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Non-teaching job as foreigner with intermediate Mandarin


Lin368
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Hello everyone! I have a postgraduate degree in business and information systems (The courses are focused on IT consulting aspects and some basic programming skills) and I wonder if there is any chance for foreigner to find a non-teaching job in Shanghai or Hangzhou. My native tongue is Italian and I think I can pass at most HSK4. I have no working experience related to my degree and I can't really afford to spend a year or more to get to HSK6. Before completing my degree I worked as part-time sales assistant.

 

What are the career paths in China you think I can purse? There were internships provided by some companies such as Intern in Asia, or advertised on the European Chamber of Commerce, but I am afraid that they will turn out to be not too stimulating and the wage will be really low.

 

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No reason why you can't. There are a huge number of foreigners in China with zero chinese  who don't work as a language teacher. Most western people I know don't work as a language teacher in China (me and my brother included).

 

I think in reality it will be harder than working in Europe due to difficulties in visas but not impossible. Also no matter what the career is, focusing on a high wage at the start of your career is short sighted. It's the work experience, company you work for and business connections that will pave the way for better jobs and higher salary later on in your career 

 

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5 hours ago, Lin368 said:

What are the career paths in China you think I can purse? There were internships provided by some companies such as Intern in Asia, or advertised on the European Chamber of Commerce, but I am afraid that they will turn out to be not too stimulating and the wage will be really low.

 

 

I think Business Information Systems is a skills shortage in every country, however my experience is that people will usually consider even LOCAL candidates only if they have previously (directly previously) worked on similar/identical projects, if you have professional working experience in a niche this may be sufficient. But if you are discussing going just off of the back of your qualification then you may have difficulty so you might need to take low paid work to get the experience you require. I have spoken to people from KPMG, EY who have made this jump from their home country to large projects in other countries. So you may want to consider working at a big four and then continuously searching internal job boards for projects to come up in the areas you want. Consultancy companies are slightly limited in what they can offer you based on what their clients want at the time, so it can be pot luck with smaller ones.

 

I previously worked at Unilever, but from what I can see global mobility is not so easy at multi national companies anymore unless you are high level or in roles of core importance. i.e. marketing/sales for FMCGs, finance for banks, development for software companies etc.

 

If you have completed a postgrad, then you could consider PhD in either of these two places if you are still interested in studying more, there is Chinese government scholarship for full funding.

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If you're a foreigner but don't want to teach, you can always be a personal fitness trainer :) (just joking)

 

To be honest, HSK4 level Chinese is basically nothing in the eyes of your employer, because you are very far, far away from business fluency. I have my doubts whether you will be much closer to a business fluency, I found it via the hard way. Having no relevant work experience also doesn't support your case, because you can't offer anything that would make you competitive to a local fresh graduate.

 

I think you have some routes in front of you:

- Try to get an internship opportunity at an international firm. Yes, salary will be bad, and you definitely won't live an exciting expat life, but you do this for experience and should consider it as an investment.

- Spend some weeks in Shanghai/Hangzhou on a tourist visa, look for local advertisements on junior entry positions there. It's very hard, if at all possible, to get a junior entry position from the other end of the world.

- Get hired by an international company with Chinese exposure in Italy, work some years there and if you have the required years of experience, ask for an international transfer to China. Such opportunities are getting rarer and rarer, but it can happen, but first you need some years under your belt in your home country.

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6 minutes ago, ZhangKaiRong said:

- Spend some weeks in Shanghai/Hangzhou on a tourist visa, look for local advertisements on junior entry positions there. It's very hard, if at all possible, to get a junior entry position from the other end of the world.

 

I noticed Chinese business working can have quite fast decision making and they rarely are blocked by red tape like visas. However since my only exposure is 欢乐颂 i'm not sure how accurate to life it is. Do you think it would be possible to find a job in China application to offer while on a holiday?

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8 minutes ago, AaronUK said:

I have spoken to people from KPMG, EY who have made this jump from their home country to large projects in other countries. So you may want to consider working at a big four and then continuously searching internal job boards for projects to come up in the areas you want. Consultancy companies are slightly limited in what they can offer you based on what their clients want at the time, so it can be pot luck with smaller ones.

 

I previously worked at Unilever, but from what I can see global mobility is not so easy at multi national companies anymore unless you are high level or in roles of core importance. i.e. marketing/sales for FMCGs, finance for banks, development for software companies etc.

 

Big fours in the UK/US/Germany and Big fours in countries with less global importance are completely different. I'm working at one of the Big fours in Europe, and really big international projects involving smaller offices are quite rare, UK and German colleagues, however, are quite preferred, simply because more project opportunities are channeled to those offices. It also depends on the function you're working in: for M&A advisor and consulting guys its somewhat easier than tax or audit professionals, as the latter ones are mostly local market dominated.

Moreover, I'm currently in the middle of organizing an international secondment to one of our Chinese offices, and the whole process is a major pain, even though I have more than 5 years experience, currently on a manager level, have a suitable business case for the secondment, business fluency in Chinese and relevant project experience with our Chinese office and Chinese clients... So even after this many years, it's not easy to get transferred to China. 

