For many Americans, Asia is a strange, exotic land only understood through the second Hangover movie or the “Gangnam Style” video.
But to those who have lived and worked in Asia, they will tell you that it is much more than that. It’s a place with boundless opportunities and an equal amount of heartaches. So to find out why marketers are heading East to work, I spoke with Joe Escobedo, an award-winning professional and personal brand builder currently based in Singapore.
With 10 years’ experience in Asia, managing marketing and PR initiatives for both startups and Fortune 500 firms, Joe shares three reasons why working in Asia can make you a better marketer.
1.If you can make it in Asia, you can make it anywhere
As the old saying goes: “If you can make it here [New York], you can make it anywhere.” To which Escobedo says, “That’s cute. Real cute. If you want to put yourself to the test, try making it in Asia.”
Escobedo shares the story of when he arrived in Asia 10 years ago. “After graduating college towards the top of my class, I landed a lucrative consulting job. I had what most college grads dreamed of. But I gave that up to move to the other side of the world and pursue my MBA in China.”
“Why?” Escobedo explains. “Because I wanted to push myself further and grow as a marketer.”
Escobedo describes his initial months in China as the toughest of his life. “When I landed in Tianjin, China, I didn’t speak a word of Chinese. Since I couldn’t read the Chinese-language menus, ordering food became a game show where I didn’t know what I was going to get. But after a couple of years, I learned the language. Within four years, I was managing PR initiatives like Nike’s Olympic uniform launch for the Chinese national team.”
Lesson for marketers: Like any successful marketer, you need to be resilient. If first your campaign fails, don’t lose heart. Analyze the situation, refine your approach and try again. Escobedo says, “Living in Asia, you definitely take a beating and you will fail more than you ever have in your life. But if you’re hungry to learn and never give up, you will survive and possibly thrive here.”
2. A chance to work in one of the fastest-growing and most diverse regions in the world
So why would anyone in their right mind give up a comfortable life to struggle on the other side of the world?
Escobedo says, “In short: the rush and the growth opportunities. Before my move, I read the news about the meteoric rise of Asia and, specifically, China. It was like a modern-day gold rush and I wanted to be part of the growth. I’d soon realize that doing business in China is like doing business with 34 countries. Each province has its own distinct culture.”
“But that was child’s play compared to when I moved to Singapore and took on a project directing 40 people across 13 markets,” says Escobedo. “It forced me to think quickly and effectively.”
“A former boss told me that ‘working in Asia is like drinking from a firehose.’ Ain’t that the truth!” says Escobedo.
Lesson for marketers: Today’s global marketers need to be able to work in a fast-paced environment across borders and cultures. Working in Asia allows you to learn about diversity while operating at an extraordinary pace.
3. Opportunities you wouldn’t get at home
Does moving to Asia mean you’ll be guaranteed a high-paying job as soon as you arrive? According to Escobedo, probably not, unless you receive the rare “expat package.”
“Don’t come to Asia and expect to easily get a good job. There are visa restrictions and local talent who are often better educated and skilled than you. Does that mean it’s impossible? No, it means you have to earn your keeps. For example, I watched from abroad as friends made decent salaries while I made only a fraction of that. I questioned whether I had made the right choice in moving to Asia,” says Escobedo.
“But I kept working hard and saying ‘yes’ to every opportunity available. Because of that I’ve been able to do things I never would have been able to do in my hometown. For example, while I was working for a PR firm in China, I was asked to host a national TV commercial for a local auto brand. I later found out that I was shooting the Chinese pilot of the TV show “Top Gear.” The most I could’ve gotten if I remained in my hometown was starring in a used car dealer’s commercial.”
“One of my biggest opportunities came last year when I became the first Forbes contributor to cover digital marketing and PR in Asia. Opportunities like that don’t happen where I’m from.”
Lessons for marketers: A successful marketer must seize any opportunity. And often, these opportunities only come to those who escape from their comfort zones, even if that means giving up everything and moving to Asia.
What’s the overall lesson?
If you are looking to make the jump to Asia, remember that the experience will push you to your limits, in terms of volume, diversity and speed of work. But if you’re open-minded and seize the opportunities available to you, moving to Asia will help you become a better marketer.
This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.