There are various ways in which expats search for a job abroad: Some move first and search later, while others arrange for various job interviews before they even so much as look at real estate ads. For the spontaneous job-seeker, China might be somewhat of a disappointment, as good preparation and a solid business network are essential for finding a job in this highly competitive country.
As a seasoned expat, you already know that professional networking is important for a successful job search but everyone who understands the Chinese culture knows that in China it is essential. Not only will your contacts be able to inform you if a position in their company opens up, they will also be able to attest to your good character. This is important as you cannot do business in China without personal relationships and trust. Knowing someone at the company you applied to is definitely an advantage.
In order to network properly, you should start by joining discussion groups on job networking sites and getting in touch with people who are working in China already. But all the online-networking is not enough if you don’t do any local networking in Shanghai, Beijing, or wherever else you plan on moving. It makes sense to spend a few weeks in your future home, to meet as many people as you can. Proper business cards come in handy as well. Remember to have your business card translated into Simplified Chinese on one side and English on the other.
If you don’t find a job through professional networking, you may consider giving online job sites a chance. More and more companies advertise open positions online. However, most of these websites are in Chinese and not necessarily directed at foreigners. Therefore, it is important that you at least have a basic understanding of the Chinese language.
If you find a job ad that seems fitting for you, try to activate your business network in China and see if you can get in touch with a company representative. Your chances of actually getting hired will increase tremendously. Keep in mind that sending unsolicited applications to different companies is not a good way to conduct the job search in China.
Of course, you can also enter your data on various professional networks and job search sites and simply wait for the perfect job to find you. Some expats have been able to find work abroad that way. However, you should have a solid back-up plan if this doesn’t work out.
Another option is to start by enrolling at a Chinese university. First of all, some employers may be more willing to consider you if you have attended a prestigious institution of higher education. Secondly, it is easier (and cheaper for your future employer) to change your visa from a student to an employment visa, than applying for an employment visa “from scratch.” Moreover, it will give you the opportunity to spend time in China, attend interviews, build your professional network, and contact potential employers.
The downside is that a Chinese student visa does not come with a work permit. As visiting students are not allowed to work, you will have to make sure that you have a financial buffer. Some language schools are not as strict when it comes to work permits, offering international students and language teachers another source of income. However, many expats have had less than positive experiences with language schools and, as this solution is in a legal grey area, we don’t recommend it.
For actual students and young adults, an internship might be a great way of getting a foot in the door. Many big Chinese companies like to hire interns and, if they do their job well, keep them around full-time.
Many expats in China start out as language teachers, particularly for the English language. Through their students, many of them learn of open positions or get in touch with a prospective employer. This job also offers a lot of flexibility and free time to make new business contacts and to network. Teaching English is also popular among global minds looking for a “trial period” to figure out if China is, indeed, a fitting destination for them.
Unfortunately, language teachers do not earn much. In many cases, the salary is barely enough to pay for basic living expenses. On top of that, you will still need to secure a Z visa to work at a reputable language school.
We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.