit card payment didn't go through so for now that's on the back burner. I also decided pay for membership with Insight Association since my top industry choice for professional growth is essentially an extension of market intelligence into market research.  While it's a slow process, I am happy I stopped being in a rut and started making a small step forward.  

In Conversation With Shaun Rein

Aside from networking, LinkedIn is a great tool for exploring industries you're interested in developing further in or, entering. Based on you behavior, its analytic system pushes new content to your feed which enables discovery.

Which is how I ended up seeing Shaun Rein's books about China on my updates stream. Turns out Rein is also the Founder and Managing Director of management consultancy China Market Research Group.

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With an impressive track record as an author and entrepreneur, I decided to reach out to see if it would be possible for Rein to share his story. Keep reading for his in his own words account of how his career intuitively happened.

When you picked your education path did you already plan on coming to China? 

In the mid 1990s I spent time teaching at Trinity College of Quezon City in the Philippines. While I was there, I met many political and business elite who told me they were trying to figure out how to deal with China's rise. They were not particularly concerned about Japan's rise which was the country that preoccupied American thinking in the political and business establishment. 

I then went to South Korea to teach at an English language and also found the elite there echoed the opinions of the elite in South Korea. As a result, I decided that I needed to focus on China's culture and understand her people as well as possible. 

I did not know if I would become a professor or a diplomat or a movie star (I was thinking about doing action movies in the Philippines) but I knew that no matter what I did I needed to have on the ground experience in China buttressed by some academic knowledge. 

How did you make the jump from entrepreneur to research at a venture capital & private equity firm? 

I have always considered myself an entrepreneur. Working in a large organization never held much appeal for me. I always wanted to create something that no one else had and to push back against the naysayers and critics. 

I started an event planning company in Montreal, Canada that organized 3000+ person dance parties which did pretty well.  It was definitely a better experience than working at McKinsey or Goldman Sachs as many of my peers did. I also started an English training company in Tianjin, China which failed miserably. 

But failure was a great learning experience as well. 

After starting these two companies, I decided it would be fun to go into venture capital. At Inter-Asia, I was in charge of education and IT investments, as well as ran research and due diligence operations. I think to be a good venture capitalist it is good to have entrepreneurial experience as you can help the entrepreneurs running your portfolio companies expand easier if you have been there and done that. 

I quite enjoyed venture capital but missed working in a more operational role. I had also never really worked in a semi-large company so that that might be worthwhile. I saw WebCT and wanted to invest in it, but they instead asked me to run China, Taiwan and South Korea. I thought it was a great opportunity so decided to leave VC and join them.

In 2005 you founded China Market Research Group, where did this idea come from? What does the firm do?

After we sold WebCT to Blackboard, I was not sure what to do next. I thought about going back into venture capital. I decided instead to open CMR basically to do angel investing. 

China was still a relatively unknown quantity to Western firms at the time, so as soon as I set up the shingle for CMR, big brands started calling me for help to do their China strategies. Apple called. So did Lane Crawford. As a result, I decided to change CMR's focus from investing to strategy consulting (I ultimately spun off the investing part of CMR into a new entity called CMR Capital that takes care of my personal investing).

In other words, I did not set up CMR to become a consultant. Basically the market demanded my services. Companies were looking for more tailor-made, and more insightful strategies that those offered by McKinsey and BCG. They often had bad experiences with the big consulting firms. 

I saw that they had the money to pay and the demand and thus built up CMR this way. It has been a fun 13 years. 

You’ve written three books about China, The War for China's Wallet: Profiting from the New World Order, The End of Cheap China & The End of Copycat China. Could you tell us how you got in to publishing, what was the writing process like and how was the market reception? Any surprises? 

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Like with CMR, I sort of fell into publishing. I did not originally have a plan to do this. I wrote a few comments on blogs and then suddenly BusinessWeek called me and asked if I was interested to write a semi-regular column for them. I did that, and then ultimately for CNBC and Forbes, to get my ideas out and as marketing CMR.

Then one day a big publishing house asked me to write a book. I submitted a proposal 4 days later. They accepted the same day and then gave me a 3 month deadline to write the book - that is what became The End of Cheap China.

I found that writing a book is an incredibly solitary exercise - you write something in 3 months that people still review and think about years or decades later. That puts a lot of pressure to be clear and cogent. 

I love writing books. Because all the books have been successful I get engaged to give speeches around the world. That to me is amazing. I have spoken in South Africa, France, New Zealand, Canada, all over the place which has been great to meet people and see new cultures. I am very lucky. 

For a reception standpoint, typically the business community and those who know China pretty well have been supportive of my work, except for Silicon Valley who crucified me for my book The End of Copycat China where I predicted China would become an innovation nation. Well, now it is pretty clear my predictions were spot on and that China is 2-3 years ahead of Silicon Valley in terms of innovation.

I always feel like I am in the tech Dark Ages when I leave China to visit the US or Europe. 

For professionals who are aspiring to be an industry expert or enter the field of management consulting that you currently are part of, what advice or lessons learned can you offer?

The best advice I can give it to start your consulting career in a generalist role, don't specialize too early in your career. It is only after you have worked for a few years that you really start to understand what you are passionate about.

It is also critical to get a good mentor so make sure you know the training you would get in a consulting firm, typically bigger ones are better than smaller ones (except for CMR which I think has the best training in the industry). Make sure your boss is a good person who is interested in training you for the long-term.