China has no shortage of jobs opportunities for foreigners, but the best opportunities aren't always forthcoming via a conventional job search. Part of the reason the job search in China is more complicated is that while "guanxi," (关系 guānxì) or relationships, are a fundamental part of the business culture, it takes
Internet Searches (English)
Internet job searches are less straightforward in China, as some mainstream sites like Monster.com are seldom used by Chinese companies. While you will want to start your job search by making sure your LinkedIn profile is optimized, China expat-specific job sites can expand your search, and can be navigated in English.
The first step you will want to take in your China job search is to update LinkedIn and add any connections who might expand your network, as it is widely used by Chinese recruiters and hiring managers. Headhunters who may have close relationships with HR managers at technology companies can recommend you for positions your experience normally wouldn’t qualify you for. There is
Despite having rather unaesthetic user interfaces, China expat job sites offer a lot of opportunities. Some of these websites will automatically scan your resume to help you quickly build a profile through which hiring managers can find you, and which will match you with suitable opportunities. You can also write a targeted short self-introduction that functions somewhat like a cover letter or LinkedIn summary. These sites are ideal for finding jobs in Chinese SME’s (small and medium-sized enterprises) with a demand for your niche skill set. Some of the best English language sites include Chinajob.com, expatjobschina.com, amchamchina.org, and projectpengyou.org. City-specific expat community classifieds like the thebeijinger.com and shanghaiexpat.com have been known to offer the occasional unique opportunity, but most of the listings are for English teaching or part-time work.
Internet Searches (Chinese)
While the lesser-known China expat-specific sites give you an edge over the crowd going through the mainstream ones, the Chinese language sites give even more of an advantage in the job market. As long as you can type in Chinese, you can take advantage of Chinese job searching sites like lagou.com, 58.com, and ganji.com. My quickest job search was with
Directly Contacting a Hiring Manager
While long cover letters are not common in China, writing a short but effective targeted email might be the best way to call a potential employer's attention to yourself who would otherwise be on the fence about your suitability for the employer's company. In this email, you need to accurately represent your unique market value as it applies to your audience's interests and concerns. Look to varied resources in trying to find the right company to apply to. The American Chamber of Commerce’s directory lists enterprises vetted for certain standards. Some other resources you might turn to are the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, or Hoovers.com, an online directory of businesses. Meanwhile, following the news for signs that companies have just raised capital, reorganized, made an acquisition, reported profits, or announced new products can help you target large companies. Smaller companies can also be located by looking at the suppliers of large companies that are expanding. If you are fortunate enough to know or meet someone within the company, ask that person about the company’s situation and needs, as well as about key decision makers in the hiring process. Finally, ask yourself the tough questions: Why should they hire you over a bi-lingual local with the same skills and who is asking for less money? What is the situation of the company right now, and how does your unique value apply to it? The answers might not immediately be apparent, but with each job inquiry, you will find yourself better understanding your value in China.
Non-Traditional Job Searches
Sometimes the best way to look for a job is to create your own opportunity by convincing a company of its need for your particular skillset. China is a land of opportunity for those who fuse cross-cultural skills with other hard skills and soft skills. You might not be getting the best out of the job market in China if you don't look to create your own demand by being proactive. Most HR professionals want to look for candidates in the same way that most people search for jobs – passively by searching or browsing. Chinese SME's especially are treading on unfamiliar ground when it comes to hiring foreigners, so you will be making their job easier if you approach them directly with your own proposal.
In addition to LinkedIn, Chinese social media sites like WeChat and Weibo can be useful for letting people know you are looking for work or for advertising your personal brand. Writing a blog article, advertising your portfolio, or creating a discussion are ways you can generate buzz and be found by a prospective employer. While developing a personal brand may take time and luck, your online profile will also help you network, and will definitely look impressive during the interview process when HR managers do an internet search of your name or add you on WeChat.
Networking, or “guanxi,” underlies the business culture in China. Guanxi is more personal and friendly than business relationships in the West. Many people land a job or forge a partnership through someone they met while chatting at a bar, or through the network of a trusted friend.
What is good about the phenomenon of networking in China is that it isn’t just limited to professional events or job fairs. People are very approachable in major Chinese cities, and many will be eager to learn something about where you are from as well as practice English. Chinese business owners are often interested in going abroad, and locals are enthusiastic about the prospect of meeting someone who can help them develop ties to another country. Enrolling in a business program at a Chinese university or finding a group of like-minded individuals on a website like Meetup.com are other ways to expand your career network.
Job fairs for expats have good
Networking events in China abound, but they aren’t easy to find if you are only willing to look for the ones targeted to English speakers. Every day, in a major city like Beijing or Shenzhen, there are tech conferences where top entrepreneurs and angel investors give speeches and hold panels. If you are interested in working for a tech company, these are great places to network. Don't let registration fee scare you away, as you can network outside the door, and eventually borrow someone’s badge to go in, or explain your case to the event staff, who are usually accommodating to foreigners. Whenever I attended one of these conferences, I always came out with a huge stack of business cards from people I had met. It was intimidating at first, but thanks to these events, the phrase "能换一下名片吗?“ (can we exchange business cards) is forever ingrained in my head. Come prepared with business cards English on one side, and Chinese on the other so you can exchange business cards the Chinese way.
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