Working in South East Asia

The Global Careers Series was created to give you an insight into working in different regions of the world, whether it’s through our Global Internships Programme, or independently. It’s great that we’ve got our Internships Assistant, Melissa Larkin, on the blog today, with write ups of two of the events from the Series earlier on this year. Is South East Asia on your bucket list of places to visit? Or maybe it’s a place you’ve always dreamed of working! Read on if so…..

The Global Careers Series: South East Asia panel was made up of a diverse panel with a breadth of experience of working in South East Asia:

Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu, Executive Director, Amnesty International Malaysia

Amy Wong, UCL Student

Ally Hawley, Employer & Alumni Engagement Officer, UCL

Peter Gibbinson, Regional Head, Standard Chartered (Europe)

Yong Chaulet, Alumna, UCL

Peter – Travelling Asia is humbling. It’s easy to stay in the bubble of the West. In the UK for example, critical thinking is a skill we value and teach in our education system. Whereas Singaporeans do not value the same skills. People are more willing to tell you what you want to hear, rather than what they really think. There is more of an openness in the UK to bold and new ideas.

Amy – While living in Hong Kong she went to an international school. She recalls working on a project where she was the only member of her class who asked questions. Everyone just absorbed everything the teacher was saying, there was no challenge of the idea and towards the authority figure. “Everyone looked at me like I was crazy!”

Shamini- They receive applications from people of all nationalities. If a Malaysian has the skills required to perform the job they will be offered the job over an international applicant. She is interested in hiring people who are ready to get involved with the ground work, strategic thinkers and people who are willing to be taught. Even if your qualification is unrelated to a role you really would love to work in- apply anyway! Her colleagues have degrees in journalism, psychology and actuarial science. As long as you’re willing to try anything and get involved in minimal or high level tasks, you’ll have a shot!

Make sure to research the position you’re applying to. Be informed and prepared when making your applications.

Ally- Found her position in Malaysia through an ex-colleague who she stayed in touch with. Ally knew this college worked in Malaysia, she set up a coffee meeting and this colleague became Ally’s boss! Proof it’s important to network! “You are studying with international students and so if you know someone in your class from where you’d like to work- talk to them! Network!”

Ally- Try not to only make British friends while away- talk to local colleagues to really immerse yourself in the culture. Learn the local customs, language, and ditch your Western habits.

Peter- Companies are often really good at preparing you before you go abroad- it is the reverse culture shock that can be the hardest part. Going is the adventure, coming back to reality can be hard. Accept the differences and embrace them- make the most of your time overseas to learn as much as you can.

Yong- The major multinational companies who hire international employees are often in the hospitality or teaching sectors. Even if a job is not what you want to do in the long run, this gives you a chance to see if you like working in Thailand before you commit to a longer contract. Try to connect with someone working in Thailand to get advice and tips from them about the working culture and what to expect.

The workplace culture in Thailand is a lot more social then in the UK- be prepared to spend a working day with your colleagues and then go out with them after work too. People are very close in Thailand. Embrace the culture with an open mind.

Talk to King’s Alumni and expand professional networks. Talk to alumni about tips to understanding the working culture in the location they have experienced. You can use the King’s online networking platform to connect with someone!

More information on working and living in South East Asia can be found here:

Target Jobs


Stay tuned for another post later on in the week about working in the Middle East. And if your thirst for international careers advice still isn’t quenched, why not check out our post from the Working in China event earlier in the year.