Many people graduate from college ready to take on the world. Then they find they can't get a job because they don't have enough experience. Experience they could get, if only someone would give them a job in the first place. Luckily for expats living in China, this isn't a problem.
People with no experience can easily land jobs in China that will give them a great start in a wide range of careers. Today, we're going to talk about the best jobs in China for the newly graduated, the inexperienced or those looking to make a fresh start in a new line of work.
Inexperience is not to be confused with under-qualification. In the good old days with looser visa restrictions it was quite easy for foreigners to fly under the radar and work in China without a bachelor’s degree. In recent years, however, the Chinese government has cracked down on this population of illegals.
Consequently, legally working in China without at least a bachelor’s degree is impossible. The minimum official threshold (as of the writing of this article) to get a work visa for most teaching jobs in China is a bachelor’s degree, two years’ experience and a TEFL certificate (the latter of which is about as challenging to obtain as a common cold). A lack of experience is also often overlooked or fudged (see below).
Quick, what’s the most common job for foreigners China? The answer of course is English teacher. Despite the official visa requirement in China, which states you must have previous experience, oftentimes, all you have to do to land a job is look foreign.
The company might be shady and the kids might be terrible, but the inexperienced can find a job teaching English in pretty much any Chinese city. Ironically, however, out of all the jobs you can get in China, teaching English is the most useless for building a career in teaching back home. Most Western schools don’t reconise teaching English abroad as valid work experience.
So if teaching English in China is useless for a long-term teaching career back home, why do it? Firstly, you may find you can move sideways into classes on a wide variety of topics beyond just English. Since the demand is high and the pool of qualified teachers is low in China, you can basically give yourself a liberal arts education while getting paid if you’re of a mind to teach AP, A-level, or college courses in subjects like web design, economics, history, literature and science, to name a few. These subjects pay better, look better on a resume (despite not actually affecting your pay scale back home), and are generally some of the best jobs in China for foreigners.
Secondly, assuming you’re a fairly with-it person, it’s relatively easy to branch out into other positions in language schools (particularly at the major international training schools). This can allow you to get corporate experience in a wide variety of fields, including management, curriculum development, human resources or recruitment.
And unlike direct teaching experience, the fact that you did these jobs in an international setting will look doubly impressive back home. This type of experience can be very useful when applying for positions with international companies both in China and abroad.
In the wake of China’s economic boom, some of the best jobs in China for foreigners can be found in start-up companies. Again, the barrier to entry is often quite low, making this another easy way to get experience in a wide variety of fields.
However, the disadvantages of working for a Chinese start-up are two-fold: they often try to pay you very low wages, sometimes bolstered by minuscule shares. They are also, by their very nature, quite unstable.
Therefore before joining a start-up in China it’s advisable to check their business plan (or see if they even have one) before rolling up your sleeves and putting a lot of work in. But who knows, you could be part of the next big thing if you join the right company.
So, you check out the Chinese start-up and realise they have no business plan. “I could do this better with one hand tied behind my back,” you think. And suddenly you alight on the obvious solution: start your own company in China.
This has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantages being that your operating costs will be low, there are few barriers to starting a company in China and your potential market (1.3 billion people) is huge.
The disadvantages are quite numerous, however. China is quite hostile to foreign-owned companies, and consequently it’s easier to learn Sanskrit than the ins-and outs of Chinese tax and business laws for foreigners. Also, copyright law in China is more of a fun suggestion than anything else.
Then there’s the fact that Chinese people work harder than most foreigners for way less, so the competition is crazy fierce. Consequently, any successful idea you have will likely be immediately copied and used to better effect by a Chinese business person more familiar with the environment.
Ultimately, if you want to start a successful company in China, you basically have to have an idea or product that a Chinese person can’t copy or do better than you. This often boils down to two industries: foreign food and English schools.
Let’s say you don’t want to be the next Jack Ma or a cog in the corporate machine. You’re your own person. You’re unique. You can’t be confined to a cubicle. We get it. The good news is that there are some great opportunities for freelancers in China.
For the digital nomad generation, it’s quite easy to find freelance writing opportunities, artistic endeavors, translating, computer coding and website development work online for companies in China or abroad. The low cost of living here also makes it easier for newbies trying to break into certain fields and build a portfolio of work. Who says you have to be a starving artist?
Visa-wise freelancing can be tricky, however. Some companies are willing to sponsor visas for part-time staff, but they are unicorn-level rare and you still wouldn’t legally be able to take on other side-jobs. Many freelancers in China still do this or work illegally on other types of visas, but we cannot endorse this.
You could also find a job with low working hours and do freelance work for foreign companies on the side, although this is still a legal grey area. If you’re bad to the bone and decide to do side-jobs illegally be warned: there’s nothing governments love more than busting foreigners doing illegal work, and China is no exception. Every so often we come across stories about teachers getting busted and deported for doing illegal work on the side in China, so proceed at your own peril.
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Keywords: best jobs in China
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