Not so long ago, it used to be the case that working in China guaranteed you a great job back home. These days, a stint in a China job doesn't have quite the same cache, and the Mandarin you picked up won't set you apart, since more and more people are learning it. So what can you do to make sure your China work experience looks good on your résumé and not like an embarrassing black hole? Here are five tips:
1) Punch Above Your Weight
Generally speaking, as a foreigner in China there is less competition for jobs than in the West. It's therefore easier to get your foot on a high rung of the ladder or forge a new career path. This is what Simon, a 30-year-old Brit, discovered when he decided to jack in his IT job in England and get a personal training qualification:
"I studied a sports science diploma in London, but couldn't get any work because there are so many of us. I came to Shanghai on holiday and saw how much opportunity there was for people like me, so I moved over here permanently. The cost of living is cheaper here, so I could afford to charge low fees while I built up a client list."
The same goes for corporate jobs, where being foreign can often open doors to positions you wouldn't have had a hope of getting at home. China's big cities are also fertile grounds for honing skills like singing, acting, DJing, and modelling, and getting some experience before trying to crack the market in your home country.
2) Learn Business Mandarin
Many expats who leave China with intermediate Mandarin under their belts expect to walk into a highly-paid job with a multinational back home that's desperate for Chinese speakers. The humbling truth is that if you haven't specialized in business Mandarin and aren't completely fluent, you won't even get a look-in. For your Chinese language skills to work in your favour, focus your studies on business Mandarin. Most language schools have specially designed courses for business Mandarin, or you can ask your tutor or language exchange partner to work with you in this field.
3) Build Your Network
It's not just the Chinese that love guanxi. Back home, a network of business contacts from around the world will make you way more attractive to potential employees. Put yourself out there at corporate networking events (grit your teeth and tell yourself it's for the good of your career) and meet as many new people as you can when you're socializing outside of work. The great thing about networking in China these days is that you can do it all over WeChat, negating the need for you to carry a stack of business cards everywhere you go. You don't even have to think of it as networking. Making friends with people from other countries will enrich you on a personal level; the possibility of working together or endorsing one another in the future is an added bonus.
4) Pick Up New Skills
Even if you're already in the job of your dreams and have something lined up for when you leave China, dedicating some time to learning extra skills will pay dividends in the future. Many expat learning centers in China’s big cities offer short and long courses in a wide selection of résumé-perking subjects like Photoshop, Illustrator, web design, counselling, accounting and project management. Course prices are more affordable than in the West, and class sizes are usually small, so you’ll get plenty of one-to-one attention.
5) See the Rest of Asia
Travel broadens the mind, and travel stories are great job interview material. Given two candidates of the same ability and experience, employers might be more likely to choose you if you've done something extra (such as trekking in Mongolia, seeing the cherry blossom festival in Japan, watching the North Korean Mass Games or exploring Angkor Wat by bicycle). With Japan, Korea, Russia, and Southeast Asia on your doorstep, you should make the most of the travel opportunities while you're here. You’ll surely want to anyway!
Anymore tips about how to market your China work experience to get jobs back home? Leave them in the comments section below.
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Keywords: Working in China China work experience China job
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