Can Switching Jobs too often Harm Your Employability in China?

Can Switching Jobs too often Harm Your Employability in China?
Mar 01, 2013 By Beth Green ,

This might be the Year of the Dragon, but does your CV seem like it's a Rabbit, jumping from job to job and hopping between careers? Many expats in China switch jobs several times during their stays overseas. While career counsellors and life coaches agree that workers shouldn't stay in a job they dislike, and urge bored or experience-hungry employees to beef up their CVs with jobs they're passionate about, prospective employers may be put off hiring someone with a job history of being fickle.  

Can Switching Jobs too often Harm Your Employability in China?

What's Your Plan?

Just like a career in your home country, an international career is something that needs to be planned and built. Most people aren't so lucky as to just stumble into a rewarding long-term position, and so they look around before they find something that fits them better. The question is: how many jobs should it take to find the right job for you?

If you're trying to change your position, here are some points that you should consider when you're thinking of switching jobs in China.

Should You Stay or Should You Go?

First, take a look at where you want your next job to be.

Should you change your job to another one in China, or stick with the one you've got until you feel it's time to transition back to your home country? Having lived in a foreign country looks great on your CV, and speaks a lot toward your personal qualities: it shows that you have self-reliance and the ability to learn new things. Is the time right to use that hook and go elsewhere? Prospective bosses may feel your work history in China is perhaps less important than your overall skills and achievements, especially if you are switching industries or careers.  That said, if your resume shows you've only been in China a few months, it might look like this was an extended holiday and not a serious effort to improve your work skills, unless you craft the CV to show all the wonderful stuff you learned here (and mad chopstick skills don't count).

Or, do you want to stay in China?  You might have family or romantic ties, or you might just love working in a foreign land, and China in particular. In this case, you might start to build up a set of domestic references and a history of stable-looking employment to get that ever-better job here, whether it's eventually being able to open your own business, getting a cushy post at a multinational or transitioning back into a career path you held in your home country. Having a job-jumpy resume won't raise eyebrows in China as much as it used to: job-hopping has been on the rise in China for several years. In 2010, People's Daily Online wrote about a Beijing survey that showed 70 percent of college graduates changed their first job within three years. However, that doesn't mean that a person with a more stable CV won't have an easier interview when competing for a sought-after position.

Having a plan before you have "the talk" with your current boss is smart. In China as in any other country, before you hand in your notice, you might ask around and see if there are other positions available within your same company, or places for advancement. On your CV, having several positions within one company often looks better to employers than having several positions within several companies, even if both scenarios are in the same time span.

What Kind of Jobs Did You Do?

Now, some jobs by nature are considered to be short-term jobs. These might include summer camp positions, consultancies, travel and tourism industry jobs and some sales positions. These should be carefully explained in your CV and in your cover letter, and you should have a quick, positive way to describe them if asked about them in an interview.

Jobs that have six-month contracts, for example some English teaching positions, are also fine, but again you need to be prepared to be able to explain in your cover letter and job interview why you didn't extend that six month contract into a longer, more fulfilling stay for you and your old boss.  Not every new interviewer will assume it's because you were so great you were snapped up by a new employer before your old boss could get you to sign the renewal contract. Cynics might look at these entries on your CV and think you might be hiding the fact you were fired or were difficult to work with. 

Give a Good First Impression

Just because your job history has been sporadic doesn't mean you have to leave lots of white space between every entry on your CV and emphasise that fact. Take a look at your CV, or better yet, have a good friend look at it with you, and think of ways to spin those jumps so they show you were
gaining experience and making a difference in every job. Also look for ways that similar positions can be grouped together on your CV.

Syndicated career counsellor Penelope Trunk writes on her blog: "People want to hear an explanation that makes sense. They don't want to hear you failed, or didn't get along with people, or have no attention span. Not every job will be the pinnacle of success, but a good resume writer can make every job look like it was some sort of success, and that your level of success increased with each hop, because with each hop you got more responsibility."

