HIEU NGUYEN – “The harder I work, the luckier I get”

Hieu, based in San Francisco, works as Asia Regional Country Risk Officer under Country Risk Analytics Group at Wells Fargo Bank, managing country risk of 18 Asian countries, including Vietnam. Prior to his current role, he was the Global Financial Institutions (GFI) Relationship Manager, managed relationships with Singaporean banks’ branches in the U.S., and supported Vietnamese, Korean, and Malaysian markets. He also interned at Wells Fargo GFI Portfolio Strategy Analytics and PwC Transaction Services.

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When Toan asked me to share a story on how I got my job or how I got to where I am today, I didn’t know where to start. It was a long and frustrating journey for me, but definitely a worthwhile and meaningful one. Everyone has different career paths and pursuits. What worked for me might not work for you, and some might even disagree. I thought instead of sharing my story, tips might work better. Here are some tips I have learned along the way that have been useful for me and I hope they will be for you as well.

1. Know what your passions are: It might sound like a no-brainer, but I am still struggling with it now and then. Why? The people who interview you or talk to you at the networking reception: 1) they have been in the industry for a very long time and 2) they have talked to so many people like you, that in just 5 seconds of interacting with you, they can tell whether you are genuinely interested in the job. Your genuine interest and passion are truly what set you apart from other candidates who are similar to you.

2. It’s the little things you do that matter: Send thank-you notes or follow-ups as soon as you can. This is the chance to: 1) show that you are interested, 2) appreciate the opportunity, and 3) say anything you didn’t have the chance to say earlier during the interview.
a. The average person will follow interviews with a thank you email. This is the most convenient. Will your interviewer be impressed? Probably not.
b. What should you do? I would recommend hand-writing a note to the interviewer and hand-delivering to him or her. Rule of thumb: don’t wait for more than 24 hours after the interview to do so.
c. What if you don’t have a chance to see the interviewers after? Ask someone to help you. I actually asked the career center to give my handwritten note to the interviewers before they left the campus. It worked for me. I got the job.
d. What if I didn’t meet the interviewer in person, but had a video or phone interview? My friend had Skype interview with a team in Ireland. What he did after the interview really set him apart. He looked up the office address on Google and overnight Fedex-ed a handwritten note. Guess what? He works at Facebook now.

3. Have a good attitude: No matter what background you might have, show them you are interested in learning more and will do what it takes to succeed. One of my previous managers during my internship said he was very impressed by my response when he asked if I could use VBA to build a particular model. I responded, “I don’t know VBA, but I can learn it and give it a try. Please give me a week.” I got it done.

4. Work hard, but also work smart: There is no shortcut around this. Be the first to come in and the last to leave. It’s how you will get that full-time job offer from your internship. It’s how you will get ahead of your peers and be selected for good projects. It’s how you will learn more and get promoted quickly.

5. It’s not always about you and how well you do the job: It’s also how well you work with others, what you can contribute to the team, and how you motivate others.

How I got my job in the U.S.? I hate to say it, but luck plays a role in this as well. I would like to believe that the harder I work, the luckier I get. You might feel clueless at times because you can’t see light at the end of the tunnel yet, but make sure you are prepared to see the light. I’d rather prepare myself for that one perfect opportunity that has yet to happen, than hate myself for being not prepared enough to take on the opportunity when it comes.

With that, good luck!

P/s: This is what exactly I told Hieu: “Call me pushy, call me annoying but I will do what I have to do to show people on my page how awesome you are. Yes, if you know him better, you will agree that Hieu is a super great and talented guy! 🙂

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