What if you could gain three years worth of work experience in one year?
Many friends, former coworkers, clients and colleagues of mine have careers in China that have allowed them to take on levels of responsibility that they would have only been able to dream of in the United States or Europe. This includes a 21-year-old managing conferences for one of Asia’s most prestigious universities, a 23-year-old project manager for digital media marketing, and a 25-year-old who’s spearheading nationwide research projects about electric vehicles.
If you’re looking for a challenge and are able to rise to the occasion, a career in China might be perfect for you.
Interested? Here are three things you should know about landing a job in China:
1. You don’t have to be fluent in Chinese to get a great offer
Of course, fluency in Mandarin will expose you to significantly more opportunities. But if a job-hunter can be creative and develop his or her personal edge and unique value proposition to a prospective manager, not speaking the language isn’t a deal-breaker.
I know this because I’ve done it twice myself – landed jobs in China without speaking the language – and helped others do the same.
You do not have to be fluent because you can build or develop in yourself a unique edge that will help you get a leg up on your competition. For example, despite not being fluent in Mandarin, a client of mine was able to clinch a position with a boutique Public Relations firm in Beijing because he was familiar with Chinese social media platforms like Sina Weibo.
Similarly, many colleagues and clients of mine with backgrounds in engineering, law, and finance were able to secure interviews and offers for themselves due to their specialized skill sets and experience.
2. You are no longer special just because you’re a foreigner
There was a time, perhaps a decade or two ago, when expats could expect fat packages and kickbacks simply because they weren’t Chinese.
Those days are over. Today, millions of Chinese grads are fighting tool and nail for the same positions as you. Many of those candidates have equal or superior academic qualifications – and they speak both English and native-level Mandarin. A large portion of those grads also have no problem maintaining a lifestyle you’d likely consider unpalatable; it’s nearly impossible for foreigners to compete with them strictly on a cost-to-hire basis.
Furthermore, scores of expat professionals arrive in China every day with advanced degrees, fluency in Mandarin and highly impressive work experience. They’ve probably been in China longer than you, have larger local networks and have amassed a stronger and more valuable skill set specific to the China market. The specific skill sets they have will vary widely depending on the industry in which they currently operate and their positions within their companies. However, the fact that they have obtained this experience in China specifically will be a massive advantage for them when competing in the same pool as you.
Fortunately, with proper preparation, strategic networking and consistent use of unorthodox and highly effective strategies, you can edge out most of these people. Despite their qualifications, the vast majority of them have mediocre strategies for the job search.
3. Bad job-hunting advice is everywhere
The previous generation of China expat professionals had different advantages and challenges in the 1990s and previous decade than we do today. The need for their skill sets was more pronounced and there was significantly less competition, both domestic and foreign, for their positions. Simultaneously, they were unable to utilize the internet, mobile technology, and all the other platforms we currently take for granted in our job searches today.
Our generation today faces starkly different challenges in the job hunt, yet we also have very different tools at our disposal– like social media – to stand out from the crowd.
High-level management professionals are often out of touch – and may give you bad job-search advice – because China and its needs are changing so fast that what worked three months ago may already be obsolete.
Whoever’s giving you advice has probably not experienced being a Gen-Y expat job seeker specifically in the year 2012 – much less this particular month, in your particular industry, with your unique goals in your life and career. So before taking to heart career-hunting advice, ask yourself this:
“Has this person been in the exact situation I am in now?”
The answer is probably no – which means you can take some of their advice, but leave what doesn’t seem to apply.
Good luck and happy hunting!
Michael Park is an entrepreneur who has studied and worked in the United States, France, China, Korea and Thailand.