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Got to sit down for a quick lunch for a solid 30 minutes to do this interview with intrepid JingJobs founder Samantha Kwok before she jetted back to Beijing. A little background on Samantha: she’s a bit of a wonder woman, a female millennial entrepreneur, who found a gap in the marketplace and is trying to close it. Talk to her a little bit and you will find yourself believing in the magic of super hero butlers and matchmaking. Ours was a classic case of femme entrepreneur love at first sight. We met, as most people of our generation are wont to do these days, online, on social media, before venturing forth, having our first face-to-face meeting, and emerging precisely one coffee and one lunch later, business besties and with me assuming a role as accidental big sister and sounding board. Here’s a bit about Sam, as she likes to be called, and as you will see, she threw in quite a few “punches” for good measure:
Risk-taking, and equipped with an attitude to push the boundaries and to always be learning and applying.
In the span of less than a year, Sam, a recent grad herself who had moved to Beijing from Sydney, noticed the huge conundrum of a wave of millions of bright-eyed bilingual millennials graduating every year looking for the right opportunity, with high-growth start-ups and SMEs looking to harness this restless young talent pool. The chaotic job market situation is exacerbated by the ever-evolving working population coupled with rising education standards. Annually this compounds until you have a marketplace getting exponentially more crowded, and a veritable HR nightmare. Enter Samantha and JingJobs. Matching the right individual with the right opportunity has become something of an art form, and one which Sam quickly mastered, launching JingJobs.com and developing their signature “HR Butler” solution.
J: Okay, I’m cutting right to the chase. It’s obvious how much passion you’ve put into JingJobs! When was your “aha” moment, exactly? What compelled you personally to make this your mission and start a whole business devoted to getting people “jinged”? I developed GlamPact because I wanted to empower girls to take beauty into their own hands and to save them space and time. I was frustrated at the lack of bag space, and the lack of time I had to touch up my appearance in between meetings and appointments in the business world. Previously, as an actress and model, I hated dropping all my makeup while running around or taking transportation. I wanted to feel ready and in charge of putting my best face forward.
S: The thing is I was once one of these jobseekers JingJobs is trying to help! I was frustrated by searching through pages of disorganised job listings filled with English teaching positions, filtering fruitlessly for my dream job. I wanted to do much more, and I know people of our generation feel that we can reach our full potential. Forget looking for love, finding something worthwhile to do with your life after graduating is challenging. It’s a time of struggle, it’s a time of transition, and our platform seeks to let everyone know they’re not alone. Their dream opportunity is out there and there’s a start-up that wants them. My platform also seeks to help start-ups as these are individuals limited by their network effects. It’s a struggle to access those beyond your immediate circle and your network, and a lot of small businesses and SMEs that are starved for growth end up hiring their own friends and family members out of desperation for lack of options, which is sometimes a recipe for disaster because it limits the diversity of skills needed to launch and grow. I know it’s working because in the last year alone we’ve organically gained over 30,000 followers across all our social media channels, including WeChat, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
J: It’s really impressive for a young start-up to experience that kind of social media traction. It sounds like your business is about communication as much as it is about connecting people. Is there any reason you are using Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and not just Weibo and WeChat, if you are China-focused? Some might say you are spreading yourself thin, but we know better. You need to be everywhere your audience and users are. Since Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are not always accessible in China, would it be fair to assume that you are setting your sights internationally?
S: Millennials like us access information and opportunities in an extremely fragmented way these days so our social media strategy has been to put ourselves everywhere they are. And yes, we’ve helped start-ups and millennials in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, and we are helping those with international mindsets who are bilingual go anywhere their dream opportunity takes them, whether that’s in China, Hong Kong, or some of the other Asian hub cities. The future of work will be remote and at a distance anyway, and teams will need to be able to collaborate internationally. JingJobs started in Beijing, but we will be taking this internationally as that’s what our community is telling us and we listen to them and what they want.
