I began my career in 2006 with the management trainee program at Allianz. By 2018 I was Head of Market Management and had moved around China to different departments in charge of business development, digital marketing and communication. I was exposed to so many things in this time, which set me up for success in my “big” career pivot. In 2019, I took on the role of Head of HR of Hong Kong Hub, and it was a fantastic experience. Now I am back to the commercial world as Head of Distribution to steer the business growth engine of Allianz Trade in Hong Kong.

The move was in part motivated by a desire to be closer to my hometown, Hong Kong. I also knew that if I wanted to develop my career, I needed to improve my people skills, and HR was a great opportunity to learn more about the topics that interested me most: employee relationships and performance management.

However, I knew that it would be challenging to acquire the necessary technical know-how and understanding of local regulations. Of course, I also had fears like, “How will the move impact my children?” or “Am I suitable and adaptable to the job?” I even wondered if my family would be able to find a decent-sized apartment. In the end, it worked out, but there was a lot to think about when I was considering the move.

What helped the most was the support I received from my managers, along with the self-knowledge I’d acquired through my previous experiences.

There were quite a few transferable skills that served me in the new role, and some stood out for me. The clearest added value I brought was my digital expertise. Where my HR colleagues previously only used email, I added new communications tools to our collective kit and spruced up the image of the department.

Another skillset that was extremely useful was my business sense. Once I had begun to understand company needs, I could approach internal job vacancies from a business mindset and discern what profiles were suitable for which vacancies. In this way, I leveraged my previous experience and familiarity with business processes to efficiently slot candidates toward the right jobs.  

Lastly, communication skills really helped with the pivot and the new role. In HR we are dealing with people, so interpersonal skills are crucial. I could always manage stakeholders very well on both sides, so I felt confident applying that knowledge in the new context.

My move started long before the moving date. I had heard about these types of career pivots through colleagues who had already done it. Being able to connect to that network and sources of knowledge made things easier for me because I was able to learn about what to expect. I knew the culture at my destination as well, which went a long way to easing the integration period. Once I did make the move, the support from my manager was instrumental in making sure we were moving in the same direction. For the first three months, we had one-on-one session every week, and I enjoyed the warm welcome from new colleagues as well.

I also managed to adapt to new working methods, as some internal knowledge systems terms were similar as in my previous roles. If I needed more support, I could get help from colleagues externally around the world and had one-on-one access to them.

It all comes down to how you perform in your current role. If you can prove yourself in your current position, you can do it in your new role as well. It is also important to adopt a growth mindset; to believe that we can improve and grow our skillset with hard work, feedback, and strategic thinking.

Knowing your own value and being confident also comes with exposure to different ways of thinking and approaching problems.

These things are particularly important if you are making a cross-functional move. One way to prepare for this is to try job shadowing to see if a new position would be a good fit. That is a possibility at Allianz Trade, and you should take advantage of the opportunities to establish a personal development plan. When you understand your skillset and can experience another position in which you might make use of it, you see new opportunities everywhere!

Stay open and aware, and try to serve all your stakeholders! By knowing that you are part of the bigger picture and behaving that way, you are exposed to more parts of the business, and your expertise grows. When you show willingness to try new things and learn, people naturally think of you when opportunities for mobility arise.     

For me, job mobility took many forms: it was geographical, but it can also be cross functional. By keeping your eyes and mind open to the possibilities around you, and staying curious about how things work beyond your framework, you unlock doors to professional – and personal – growth.

Sandy Liu

Head of Distribution

Allianz Trade in Hong Kong