Besides the attraction of working in one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, many expatriates are also drawn to China because of a personal desire to experience a completely different culture. Be aware, however, that these cultural differences may also add a high level of stress to your work situation and not everyone can cope with working in a cross-cultural environment. The expat “failure rate” for China has been reported to be as high as 70 percent, with many expatriates returning home before their contract expires.
That said, working in China is a huge positive regarding your CV. It demonstrates your willingness to work in a new culture and experience a different market. As China’s importance in the world economy increases, time spent there is a sound investment for the future – at least if you succeed.
Job opportunities for foreigners in China
Thanks to the economic growth, the opportunities for foreigners wanting to work in China have increased considerably in the last few years
Teaching English is one of the main job areas for foreigners in China, but there is also a growing demand for expatriate workers with skills in sales, engineering and management amongst others. Most of these jobs are offered by foreign-invested enterprises, but there is also a growing number of Chinese companies hiring expatriates, even among the State-owned companies. Some of the most interesting job prospects are in the following fields: Engineering,IT, Accounting and finance, Sales and marketing jobs.
Qualifications for working China
Like everywhere else in the world, companies in China are especially looking for employees with a good mix of hard skills, soft skills and language skills. In a country where cheap labour is abundant, a college degree is a major advantage and most of the expatriates working in China have some form of higher education.
One of the best things you can do to get a head start in China is to learn Chinese. Many foreigners get by without speaking Chinese, but the more you can communicate, the better your chances of finding a job. Speaking Chinese certainly gives you greater options when looking for work, and the best-paying jobs require at least a conversational level of Mandarin.
How to find a job in China
The best way to find a job in China is by using personal contacts who work for a company in China that might need someone with your skills. If you aren’t blessed with such guanxi (关系connection), then the easiest way to find a job is via Internet.
There are plenty of job sites available for China. Chinese companies tend to advertise their jobs on Chinese sites like www.zhaopin.com, www.51job.com or www.chinahr.com. Some of these sites also operate in English, but the actual job postings are mostly in Chinese so you will need some knowledge of Mandarin to understand them.
*If you’re already in China, you can also check out the classifieds in the English speaking magazines. Such listings are targeted at foreigners, but most of them are only for part-time or contract work.
Teaching positions in China
English teaching jobs are available at high schools, universities and at a growing number of private language schools. They are normally advertised via e-mail and telephone contacts, either by the school directly or through a placement agency. Some agencies match teachers with Chinese schools, provide pre-departure training and only charge a modest fee for this service.
International teaching opportunities can also be found at major job fairs. Candidates need a government-issued public school teaching certificate and should plan on attending the fair to participate in on-site interviews.
English teaching jobs normally require that you are a native speaker and have an English teaching certificate like the TEFL (Teaching English as a foreign language). If you have a master’s degree this will not only increase your chances of finding a position but also your salary.
Job applications in China
The first step in your application is the submission of:
A letter stating why you are qualified for the job you’re interested in. Note that long cover letters are not very common in China, but you should at least explain why you’re applying for the job.
A resume or CV that should be roughly two pages in length. There are no formal rules for cover letters in China, but your CV should at least include some personal information, work experience, education, skills and accomplishments and career objectives. Note that the Chinese have a rather modest style of presenting themselves, so any “bragging” in your CV could quickly lead to a bad impression. Stick to the facts and let these speak for themselves.
Copies of your diplomas and other degrees. Given that education is very important to Chinese employers, you should attach as many degrees as you have to your application.
If the company or institution you’ve applied to is interested in your profile, the next step is likely to be a phone interview. If you’re applying to a major corporation you will probably also have to go through a series of in-person job interviews. As with any job interview, be modest but make clear your motivation and skills that make you fit for the job.
Finding a job through an internship in China
Many people who go to study in China also work as an intern for a foreign company or a public institution. Internships in China are mostly unpaid, but they can often lead to good job offers, either at the company or institution with whom you did your internship, or at other foreign companies that generally prefer to employ people that have some work experience in China.
Of course you can also try to work in China as a freelancer or self-employed, but be prepared for some difficulties. The first difficulty being visa issues, if you are not yet in China and need a work visa it will be much more difficult to obtain if you don’t have an employer in China that can do it for you. A way to get around this is to either go to China as a student first or take up any job that will get your papers sorted and then try to switch your visa status once you’re in China