Knowledge Exchange

How to sell yourself when changing jobs?

Angela Black (Class of 2019)

Do you want a career change, but you have no idea where to start? Let’s meet Angela Black, HKU MBA Class of 2019, who has successfully changed her career multiple times across Australia, Japan, Tanzania, China, and Hong Kong.

HKU MBA: Thank you for joining this interview Angela. Firstly, we’d love to hear your introduction.

Angela Black: I started out wanting to be a social worker when I was younger. I was very adamant about it. But throughout my undergraduate degree I realised that I was getting better grades in public relations so I started to go down that path. I now realise how lucky I was to be in marketing because it is the type of career that you can cut and paste into any kind of industry.

I’ve been able to develop my marketing career across different industries that have caught my passion, and my eye, throughout my life.

For a while I worked for NGOs supporting and recruiting foster carers. I lived in Tanzania where I supported a school by marketing them and helping them to give free education to talented students who didn’t have the resources to receive a good education. It was a great experience.

Then I got to a stage in life where I felt like I needed to make some money. I managed to make my way into manufacturing in China where I became a global marketing director, marketing to businesses all around the world.

In March 2020, the pandemic hit and it was a tough time in China so I was made redundant. It was a difficult and challenging time as you can imagine. Luckily, however, I was able to shimmy over to the insurance industry which had survived quite well during the pandemic and didn’t have a hiring freeze when many other industries did.

Marketing is something that I’ve always been passionate about. It has given me a lot of freedom to live in many countries, to diversify my skills and has even allowed me to be able to move around according to what stage I am at in my life.

I also do a little bit of consulting on the side for small businesses. This is something I started doing while I was in between roles. It allows me to work full time while also having a side hustle. Consulting allows me to bring out my creative side. I’m working with an artist in Hong Kong, helping them to sell their artwork digitally. I’m also consulting for a manufacturing business which allows me to keep my knowledge up within that industry. It’s been amazing how easy it is to be a consultant on the side; marketing definitely gives you some freedom.

HKU MBA: You said that marketing is the foundation for you to really explore different industries and to take you on a journey across different countries. Can you please elaborate a bit more on how difficult it is to switch between different industries?

Angela Black: I wouldn’t say it’s easy. However, I would say that it’s probably easier than many other professions to be able to pivot and to go into other industries.

You still have to be smart about how you put yourself forward in an interview, particularly if you’re trying to change industries. You really need to come forward with what your value is and to be very focused on the future. I don’t recommend looking back too much and talking about your former industry. Direct the interviewer towards the future and show your passion in wanting to join this new industry. To be successful you must highlight some of the key things that you’re able to bring to the position.

Storytelling is something any marketer should be practicing anyway. I do quite well in interviews when I am telling a story and I find I get a really good response from interviewers.

HKU MBA: Can you give us an example of good ‘storytelling’ during an interview?

Angela Black: First start with your journey and show a real, genuine insight as to why you started on this journey and how you ended up in the interview room. I guarantee you that they will ask questions such as “why this company?” and “why this industry?”

When I moved from education into manufacturing I got asked “why this industry?” point-blank. I remember it being a pretty intimidating interview. The interviewer asked “why? Why should I hire you? You don’t know anything about manufacturing.” I had to respond by saying:

“Yes, you’re right. I don’t know anything about 3D printing. I don’t know anything about injection moulding. However, I know people and communication and I know how to tell your story and to grow your brand and I can do this…. X, Y, and Z.”

The fact that I could divert away from my weakness without making excuses really helped.

That’s the same thing that happened when I moved into the insurance industry. In the interview with the insurance company they actually loved the fact that I wasn’t from the industry. They liked my fresh eyes. I am the only one who doesn’t speak the jargon as I was an outsider.

The bigger challenge for me to move into insurance was showing how I could pivot from a company with 300 people into this multinational company with over 1500 people. In a small business, you can be more agile and bulldoze ideas through in a quick manner. How could I get the same results in a multinational organisation? That was another kind of conversation I had to have where I displayed all my transferable skills and prove that I could use them to get results in a different environment.

Changing industries does make people look at you differently. My story has convinced me that I can handle anything and I love sharing that in any interview.

HKU MBA: There may be some negatives when changing industries. What is your opinion about this?

Angela Black: Sure there are some negatives when jumping around industries. One of them is the fact that you may fall behind your peers. If you stay in one industry you become an expert, and that can be a huge advantage. Each time I move industries I have to start from zero.

Also, there is a bit of a problem when you apply for a new job; it’s very hard to transition and move up. You often have to go sideways. Therefore, my strategy has been to get into a company, work hard to get promoted and then go sideways when I change industries again. Therefore moving from industry to industry may slow down your career progression.

Having said that, I don’t feel like I am too far behind, and I also feel like it helps me with my long-term goal which is to do more consulting later in life. Plus, I’ll always have that diversification.

HKU MBA: Was there any industry that you enjoyed working more when you were marketing? 

Angela Black: Surprisingly, I absolutely loved the manufacturing industry. It was quite surreal to find myself regularly walking around a big factory in Zhongshan, China and working in a male dominated industry.

It really blew my mind to be in such a different place. For a while I did sort of wonder “how did I end up here?” No one could speak English and I couldn’t order food or a taxi for myself. I just had to use a translator or Google translate all the time.

However I got to meet product developers from all over the world who needed help manufacturing their idea, and it absolutely blew my mind when I saw some of the things these product developers were creating. Many of the engineers were creating things for the very first time and having to constantly problem solve. I was able to take these really cool stories and then market them to the world to help the business grow.

As a result, I do think I’ll end up back in the product development space one day… Maybe on the brand side or maybe even developing a product myself, who knows.