Finding employment in Thailand's fashion industry
Please note that this section only provides tips for foreigners that are looking for a job in Bangkok or elsewhere in the country. The rules that apply to foreigners that are looking for work in Thailand are very different from the rules that apply to the average Thai job seeker. This working in Thailand page is also meant as incentive for the average foreigner to look further than the standard jobs like English teacher or bar owner and think about what else they have to offer to a Thai business.
Why are there relatively few foreigners working in this industry?
Hard to tell! It could be because the textile industry is a very established one and thus there is little need for foreign expertise, but it is probably because the garment manufacturing business in Thailand is a bit less trendy & high profile than, for instance, the IT or ITC business. Many foreigners that wish to live and work in Thailand and start looking for a way to create a steady income for their selves as well as their partner, may have somewhat of an IT background and they may feel that they are more experienced and skilled than most Thais, in such a fast paced new industry and as a consequence, they will deduce that it's in this sector that there will be a higher demand for skilled foreign workers. Whether or not this is true and what role saturation plays in the declining demand for foreign IT workers and / or their salaries is not pertinent to the subject of this page, so we will not discuss that here.
What is interesting, however, is the fact that having an IT background is an excellent asset when applying for work in Thailand, particularly when you are looking for a job in an SME type of business, even in the confection business. So make sure to mention, or even exaggerate, your IT experience in an interview with the H.R. officer as well as in your C. V.
What will an employer be looking for when considering the foreigner's application?
Foreigners are considered to be a major pain in the buttocks! In part because they always have an opinion on everything, an opinion which they love to share with every person they come in contact with (including the Burmese cleaner); they show very little respect for the feelings or face value of the senior management by often contradicting them and questioning perfectly polite lies; and these lazy foreigner always want to work less hours / days than the other office workers. Keep this in mind when you approach or communicate with a potential employer. Another rule that applies only to foreigner job seekers is that white lies are allowed in an interview, but only if they somehow contribute to the face value or happy feeling of the employer. So if you are asked how many languages you understand, feel free to say at least five, even though you are from Australia and are on your first trip on another continent. If the situation comes up later, you can always ask the other party to revert to english, since you have been in Thailand too long and lost your other language skills while trying to master this incredibly difficult Thai language.
When working in Thailand the employer is best left the only all knowing person within the company. Working in Thailand as an Export Manager in the garment production business will not require you to know much (if anything) about designing, merchandising, cutting, sewing, washing or packing process. So even if you hold a Bachelor degree in all of these fields it would be more than wise not to list them all. One or two would be an absolute maximum.
International marketing experience, or even better, existing relations (not matter how thin they are) with potential customers in your home country or any other country are worth pure gold when you are looking for work in Thailand. Make sure to mention a lot of names of companies where you feel you can get a foot inside the door. Just ask around in our personal network and you'll be surprised at how many people you already know in the fashion business. However, refrain from suggesting large accounts like the Target's or Walmart's, as their sourcing requirements and sheer volumes are actually undesirable for these SME factories.
Some knowledge of the Thai language will be highly appreciated, but being fluent probably won't. If your future job demands that you work with non-english speaking Thai personnel, it might be a positive point to be able to read & write the language, but if your tasks are limited to attracting more export business and meet with overseas clients there is no need to demonstrate you language skills up front. "Nit Noy" will be quite enough.
Ability to assist in solving computer hard- and software or network problems and the ability to find information on the Internet is always highly appreciated. If you are able to create web pages and do some internet marketing yourself, that will be considered to be a big plus.
You will probably be expected to "entertain" visiting customers / inspectors, so you could, carefully, touch on the subject that you know the entertainment venues that most "farangs" like, as they are usually not the same as the places the Chinese-Thai owner of a factory like to visit. Most Thais actually despise the venues that target the western clientele, so the owner, or his managers, will be quite relieved to have this job taken out of their hands.
And then there is the matter of the dreaded work permit. There is no employer or HR employee that considers applying for a work permit. a pleasant experience. About an inch of documents are required and all need to be signed by the director of the company, although he can authorize a third party on his behalf when signing for any document that is related to the foreigner working for his company.
At this time most employers or HR departments haven't even considered the fact that with an Work permit. there comes a extension to the foreigners visa. Where the employer may think that getting a work permit. resembles something like getting poked in the eye, the first few visa extensions will resemble having a tooth pulled with a shot!