All professionals must make choices in their careers, whether it is to pursue a set direction or move on to better prospects. While there is no magic formula, there are lessons to be learnt from others' success stories.
Wong Kit-loong, deputy chief executive officer, the Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS), worked in a number of jobs after graduating from university, eventually finding his niche in the property management sector.
Mr Wong kicked off his career in the civil service, working as an executive officer responsible for mainly internal administrative duties. After several years with the government in jobs unrelated to property, a major real estate developer offered him a position in 1987 when large-scale private housing developments were taking off in Hong Kong.
"Although I had no experience that was linked directly to property management, I did have wide-ranging experience in co-ordinating matters and this is a crucial part of property management. My new job as estate manager also required me to liaise with different parties such as owners' incorporations and tenant representatives," Mr Wong says.
In the civil service, Mr Wong had dealt directly with the public and acquired a wealth of knowledge from many local and overseas training opportunities. His new position, where he was required to find a balance between people management and paperwork, suited his personality perfectly.
During his subsequent seven years in the commercial sector, Mr Wong not only gained sound knowledge of property management and building maintenance, he also developed superlative client relationship skills.
"When the Hong Kong Housing Society approached me in 1994, I was ready to take up a new challenge," he notes.
Since the HKHS is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation, the new job represented a shift from profit making to serving the community in a sustainable manner, he says.
An experienced industry insider, Mr Wong believes that the demand for property management professionals will only grow in future.
This is partly because property owners are keen to protect their assets through quality management and maintenance, not only in Hong Kong's relatively mature property management industry, but also around the region. Mainland China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan are all increasingly more focused on improving property services.
"In China alone, more large-scale residential and commercial projects are being established and they need to be managed well. The mainland government is promoting property management through various channels, including legislation and public education. Many Hong Kong professionals have already moved across the border to take advantage of the enormous potential in the field," Mr Wong states.
In Hong Kong, the Housing Managers Registration Ordinance promotes professionalism in the industry. Established in 2000, the Housing Managers Registration Board provides for the registration of professional housing managers and exercises disciplinary control over their professional and related activities.
"In addition to the global Chartered Institute of Housing, there is a number of other recognised professional institutes that offer accreditation for property managers. Such professional qualifications provide a structured career path for professionals to advance in their careers," Mr Wong says.
Aside from professional qualifications, property managers must have the right personality traits, and Mr Wong believes that a high level of integrity is crucial to ensuring that they observe the rules and regulations when it comes to processes such as tender submissions for building services and community activities and supervision of staff ranging from mid-level executives and office staff to cleaners and security guards.
It is also part of a property manager's role to act as a go-between when interacting with various parties, including incorporated owners, residential tenants, shop occupants and office users. Therefore essential to have effective communication and presentation skills are essential for building up good relationships and facilitating smooth housing practices.
"Property management today involves much more than simply keeping buildings clean and safe," Mr Wong stresses.
"HKHS provides plenty of added values to communities, for example by running clubhouses and organising themed leisure activities. As conditions change, practitioners must be sensitive to the market, so that we know what others are doing and how to accommodate the latest trends in our own set-up," he concludes.