Many recent graduates have chosen China as their home after studying in the United States and Europe. After the 2008 recession, youth employment dropped worldwide, especially in Western nations. In China however, the now surging economy attracts young graduates seeking work from all over the world. While speaking Chinese is very helpful, there are a great number of job opportunities for graduates who are native English speakers and do not yet have fluency in Chinese and an experience of work in one of the world’s fastest-growing major economies is definitely a great addition to your resume when seeking future jobs. The cost of living is comparatively less, in even the large cities of China, and can allow you earning levels that will place you in the upper middle class level in terms of your income. To obtain work in China, one great strategy may be to choose a volunteer position or an unpaid internship to use as a steppingstone in learning more about the culture, people, and discovering other opportunities in China. While in these initial roles, try learning Mandarin so that you get better chances to find another job later on.
Opportunities in multinational companies (MNCs)
Having bi-lingual skills increase your chance in being hired by multinational companies in China. Most of the Chinese firms and MNCs in the country often prefer qualified candidate from China itself, but if you possess a unique set of skills or if you speak one or two additional languages like German, French, Spanish or Italian along with English your opportunity for work increases. Alternatively, individuals with unique skill set such as designers, architects or other creative professionals may be able to secure jobs without existing Chinese language skills. Even getting into engineering or technical jobs is possible (thought a little more limited).
One job you can certainly expect to find is an English teaching job. Young people from the US and Europe are in high demand in teaching fields, as Chinese society wants their younger generation to learn English language at high school levels. You can work as an English language teacher even if you are not a native speaker. Graduates in other fields like chemistry, history or mathematics can also work as teachers in China, teachings those specific subjects. Many high schools and colleges now use English language as their primary teaching medium, so you are not restricted to only teaching English, but a range of other subjects as well.
Those who are interested in early childhood education and childcare should look into an au pair job while in China. As an au pair, your host’s children will be your top priority. International au pairs are in great demand in large Chinese cities since Chinese parents want their children to gradually improve their foreign language skills. You can help in a child’s development by teaching him/her English and other varied skills. Being an au pair is somewhat an integral part of a cultural and language exchange program, especially as you are connected with families and the society.
Begin as volunteers/interns in nonprofit organizations
Nonprofit organizations play a great role in the country’s development by focusing on the uplifting the disadvantaged population. After graduating, you can join a nonprofit organization as an international volunteer. You do not have to learn Mandarin in order to volunteer in China as a teacher, a community manager, an environment analyst, or an English grant writer. Mostly you will be working unpaid in these service-learning groups, but within a year of working with Mandarin-speaking locals and studying Mandarin regularly, you may be able to obtain a proper paid job in China soon after your internship.
Learning Mandarin is necessary to advance your career beyond an entry level
The Chinese can be sticklers for traditions and culture, even in this age of modernization and westernization. All the jobs in relation to multinational companies, teaching, au pairs and volunteering that we discussed in the previous paragraphs may not require an expertise in Mandarin, but if you want to flourish your career with all possibilities, learning the language will be the key for you to achieve that goal. If you are trying to get yourself immersed in the local culture and befriend the country’s populace, you should know at least a conversational level of Mandarin. In large cities like Beijing, Shanghai you may find more foreigners to communicate with, but if moving in to mid-sized cities like Chengdu, Xian or Kunming, you will find it a little hard to communicate if you don’t learn Chinese language. Moreover, Chinese companies always prefer highly qualified young candidates from other countries who can also speak the native language.
Opportunities are countless for anyone who wants to quick start their career in the world’s fastest growing economy. The real way to find your opportunity is to network, network and network. Make local connections, study Chinese, familiarize with the local culture and you will easily figure a way out to thrive in China.
Revathy currently works as program Associate with Minds Abroad, a U.S.-based organization that conducts study abroad programs in Asia, specifically China, Thailand and India. Before joining Minds Abroad, she completed her MS in Communication from Christ University, Bangalore, India. After graduating, she hoped to break into the field of writing for international education and travel. Now, being a part of a study and travel abroad organization, she has many opportunities to travel in and around China and India while doing what she loves. Revathy plans to continue exploring possibilities within the field.