Providing references from these jobs—even before asked—can make you look better too.

It's About the Money, Honey

Another factor to consider, always, is money.

As Trunk writes on her blog, "Go to the best job, do it until you find another best job. This is the kind of person who will always be able to get money when they need it."

A switch from a low-paying job to a high paying job will probably look less strange on a job application than the reverse, so try to make it clear to your prospective employers if that has been your case.

The fact is that people who switch jobs often look like they have a difficult time fitting into a work environment, or that they hastily take jobs that they can't handle. An employer may well look at a bursting-the-seams resume and think that you will leave his job after a couple of months, just like you did the past six. "The key is being good at quantifying your achievements where ever you have been," Trunk writes.

Also, don't forget the practical side of job jumping—in China, often if you leave an employment contract before it naturally ends, you may have to pay a penalty, either in form of a deduction from your last month's salary (perhaps for visa costs incurred for you) or in the form of not receiving a bonus or stipend that would otherwise be due to you.

Visa Woes

Any expat in China should look carefully at their own visa situation before they change jobs. Can your new employer get you the right kind of visa? Will they reimburse you for the costs involved? Will changing your visa over necessitate a trip to your home country? Is your past employer so cheesed off at you for leaving that they won't give you your foreign expert's' license back or sign the paperwork necessary to transfer your employment? There's a lot of paperwork involved in the process, and while in theory it's the same paperwork nationwide, in practice, each province, even perhaps each city, will have different necessities. Check beforehand so you don't end up with more headaches.

It's All About You

At the end of the day, job hopping is a risk that can have a bad outcome (less interview offers because they're worried you'll be flaky) or a good one (you successfully market yourself as someone who will enrich their company because of how much you've learned at your old positions). There's a lot to be said, also, for working in a job that you find interesting and challenging. As China's favourite sage, Confucius, is attributed as saying:  "Give a man a job he loves and he will never work a day in his life."

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Keywords: changing jobs China expats employed in China China job-hopping benefits of working in China


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As for work in China, so I have some ideas on this subject, you can read them here

Aug 19, 2019 21:19 Report Abuse



Here are some links for the 外国文教专家或外籍专业人员推荐信 (Release Letter) in case others are searching for it:

Sep 03, 2014 15:18 Report Abuse



With regard to further employment in China - You'll find a flaky resume, one in which your changing jobs within 6 month periods will raise eyebrows as to your future employ-ability in top-end companies in China specifically.

At Find Work Abroad (A Leading recruitment agency for foreigners in China) we have a hard time working with candidates with anything less than 6-month periods of employment especially at different companies within China.
Many of our clients simply reject an interview if you have stayed less than 6 months at more than 2x previous employers. We recommend fulfilling contracts completely (if you're currently in a contract you feel you want to leave) or having a plausible explanation for why you weren't working for the x months you stayed at a previous employer for less than 6-months.

Finally, employers really do not want to hear your explanations for why you maybe stayed less than 6-months in any previous post (Even if your previous employer failed to fulfill the terms in the contract/didn't make a working visa for you and/or didn't pay on time) and will simply deny your application labeling you as flaky and un-reliable.

In conclusion, if you're serious about seeking further employment in China (Especially in ESL for top-end companies) you'll find it more beneficial to see your contract through (Even if you're not on a working visa), in order to increase the probability of a better, well-paying job in the future.

Warm regards,
Find Work

Mar 24, 2012 21:07 Report Abuse


dan saunders

is this the same FINDWORKABROAD that has ads everywhere and cant find teachers because most of your jobs are illegal in that you dont provide work visas and you know this and the people you place are working illegally, so dont start talking about employers and resumes and the likes your just a scumbag agency, that just sucks the marrow from foreign teachers

Mar 26, 2012 05:43 Report Abuse



yep. Teaching agents are ripping off teachers and students alike.

Mar 01, 2013 12:19 Report Abuse