J: I would agree with you that any start-up and individual in today’s rapidly evolving world needs to have an international mindset from the get-go! What’s interesting is that your industry is one that is increasingly facing international and domestic pressures, which is a pain point all start-ups face in the competitive technology space. To that point, how is JingJobs disrupting the human resources and technology start-up industries? The commodity of your business is people. What do you find to be the most challenging or daunting aspect of this? Essentially, with JingJobs you are influencing the outcomes of businesses and lives. No pressure or anything, but the fate of entrepreneurs and millennials alike lie in your hands. The wrong career move or wrong hire can be critical.
S: We have it down to partly an art, partly science. From inception, we've had a grassroots approach. In terms of the basic premise, we are about connecting people and truly committed to providing the butler level of service (we actually have three tiers: Tony Stark’s right-hand man, JARVIS, Batman’s ever-faithful Alfred, and Downton Abbey’s obsequious Carson, each priced accordingly) and this is something we focus on. Since we are so people-centric, we believe human resources is just that – human, and there is only so far building fancy algorithms, apps and technology will take you. We go beyond, but also stay true to the values of building a community, first and foremost. And then after that you take a deep breath and walk forward and have a bit of faith. We’ve been able to make over 200 connections to date between start-ups and those looking to join them and take them to the next level, while at the same time helping them to find that balance of passion for work and life. The challenge is that everything is a balancing act. You have to balance what both sides want, which is the right culture. I veer towards an international crowd with more of an international mindset. One of our advisors is from China so he brings in more local referrals in terms of businesses and people. We are a good mix, but it’s a challenge to brand as both a Chinese and an international company and make sure our strategy is unified along these lines as well.
J: You stepped right into my next question. I was going to ask you about the work-life balance question and if you have an “off” button. We’re both like the Energizer Bunny right now (it’s probably the coffee). What do you do when you push the “off” button? Actually, let me rephrase. Pause button. Because we are never off, are we?
S: I know you know this too, but there is no such thing as work-life balance as an entrepreneur. Sleep deprivation is a given with entrepreneurship, but I am something of a foodie. I like discovering new places to eat even as I enjoy discussing business and meeting interesting people over food. You've gotta eat, right? I've also discovered a huge passion for boxing. It invigorates me and lets me channel any extra aggression or frustration I might be feeling – stress-buster – a cliché but true. One of the stressors I feel is being “on”. I’m so committed to Jing and my work, that I’ve found that with WeChat and other communicational channels people always expect an instant response, or for you to be “on” 24/7. But since it’s such a ubiquitous platform, I challenge you to find one person without WeChat; in China, it is the most effective way to grow. Everyone literally expects an answer. However, ultimately I don’t feel like I need to answer to anyone but myself in that I don't believe in authority figures or societal pressures telling me I have some sort of expiration date to succeed or hit some kind of milestones in my personal life. There is no expiration on life what I want do with my limited valuable resource – time.
J: I totally understand your frustration about everyone messaging you and expecting a response. There’s only so much time in a day, 24 hours to be exact. Okay, last question: let's hone in on the ideal Jing candidate. What are you looking for in terms of the ideal candidate? The ideal start-up?
S: There is a certain je ne sais quoi. A Jing-ness, if you will, for the whole formula. We call it our magic and we've been able to make nearly 200 successful connections and counting. It’s about having people and start-ups meet and the rest is up to them. Okay, here is a typical Jing candidate – scrappy, plucky, proactive and up for an adventure or the ride of a lifetime. Risk-taking, and equipped with an attitude to push the boundaries and to always be learning and applying. Without this attitude, it is hard to succeed and this is a make-or-break factor if someone wants to be involved with a start-up. Here is a typical start-up – for a start-up you need very unique people at the start-up, as well as growth and expansion stage. You need a superhero sidekick and superhero team. This is in stark contrast to the corporate environment, where things go more to plan and there is less chaos. In a start-up, there’s more of an orderly chaos, if you are lucky. On both sides they need to have that Jing.
J: Thanks so much, Sam! Look forward to seeing you when we are in the same city next! Or on a Skype or WeChat video call, more likely than not.