Many young graduates opt for a profession such as accounting, law or finance only to find that it is not quite what they expected. Perhaps the work is uninteresting, the routine is dull, or they just get no job satisfaction from doing what has to be done.
In this situation, some people with a degree and a few years' experience decide they just have to plough on. Others look to change direction and, at that point, often find that a switch into the field of recruitment is the most viable option.
Richard Broadhurst is a typical example. The current manager of Ambition's sales and marketing division arrived in Hong Kong in 1994 and gained extensive experience in media sales. However, by the summer of 2003, he was ready to try something new and therefore accepted the offer to become a recruitment consultant.
"It is very common for our consultants to come from other professions," Mr Broadhurst explains. "In fact, some of our most successful recruiters have a background in the relevant sector because there is no substitute for experience." Ambition often requires entry-level consultants to have at least three to five years' commercial experience.
This is a competitive business
The recruitment industry is known to be dynamic, offering professionals the chance to meet clients, interview candidates, and pitch proposals. "My experience in media sales really helped because you need an outgoing personality," notes Mr Broadhurst. "You can't be afraid to pick up the phone and introduce yourself to new contacts."
In his current position, managing the sales and marketing of the recruitment division, he runs a team of three consultants. They recruit candidates for clients in all major industries, but specialise in media, banking and finance, and commerce.
On a typical day, Mr Broadhurst interviews candidates, conducts searches, meets clients, and puts together proposals to pitch for new business. There is a lot of interaction with other people and, in a busy week, he may meet up with 20 candidates. The working day usually stretches from 8am to 7pm, but he says that, if the job is going well, he doesn't notice the hours.
The firm rewards successful consultants with generous base salaries; those who perform outstandingly and are highly motivated can earn seven-figure incomes. "You have to be independent, capable of taking the initiative, hardworking, and have a sense of urgency because this is a competitive business," he explains.
Mr Broadhurst has found that one of the biggest rewards comes from identifying someone who is perfect for a certain role and then negotiating for them to fill it.
A degree in business or marketing provides a good foundation for a recruitment consultant, but applicants with qualifications and work experience in other areas will always be considered.
Looking ahead, Mr Broadhurst is confident about the general prospects. "There is going to be plenty of recruitment activity for the remainder of the year," he says. "Going into next year, I can't see any reason why that won't continue."
The recruitment market is very active in China but is dominated by firms which have an understanding of the local language and culture. "They can identify quality candidates much easier than we can," Mr Broadhurst explains.
As China opens up to international influences, overseas recruitment professionals will have more chances to enter the market. "There will be opportunities, but it is a matter of moving at the right time, which may be in the not too distant future," he adds.