How to Network to Advance Your Career in China

How to Network to Advance Your Career in China
Jun 22, 2018 By Degen Hill ,

In the land of “Guanxi”, the bigger your social circle in China, the better off you’ll be. Whether you’re looking to be setup with someone’s hot friend, searching for job opportunities, or need a favor from someone with a specialised skill, having a large network is the key to success in the Middle Kingdom. Building your network is also very important for building you career in China. Here are some tips on how and where to do just that.


Academic events

Education not only results in a higher salary and better dinner part conversations, it can also help you meet the right people. Many universities and think-tank type organisations in China regularly host events where they invite experts to speak on a particular subject or cause.

Some events are huge with hundreds in attendance, but often times, and this is from personal experience having attended a Chinese university, there are no more than 30 people. This allows for the opportunity to meet the presenter afterwards to perhaps pick their brain or simply exchange business cards. It’s always good to speak with an expert in a specific field, and you never know where this first encounter might lead.

Business events / promotions

If China knows one thing, it’s business. Countries and organisations across the world conduct business with China every day, while new firms are popping up within the country at a staggering rate.

All major Chinese cities will be hosting regular events for such communities, whether they be promotions, competitions or seminars for startups. Attending events like this is a fantastic way to meet people with range of skills and from a variety of backgrounds. You’re likely to come across investors, writers, economists, reporters, engineers and marketers, to name but a few.

Artistic events

Although we might not think of China as a haven for the liberal arts, the Middle Kingdom is fast becoming a breeding ground of art, poetry, music, dance, theatre and writing. In addition to shows and productions, you’ll also find gatherings, fundraisers and simple meet & greets within the artistic community.

No matter whether it’s the opening of a new photography exhibition, a government-hosted cultural presentation or a seminar on how to self-publish a book, all can help you advance your career in China. As the majority of marketing is visual, surrounding yourself by creatives will inspire, no matter what business you’re in.

Non-profits / NGOs

This type of event can be a challenge to find in China, but they’re well worth attending if you can. Non-profit organisations and NGOs most commonly host events exploring or raising money for an issue close to their hearts.

Even if you’re not super interested in what’s being discussed, those who attend will have a wide range of jobs, with professors, researchers, journalists and diplomats the usual characters. The networking opportunities are therefore endless, and the mere fact that you’re there singles you out as someone with a social conscience.

If you’re looking to work in the NGO space, however, attending this type of event is crucial; getting to know the people working for an NGO is your best way of landing a job. If you want to get better at basketball, hangout with basketball players. It’s the same logic.

Political events

It’s unlikely that you’re aiming to be a politician, but networking with people who work for different governments is easy here and can be a huge advantage for your career. Embassies will often be the ones to throw parties, host events or setup a meet & greets, providing the perfect opportunity to expand your network and meet important people from a variety of cultures and backgrounds.

No matter what field you work in, or what career in China you’re looking to find, knowing people who work in politics or are associated with politics can be a crucial part of your success.

How to network in China

So, you’re at the event and you’re surrounded by strangers. For some, this evokes feelings of anxiety, while for others it’s a situation ripe with opportunity. Networking is what people come to these events for, so don’t be shy about approaching people.

Let’s start with the first thing: the approach. You’re all at the same event, so choose a topic related to that common thread as your opener. “Oh, are you yourself an artist?” “What did you think about business tip #2?” “I love the work this NGO does, do you happen to know of any other NGOs working in this space?”

If the conversation goes well, exchange business cards according to the proper etiquette or pull out your phone and get their WeChat, just like you would if you met at a party. The great thing about WeChat is that you can just scan a QR code to connect. 

But simply having their WeChat is not enough. Many people add contacts but never reach out to them, which is essentially worthless. The following day, send the people you met a quick message so you’re truly on their radar. If you got on with someone particularly well and you’re feeling extra-bold, invite them to lunch or for a drink.

Advancing your career in China can be done in a number of different ways, but networking is arguably the most effective method. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, an artist or simply wanting to make the world a better place, you’ve got to put yourself out there and play the game.

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Keywords: career in China


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