As you may have noticed, in the past year we have been extensively looking at the different jobs available to expats here in China. Over the course of these articles, we examined these opportunities in a general sense, as though through a wide-angle lens. This time, though, I will use a slightly more focused approach and look at where to find the best expat jobs here in China. eChinacities’ own job section covers 52 cities and is always a good resource for a broad selection of jobs across many industries, but since you’re reading this, you probably already know that. This article presents other great ways to find the best possible job for you in China.
Specialized Recruitment Websites
The easiest way to recognize this type of site is through the less than imaginative names they usually possess. Type the words 'China' and 'Job' or 'Career' into a search engine and you will be rewarded with a plethora of sites that do exactly what they say on the tin. The scope of these sites tends to be large. It features a wider variety of jobs in cities across the country – although most tend to be dominated by jobs in larger cities such as Beijing and Shanghai.
As you might expect, many of these sites will be inundated with vacancies in the teaching field. For example, of the 11,000 vacancies listed on jobchina.net, over 7,000 were teaching roles. There are, though, still plenty of other roles on offer. For example, ChinaJob has lists for both 'professional' and 'teaching' positions with detailed listings of varied options. Unfortunately, the problem with recruitment sites is that, because of the variety of cities and jobs available, searching for the right role can be a long and laborious process. However, because they do span cities and industries they can be immensely useful for those who are (a) outside China, but are looking to find a job here (b) ambitious enough to up sticks and relocate across the country. For this reason, many – though certainly not all – of the roles advertised tend to be at a slightly higher level. After all, few people are likely to move from Dalian to Guangzhou on a mere whim; the role needs to be right.
Local Publications (Magazines and Websites)
For those who are anchored in one specific city, or who are not looking to find a high-flying role, it may often be far more prudent to set their sites a little closer to home. Less than five years ago, websites and magazines aimed at expats were centred almost solely on China's major cities. However, in the last few years, most cities with expat communities have seen expat websites and magazines spring up to serve the ever growing population of foreigners. To best illustrate this growth, I will use my own adopted hometown of Tianjin as an example. When I first arrived in 2006, it was served by one sketchy website that offered limited information and sparsely populated message boards, and, a relatively new magazine that boasted a strong classifieds section, but little of anything else. Now, there are three monthly magazines and two or three other quarterly publications, as well as several growing websites dedicated solely to the city.
For those focused on a specific city, this type of website is the perfect resource. Again, there will be a high proportion of teaching roles amongst the jobs on offer. It is, though, worth noting, that in many smaller cities, these can account for up to 90% of the jobs open to foreigners. The advantage to such sites and magazines is that the jobs they produce can be found and filled quickly. The disadvantage is because of they are so localized the variety of jobs is limited and, in many cases, the salaries are often at the lower end of the spectrum.
The recruitment specialist, or headhunter, has in recent years been the weapon of choice for many companies in finding talented Chinese employees. However, many foreigners are now also beginning to see the benefit. Finding the right job can be difficult. It can mean wading through page after page of listings on recruitment sites or keeping eyes closely peeled for vacancies popping up locally. Either way, the science involved is not always as exact as many professionals may like. For this reason, many are now turning to headhunters, who provide a far more direct service, providing contacts with major companies on the lookout for new talent. The big bonus here is that the cost is likely to be relatively minimal. The headhunter will, in most cases, charge the company rather than the employee. However, the flip side to this is that opportunities are also limited to those companies with which the headhunter has a relationship - for this reason many expats will use more than one headhunter at a time or persist with other approaches as well.
Whilst headhunters can be an effective and inexpensive way to find a job, they are not for everyone. They will be focusing at the higher end of the market. The reason for this is simple, cost. If companies are paying – often extortionately – for the headhunter to find them the right person, they are likely to set their sights higher. This means that for many expats, they are an implausible option. This is particularly true for headhunters and companies operating on a national level. Opportunities may be more prevalent through smaller, more local companies.
This is an option that has only come to the fore very recently – the first such event only took place in 2005. However, recruitment fares are a common tactic for Chinese recruiters. Primarily, HR departments in China use them to find entry level employees and young graduates. They are the ideal format for this as they allow hundreds of companies to make contact with thousands of potential employees. In fact, they are so popular that the attendances can reach the tens of thousands. There are even reports of stampedes of job-seekers bustling their way through the gates.
The expat model is slightly different. Even though the expat population has grown dramatically over the past decade, it is still nowhere near large enough to sustain the type of demand seen at Chinese recruitment fares. Because of this - and the impact of the recent financial crisis - the fairs held in recent years have been sparsely attended and poorly received. For example, The Yangtze River Delta fair in April 2010 attracted only 200 expat job-seekers – much less than the 600 predicted. On the plus side of that statistic though, there were 500 vacancies on offer at the event, so those who went had a far better chance of snaring something interesting. Similarly, in Beijing in July, a fair organised by Chinajob.com attracted respectable crowds, but limited enthusiasm.
Networking/Word of Mouth
This option can blend both the twenty-first century technology and some slightly more traditional methods. The growth of networking sites such as Facebook (although it is blocked in China) and LinkedIn has made developing contacts and cultivating relationships that could lead to jobs much easier than ever before. However, there is still room for some good, old-fashioned flesh-pressing. In most major and second-tier cities there are chances to network, such as Chamber of Commerce events or private networking parties – you can find upcoming networking events in Beijing, Shanghai, and the Pearl River Delta here. Of all the options we have listed this by far is the least exact – hence it being tagged on at the end. Yet, it can be surprisingly effective.
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