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7 minutes ago, AaronUK said:

I noticed Chinese business working can have quite fast decision making and they rarely are blocked by red tape like visas. However since my only exposure is 欢乐颂 i'm not sure how accurate to life it is. Do you think it would be possible to find a job in China application to offer while on a holiday?

Local presence helps a lot, and for some reason, classmates attending their masters in China gets way more interview opportunities than classmates who already graduated and got back to their home countries.

My experience with job hunting from the other part of the world supports this - you rarely get any e-mail replies on job applications if it's clear that you're currently not in China, and can't attend a personal job interview. Heck, even in Skype calls, many Chinese employers insist on a video call instead of a voice call. If a headhunter approaches you, you can get quick feedbacks from the potential employers, however, with no professional work experience, there will be basically zero headhunters interested in you. It's a tough situation, this is why I recommended to gain some experience before trying to move to China.

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24 minutes ago, ZhangKaiRong said:

My experience with job hunting from the other part of the world supports this - you rarely get any e-mail replies on job applications if it's clear that you're currently not in China, and can't attend a personal job interview. Heck, even in Skype calls, many Chinese employers insist on a video call instead of a voice call. If a headhunter approaches you, you can get quick feedbacks from the potential employers, however, with no professional work experience, there will be basically zero headhunters interested in you. It's a tough situation, this is why I recommended to gain some experience before trying to move to China.

 

Yes I think this my experience mostly with job applications I've had in Hong Kong from the UK. When a recruitment company gets hold of my CV there is someone local to try and sell me and so things seem to progress. And the recruitment consultants take interest only because there are some specific tools I've used for my job that haven't been in the Asia market for long (they cant find anyone else).  They still end up going with local candidates, but whether that could be owing to my skype interview skills I can't say haha.

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Its just because it's easier to employ someone locally or who is at least in the country. I have worked in Fortune 500 companies all my life at Director level. We would rarely take someone who isn't physically present in the country to turn up to an interview. The only exception is that of there is a  real shortage of skills or the position is high (Executive Director and above) . Also bear in mind, in Europe anyway, a decent company will pay for interview expenses (flight hotel, allowance) as its relatively cheap. However flying someone to china where visa's are required etc is a more hassle and more expense. 

 

ZhangKaiRong is correct, unless you have a near native fluency in the local language, your language skills will be ignored. English is the defacto standard in any sort of international setting. Even when I worked in Amsterdam, Milan, Paris, Frankfurt, Beijing everyone speaks English. Of course living and working in those countries having a grasp of the native language is useful. 

 

I think China is a bit of a unique place though. It still is opening up to the western world and a lot of 2nd tier cities are becoming more and more internationally friendly.  I take a huge salary cut to work in china because I want to live there but I would earn 4 times the salary in London . In Saudi Arabia, Quata, Dubai they need to pay because ex-pats are only going for the money and the native professional skill level is almost non existent in many middle eastern countries for some industries. 

 

As for the actual HSK exam, it does help with the Visa process, you get more points for having a HSK certificate and it goes on the visa application form (which I just filled out 2 weeks ago for my renewal). I kind of regret never doing any HSK exams, as it does benefit the category of visa you will obtain. Although I have A类 with no HSK cert so not a major hurdle but I'm a 爷爷 :D

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4 hours ago, ZhangKaiRong said:

My experience with job hunting from the other part of the world supports this - you rarely get any e-mail replies on job applications if it's clear that you're currently not in China, and can't attend a personal job interview.

What you could perhaps try is plan a trip and contact companies beforehand, telling them you will be in the country during this-and-this period and are available to meet. This buys you some time.

 

HSK 4 won't be much use for doing your actual job, but it's not a bad thing to have either. It shows your prospective employer that adjusting to living in China will be easier for you (you can do much of the apartment hunting independently, for example, and require less hand-holding) and that you really want to be in China specifically, not just any place.

 

Good luck, let us know how your job search goes!

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42 minutes ago, Lu said:

HSK 4 won't be much use for doing your actual job, but it's not a bad thing to have either. It shows your prospective employer that adjusting to living in China will be easier for you (you can do much of the apartment hunting independently, for example, and require less hand-holding) and that you really want to be in China specifically, not just any place.

 

Thats a very good point Lu, and not to be underestimated

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Thank you for the interesting inputs, I have applied for some internships/jobs in international companies which don't require fluency in Mandarin and I'll keep doing.

What's your opinion of services provided by companies such as Intern in Asia or Hutong School? They offer internship placements in Chinese companies in exchange of a fee.

 

I have good reasons to learn Mandarin and staying in Italy isn't ideal to accomplish this goal.

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I know someone who works at the Hutong school. They try hard to get good placements that are meaningful.

 

Some experience in China in the industry you want might help. Depends how much the fee is and how much money you have! 

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My knowledge of the Hutong School is about 5 years old, but I know them as a reliable organisation. The place I worked for used to recommend them to our interns as a good place to get the whole survive-and-thrive-in-China package: for a fee, they'd pick you up at the airport, give you a little care package for the first day, find you a place to stay (shared house with other Hutong roommates), give you Chinese classes, outings and classes in things like calligraphy and papercutting. Basically, they offer classes and a social life outside class. I don't have any experience or knowledge of their internship offerings, but if they offer those, I would certainly consider them. (Our interns applied directly to my organisation, not through Hutong School.)

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