"How do I get started in China?" was a recurring question I recently encountered when I lectured on global entrepreneurism at the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business. And the process for doing just that -- finding a job in China -- may understandingly seem intimidating for many aspiring young global business people.
But there are definitely resources out there for getting started. Here are six.
1. Networking events
Use your own network to build an even bigger network through Asia-specific networking events like these "meetups" in New York City. Few of us enjoy networking. It’s hard to walk up to strangers and make that awkward first introduction. However, networking can be your best friend.
Some of my most important contacts and largest corporate customers have come from networking events. The key is to know that everyone else feels as awkward as you do and that realistically you have nothing to lose except an hour or two of your life. You have a lot to gain -- in this case a potential job in China.
This is digital networking at its finest. LinkedIn Premium for job seekers is an amazing tool. We use it for sales but I know that many of our Fortune 500 customers utilize it for recruitment purposes. LinkedIn grants access to HR and recruiters that job seekers are not otherwise allowed to contact.
The website also offers short tips on how to get noticed, get an interview and ultimately get the job or internship you’re looking for. If you can’t afford premium, find and join large groups that are internationally focused or China specific. Start discussions, ask how to get started in China. You’ll be surprised by how many people are willing to help. That being said, however, you’ll need to be persistent.
3. Chinese university programs
Many Chinese universities offer one-semester business-school certificate courses. These usually focus on Chinese business and culture and cover law, finance, marketing, sales and management. We have developed a Business & Language course in conjunction with Shanghai Normal University. The course lasts one semester but includes a language component in addition to Chinese business training.
These types of programs are a great avenue to Chinese business for those who may not be able to get a job right away. Once in China, building a network there is the key to finding a long-term career.
4. AmCham China, Shanghai Expat, Asia Expat
All of these sites have job listings. The most legitimate are found on AmCham China, a one-stop shop for job-seekers, internship seekers and anyone interested in doing business in China. I have been a member of AmCham Shanghai for almost 10 years. This is where I learned to network, found my first Chinese school, got involved with charities and most importantly found some of my best employees.
Everything listed there is going to be a legitimate lead; companies that list are members of the chamber and have gone through a vetting process prior to posting these jobs. They will usually arrange your China visa and, depending on your role, will arrange housing and anything else you need.
5. Summer Internships
BRIC will be announcing an exciting new internship program in the coming weeks. There is a need for this in China, Shanghai in particular. Many of these programs exist; however, interns have said that the companies involved were “sketchy.”
The complaints vary, but two of the most common are that the programs do not disclose the company name prior to arrival in China and that the internships typically are not what the customer signed up for. A friend of mine signed up for a three-month summer internship two years ago. He was supposed to be working in finance directly for the CFO.
But when he arrived in Shanghai, his actual job was cold-calling expats. He was supposed to sell “wealth management” packages. These were at best bad products, and at worst illegal pyramid schemes. He quit very quickly, and that company no longer exists.
Sadly, this scenario is actually fairly common in China, so be careful. If you use an internship service outside of AmCham, make sure that it has a good track record and can put you in touch with students who have used the service in the past.
For whose who want to get their feet wet in China without actually committing to a three-to-four-month internship, there are other opportunities. My company currently offers two-week trips to Shanghai, Beijing, and Hangzhou as well as one to Shanghai and Yangshuo.
The first is business focused, the second has, first, an urban emphasis in Shanghai, and then an outdoors one in Yangshuo, the center of China’s mountain culture. We are not the only company doing trips that are both educational and fun. You can Google China tours and literally see thousands pop up. Trips like these are a great way to explore China and test the waters before making a longer commitment.
Regardless of what path you take to get to China, I suggest exploring the options. It was without a doubt the best decision I myself ever made. I would also recommend learning the language. When I left Shanghai for New York City, prior to building my own company, I knew that because of my knowledge of China and my ability to speak the language, I could get a great job anywhere.
The language has been like an insurance card in my back pocket. It is why I was successful in China, while other more talented people have failed. So, figure out how to get to China and see whether or not it’s right for you. It will change your life.