Business / Economy

Many managers face 'career hurdles' after they turn 40

By Shi Jing in Shanghai (China Daily) Updated: 2014-10-08 13:29

Professional managers in China are considered an elite group admired by the public, but few are aware that many managers face a "career bottleneck" when they turn 40.

Cherol Cheuk, general manager of global talent management company Hudson in Shanghai, said it is especially true for those at multinational companies.

A senior vice-president for the greater China region at a multinational company who is over 40 years old will find it hard to be promoted to a higher level, Cheuk said.

An alternative is to leave the company and join a privately owned Chinese company, but the future may be uncertain.

Many who choose to seek a better future often work as a freelance consultant or as a partner at a private company. Some choose to set up their own companies, said Cheuk.

Many managers face 'career hurdles' after they turn 40
Working under pressure

Many managers face 'career hurdles' after they turn 40
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But she noted that usually after two or three years working outside a multinational company, more than half of the professional managers would choose to go back to their previous positions.

Guan Wenlong used to work as a research director at an international cosmetics company in China.

Last year, when he turned 41, he decided to quit because the company's business was shrinking, and it was laying off staff. He soon landed a job at a privately owned cosmetics company.

But before long, he was disappointed to find that he could do little in the company because it did not have the environment he was used to during the previous two decades.

"I cannot do things on my own," he said. "I need a team to back me up. However, a private company usually doesn't have that team because of concerns over costs."

Private companies often do not have a risk prevention mechanism.

"Most multinational companies have a complicated process for decision-making. It is not efficient, but it prevents risks," said Guan.

Setting up a company of their own can be a challenge for even the most experienced professional managers.

Kong Bing used to be a training director at the research and development department of an international consumer goods company.

At 43, he realized that he still dreamed of having his own company. He quit his highly paid job and set up his own training company. However, just one year later, he was disappointed to discover a huge gap between the dream and reality.

"Most Chinese companies don't think much about training at present and don't make a budget for it," Kong said. "The entire market is far away from maturity. Consequently, my own business is not at all successful for the time being."

But Sun Haining, marketing and public affairs director at Randstad China, a global recruitment and human resources services provider, said that many Chinese managers are expecting too much.

There are so many choices in the Chinese job market that the managers usually jump from one company to another for higher pay, Sun said.

Chinese professional managers tend to be promoted faster than their Western counterparts. In the West, it usually takes five to 10 years for a person to be promoted one level up, so by the time someone becomes a CFO or COO, they are usually around 50. But in China, many CFOs and CEOs are only 40 years old and even younger.

It is small wonder that many managers experience a so-called career bottleneck.

In fact, a career bottleneck is usually caused by the gap between a person's capability and the target they have set out to achieve. But many Chinese professional managers have misunderstood this point, said Sun.


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