Paul Cooper is director of Michael Page International’s Kuala Lumpur office. Yep, that’s the same recruitment company that recently surveyed 5,600 Malaysians working abroad to ask if coming home was on the cards.
So say you are one of those who envisions moving home…oh, somewhere down the line. For now, you’re too busy climbing the corporate ladder at ______(fill in the blank) and raving it up on weekends.
Cooper sat down with Outstation to offer some tips on how to plan a return.
Outstation: So how should you think about and plan for a return, say, five years down the line?
Cooper: Well, the first thing is you should stay away for at least five years, because then you get the tax incentives.
One piece of advice – don’t leave it too long.
From a career perspective, Malaysia is still predominantly a local economy. Regional jobs are still insignificant. If you are in a C-level position, a very senior role, and move back from Shanghai, Sydney, Singapore, the economy is not that developed yet and you are not going to step into an MNC environment at the level that you are used to.
If you stay away 15 to 20 years, there are not many jobs for you around.
But for middle management – those with 5 to 10 years experience abroad, there is a very good mix of jobs to come back to at that level. You have very marketable skills. Malaysia needs middle managers. You can expect salaries of 8,000 to 15,000 ringgit a month.
Outstation: In which sectors?
Cooper: The oil-and-gas sector stands out. The banking sector is developing very quickly. If you’ve worked in Islamic banking in the Middle East, there’s a good opportunity to move back. The retail and consumer market is developing very quickly, with online shopping coming along.
Outstation: How should a Malaysian abroad prepare for this? Drop in to visit companies whenever they come back on holiday?
Cooper: The recruitment market here is quite raw. The majority of recruiters are aimed at the mass market.
Look at organisations like ourselves who are focussed on MNCs. If you are back for Chinese New Year or Raya, come and see us. CVs can get lost. We get a lot of CVs, especially from the Indian subcontinent and now from the Eurozone because of the problems there.
If you mix race, religions, climate, languages, Malaysia is seen as a very attractive place to live and work.
The key thing is face time.
One of the only pushbacks of local employers when it comes to returning Malaysians is the lack of local knowledge.
Outstation: Really? Malaysians? Lacking local knowledge?
Cooper: You can be a very experienced banker but if you’ve been away too long, adapting to local banking regulations, Islamic banking, there’s a big learning curve. It is very hard to justify the premium you might otherwise get.
If you’re a tax accountant, you won’t know Malaysian tax rules.If you’re an investment banker, you need local connections.
In terms of preparing for an interview, you have to be mindful of that. You’ve got to show adaptability.
Outstation: Okay, what about the opposite path. If I’m a Malaysian working in Malaysia and planning to leave to work abroad in a few years, how should I plan for it?
Cooper: It’s a well-trodden path. Malaysians go abroad. They’re quite an adaptable bunch. We have 20 people in our KL office. Sixteen are local. Of these, only two haven’t lived, studied or worked abroad.
It’s a well-trodden path.