The Chinese government is about to release its thirteenth and final “Five-Year Plan” for in-demand sectors in business. As the country continues to open up to international trade, jobs are a-plenty for foreigners in many different fields. Here we list some tips and tricks for finding a good job in your field in China.
Photo: Kate Hiscock
Don’t underestimate the importance of your networks
I interviewed several people for this article – a translator, a business development expert and a sales manager, all of them hailing from outside of China. They all agreed on one point: do not underestimate the importance of any contacts you may have in the country, even before arriving. Did a former boss hold an interesting job in China? Does someone you work with know someone here? Whatever the connection, do like the Chinese and work your network. With one exception, everyone interviewed found their current job through someone they knew – either a personal connection, someone they went to school with, or a friend of a friend. Start before you leave home; as soon as you start thinking about living and working in China, think about who you might know in your home country who could give you a hand. Once you’ve arrived, that goes double. China is, generally speaking, an easy place to network in – everyone’s looking to make useful connections, and as the saying goes, “It only takes one.”
Finding a position online
Opinion is divided on the usefulness of LinkedIn, but regional sales manager Rogelio* found his job in Shanghai on the business networking site. Keeping your profile up to date is essential, and as with all job applications, make sure your CV and cover letter are tailored to the position you’re applying for.
In China, local online job listings like 51job.com or zhaopin.com can also be used – just sign up and post your resume. Be warned, though, that Chinese websites can be hard to navigate for those unfamiliar with the layout and many are tailored for Chinese jobseekers. Another, easier option for those looking in the bigger cities are local expat websites and magazines, like our very own job section of course! Be aware, though, that the job ads listed on these sites usually require you to be located in the city your job hunt is targeting, in order to ensure you are available for an in-person interview on short notice. If you want to secure a position before moving to China, LinkedIn is a better bet.
Finding jobs in China from abroad
While the websites mentioned above are more general, many countries have specific ties with China and a website to go along with it. Check out your country’s Chamber of Commerce in China as well as the job ads on your consulate’s website – or, indeed, the consulates for countries where your language is spoken. Spanish speakers with strong English skills have a particular advantage, and anyone with good Mandarin (written and spoken) stands twice the chance of someone who has yet to acquire a working knowledge of Chinese. Business development manager Amy* was hired by a talent recruitment firm in Shanghai without any prior experience in the field in China, mainly, she says, due to her HSK4 level Mandarin. If English isn’t your first language, taking a refresher course can also be a good way of boosting your chances of finding a job in your field.
Language is of course the touchstone of any of the writing professions – and the demand for translators working with Chinese (usually out of Chinese into their mother tongue) is on the rise in China. Anna*, who works for a local telecommunications company in Shanghai, says she works mainly on legal and technical texts, and is the office’s unofficial interpreter and cultural mediator when questions arise. For those with a passion for communication and excellent Chinese skills (HSK6 is usually required for those working in the translation field), this kind of job can be a good option.
Pros and cons of Chinese management
All our interviewees agreed on one point: flexibility is essential when working for Chinese management, and that can be both a curse and a blessing. If you’re looking for work in China, most of the opportunities are with Chinese-run companies, unless you work in STEM or the automotive industry. This means adapting to a different business culture. Rogelio mentioned the difficulties that can sometimes arise from being the only foreigner in the office, feeling isolated in the workplace. Chinese companies are also notorious for the red tape involved in almost any process, though they are hardly alone in this. The pros of working in China varied: some cite the travel opportunities that come along with working in the sales and import-export industry, others said it was gratifying and rewarding to facilitate communication between different cultures. Everyone agreed that their work experience in China was a valuable addition to their CV.
Whether you search online or work your network, if you do your homework finding a job in China is easy enough. Make sure you double check the company’s reputation and run any job offers you get by someone with a bit more experience in your field. If you follow these simple steps, it will all be plain sailing.
For more useful tips and advice on finding a job in China, check out our Career Advice section here.
*Names have been changed
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The only two things a foreigner needs to be successful in china are a) high alcohol tolerance and b) ability to talk out of both sides of the mouth at the same time. After that it's plain sailing. Appreciation of top down management culture is a bonus. Always follow orders, tow the line, and above all know your place in the pecking order.
Feb 26, 2015 20:33 Report Abuse
The only jobs you LBH expats can get are English teaching jobs. You guys can't speak, write, listen, and read Chinese. What are you good for? How are you going to communicate with Chinese people and co-workers? Many expats claim to be fluent, but they really aren't fluent at all. They're fluent in bullsh!t.
Jun 30, 2016 00:28 Report Abuse
Great article actually and really will help in the future for when I will return back to China. Ideal for people who needs direction in getting a non- teaching position i think... it doesn't give all the answers but certainly good points are made.
Jul 02, 2016 04:09 Report Abuse
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