How can Internationals/Asians (East Asians) do better in the American corporate environment? What are some behaviors/traits that hold them back?

I'm particularly interested as an international who did my undergraduate degree in the US and is currently working in management consulting. Would be great to hear thoughts from Asians/Asian Americans who've gone through the process or from non-Asians who have a view of this issue and have experience to share.


My recommendation is not to focus on "behavior/traits" that hold a group of people back in the American corporate environment. But to focus on the attributes that succeed in the American corporate environment. There's a very good book by Stephen Covey called "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" - that will help.

Answered 6 years ago

Networking and relationship building are skills any professional should prioritize and develop in their careers. Communications skills goes hand in hand. Even in management consulting where you need to have the "technical" chops (i.e., analytical skils, problem solving etc), your ability to sell ideas and gain buy-in (either from your supervisor or from the client) are critical to your ability to succeed. Good communications skills will allow you to present your ideas/recommendations clearly so you can be pursuasive.

In terms of networking, balance your time doing the work with time "selling" your value. As an Asian-American, I know first hand it may feel very "salesy" to self promote. it's just not something we are used to in our culture. But, early on in my career, I learned the hard way that while I was extremely competent at my job (I was a consultant at Bain after b-school) and could build an excel model and kick-butt power point slide like a pro, what really mattered was that people of influence (my manager, the staffing coordinator, the partner on my case) needed to know what my value was and how I was contributing. I made sure to contribute a lot in meetings, have an opinion on aspects of the case that were outside of my immediate silo, and also put time in to build relationships with my colleagues outside of work. I also participated in firm-building activities (like recruiting) so I could get to know more colleagues who were on other case teams and offices.

I was a career coach at UCLA Anderson for over 5 years, and in that time I coached many international students. The biggest challenge for many of the international students (Asian and other cultures) was adapting to the US way of conducting a job search -- where networking/relationship building is paramount --and also being effective on the job where you need to make yourself known. To help the international students, we would practice networking and role play.

If you are someone who thinks of networking as overly self-promotional, then the first thing to do is change your perspective and think of it as relationship building, getting to know other people, giving and being generous (vs. asking for something) etc.

Please see my blog on networking for some other best practices:

I hope this helps answer your question!

Answered 5 years ago

Being bold and assertive, both in terms of communicating a vision as well as standing up for yourself, is something I've struggled with as an East Asian entrepreneur, and it's something I also see other Asians/Asian-Americans struggling with. Growing up, my parents always instilled a respect for hard work beyond all else. If I worked twice as hard as the competition, I'd achieve my goals. But what I realized as an adult is that your work ethic is just one part of a successful career. You need to know how to promote yourself and how to influence people, and these were areas that I was totally unprepared for. What was perceived as "lack of confidence" was really mostly shyness and a desire to keep my head down and plug away. You can lose out on a lot of opportunities with that kind of mentality.

What changed it for me was reaching out to non-Asian friends and peers who I admired and asking for their take on how to deal with a particular situation. How do I sell myself in this email? What kind of approach do I need to take with a prospective client that will allow me to close him or her? I'd then use their suggestions as close to verbatim as possible, and ignore the natural feeling in my gut that said, "Stop! This is not polite!" and push through. The results were undeniably better this way, which was encouraging, and over time, these new methods of communication and assertion started to become habitual.

Answered 4 years ago

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