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KEI Spotlight

OKTA Keynote Speech by President Manzullo

July 3, 2014

On June 28, KEI President & CEO Donald Manzullo presented the keynote speech at  Overseas Korean Traders Association (OKTA)-Midwest Trade School in Ilinois. Full text of his speech can be found below

I want to thank you all for inviting me to your forum. I’ve been told that among the 50 or so of you here today, most of you are still in college, working on an advanced degree or are recent college graduates, and that you may be interested in some tips on advancing your careers. In fact, some of you may be applying soon for your first job out of college. But before we do that, I want to share with you some exciting things that are happening in South Korea today. I don’t know of any country – other than those involved in wars – where there is so much activity taking place.

The Republic of Korea is unique among all nations. Devastated and totally impoverished after the Korean War, this country decided it was going to be a major world class player. South Korea had very few natural resources, barely enough land to grow crops to feed its people, and a sparse history of manufacturing. Yet, in a little over two generations, South Korea is the world’s 12th largest economy. It has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. It ranks number 6 in the world’s production of machine tools. And, as you know, Korean education is so advanced that the students are in the top tier of academic scores. I’ll follow up on that in a couple of minutes.

But first, I want to add to the information you have been receiving in this seminar on trade opportunities in Korea and the US as a result of the Korea US Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA). It’s generally working well for both countries. For items impacted by the Agreement, US exports to Korea have increased by nearly 7 percent, and Korean exports to the US have increased by 6 percent since implementation. And, the Agreement has fostered interest of more bilateral trade among those items not covered in it.

Unlike some states that experienced a decline, Illinois exported $912 million worth of merchandise goods to South Korea, primarily in electronic products, chemicals, machinery and food manufactures. The Chicago metropolitan area is the 7th largest export market in the US and exported more to Asia ($7.65 billion) than to Europe ($6 billion) in 2012, the latest year for which we have data.

As with every other free trade agreement, KORUS has had some rough spots, but they are being worked out because of the hard work of dedicated teams in both countries. Resolving issues of origin content continue to improve. A good example is the origin of orange juice going into American orange juice exported to Korea, resulting in US orange juice producers experiencing phenomenal increases in exports to Korea. The US and Korea are still trying to work out the issue of beef exports to Korea. Both countries are experiencing work force development issues, as the unemployment of those entering the workforce for the first time, including those with associates and undergraduate degrees, is very high.

Americans have a distinct advantage in seeking markets in Korea. The reason is that there are already so many Korean Americans involved in trade willing to give expert advice on products and logistics. I would encourage you to use your imagination on what products Korea will need. Goodness! I read where the men’s cosmetic market is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Korean men use a lot more personal care items than Americans.

Let’s talk about what it means to be a Korean American. My parents were first generation Italians. They spoke Italian between themselves. It never dawned on them to teach my brother and me the language. “You are Americans and, therefore, you speak English, the American language, not Italian,” was their belief. It’s different today. To learn a second language is looked upon as an advantage. I would encourage you Korean Americans who don’t speak Korean to learn the language, immerse yourselves in the culture of that great country, and pass the language and culture on to your children. Keep your culture alive, and the best way to do it is to learn the native language: everything else follows that.

Korean Ambassador Ahn tells the story of his meeting with several young Koreans asking them why Koreans score very high in international testing, especially in math and sciences. One student said, “Maybe it’s because we take extra classes after public school dismisses.” Another student said, “Perhaps we Koreans value education more than students in other countries.” A third student said, “Mr. Ambassador, perhaps it’s simply because we are Koreans.”

That says it all.

One of the problems America has is that our fine universities and colleges recruit students from Korea to study in here, and then when they graduate, our immigration laws make it impossible for them to stay and use those marvelous degrees. Instead, we send them back to Korea. That’s why we need to change our laws so that this country becomes the beneficiary of these great minds.

Speaking to four students individually, I want you to put your hands on your ears, and you to put your finger on another finger, and you to put your hand on your head, and you to put your hand on your throat. Do you know that no person who was ever born, lives now, or will be born in the future has the shape of your ears, your fingerprints, your brain waves even when they fluctuate with your thinking process, and your voice print? Nobody. You are unique, whether you believe you were created or hatched, or whatever! And if you are that unique, don’t you believe there is a special place in this world for you, to exercise the gifts and talents you have. And nobody can steal those attributes from you because they belong only to you!

I want you to have that attitude in seeking employment in this very difficult world. And I want you to possess as many skills as possible to get that job or promotion.

I’ve hired a lot of people in my life, including twenty two years practicing law, twenty years in Congress, and now in my present capacity. Colleges today are producing students who can’t write a simple business letter. Several years ago, our congressional office started giving a grammar exam to every prospective employee. I really didn’t care what the applicant studied in college. A degree in political science or international relations or economics was helpful, but if somebody can write, he or she could learn whatever specialty was necessary.

So, my suggestion is that you take just one course, and many are offered, in copy editing. Some schools even offer a certificate. You can take it on line. The fact that you took that course, which you should put in your CV, will stand out. My reaction would be, this individual is really interested in writing skills. That could be a tipping point! This person obviously possesses good writing skills, but, promotions in the office often put one person in charge of correcting another’s letters. So, now I’m looking at not only hiring an employee, but thinking about a promotion!

But there’s more to good grammar: you have to say something when you write. In my present capacity, I interviewed a young lady with marvelous writing skills. There was a lot of copy to examine her grammar. She used so many words that I didn’t know what she was trying to say. So, be concise; don’t think you are a lawyer, who is paid by the word.

When I look at a CV, I want to know who you are. I’m not interested in the usual opening, which goes something like this: “Highly motivated people-person seeks new and interesting challenge. Blah. Blah. Blah.” What’s a people-person? Is that like a tortoise-turtle? And, of course, the applicant is highly motivated? What’s he supposed to say, “slightly motivated” or “barely motivated”? Come on! I suggest you read Frank Luntz’ book, Words That Work. Luntz is a good friend. He’s a wordsmith. He can show you the powerful words you need to place in your CV. Remember, in today’s too high tech world, a computer program reads the on line CV and eliminates the applicant by certain words. It’s a rotten hiring practice as far as I am concerned, so you have to learn to game the system to make the computer like you. There are many resources to help you draft your CV.

I also look for the personal side in the CV. Put in your hobbies, what you enjoy doing in life, etc. Do you enjoy reading about Lincoln? Do you enjoy soccer, golf, or chess? When I was a congressman, one young man put in his CV the fact that in college he led a Bible study in his dormitory. I didn’t have to necessarily agree with his views on theology to recognize a leader, and somebody who has the courage to state his beliefs. I’m looking for character in somebody I hire.

Let’s talk about the personal interview, if you advance to that point. What is the one word I don’t want to hear repeated? Yes, “ums” should not be used for pauses. That’s a given. It’s the word “like.” Please. “Like” is not a transition word. If I’m interviewing an applicant and hear that word misused and too often, the interview is effectively over. If you are having a problem with that word, practice eliminating “like” from your vocabulary, even if you use it correctly on occasions. For example, if you “like” ice cream, practice saying, “I enjoy ice cream.” Think of any word to use except “like.”

This is a tough environment for job-seekers. Remember, employers are looking for reasons to eliminate applicants in the process of choosing the new hire. My wife and I several years ago were at an event launching a new TV network and observed the young lady who was the spokesperson. She was appropriately dressed and had a great smile. However, when she began to speak, Freda and I were shocked. She couldn’t put together sentences, and frequently interspersed a collection of “likes,” “you knows,” “uhs,” “ers”, and “ands.” She knew her subject, but her speaking skills were so deficient that it was hard to concentrate on her message. Practice good conversational skills. If you struggle, seek a professional coach or tutor. It’s well worth the money.

When you show up at the interview, dress appropriately. Ladies, please don’t wear perfume. I’m allergic to it. Guys, it’s the same message with too much after shave or whatever you might want to wear. Be yourself. I actually prefer an applicant who is a little nervous rather than somebody who projects too much self-confidence.

Always, always research the company for which you are seeking employment. If you know the name of the interviewer, which is possible in a small company, research that individual. I expect an applicant to know my organization, be familiar with the website, and understand the mission of the Korea Economic Institute of America. I also expect the applicant to have googled my name. Sometimes you may discover your mom or dad went to the same school as I. I expect you will have taken the time to research my organization and me. If an applicant hasn’t, then I assume he or she is lazy. I may even ask a question that will bring that out, such as, “Is there anything on our website that grabbed your eye or you would change?”

Always avail yourself of an internship, especially if you have a degree that is not that functional. Internships in my office now and when I was a congressman have always been the farm team for job openings. . A lot of the risk factor in hiring a new employee is eliminated by hiring somebody whose work habits and productivity have already been observed.

Here’s a technique that is a real winner. Find a role model or several in the field you desire, even when you are still in college. Make a call and advise the secretary, or the individual himself, that you are interested in getting advice from somebody you hold up as a role model. Every boss loves to have people ask him for career advice. Give him a CV if you are looking for work, but don’t ask if he has anything open. He’ll think he’s been used as a bypass for the HR department. Thank the person for the advice. You can send a written note or an e mail, but a written note is likely to stay on his desk because he does not know where to put it. An e mail can be eliminated quickly. Then, when you are readying to start looking for a job, make a follow up appointment, or send a letter. The fact that the person in authority met you earlier greatly enhances your chances of either him hiring you or contacting his friends to see if they have an opening. I’ve been asked advice on many occasions, and one time I was so impressed, I gave the CV to my aide and said, “This one’s a winner. Find a place for him.”