Grad­u­ates in­no­vate to find work amid pan­demic

Ed­u­cated young peo­ple are widen­ing the scope of their job searches. Cao Chen re­ports from Shang­hai.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - Con­tact the writer at caochen@chi­

De­spite re­cently en­ter­ing a tough job mar­ket amid the COVID-19 pan­demic, Zhao Heng al­ready has everything an am­bi­tious uni­ver­sity grad­u­ate could want: an ideal ca­reer that he loves.

The jour­nal­ism grad­u­ate from Shang­hai In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies Uni­ver­sity has been busy pre­par­ing his startup, which of­fers ex­tracur­ric­u­lar tu­ition in sev­eral sub­jects, in­clud­ing math and English, to mid­dle school stu­dents.

Hav­ing made his ca­reer choice in Au­gust last year, the 22-year-old did everything he could to en­sure it would hap­pen — such as rent­ing space, reg­is­ter­ing the busi­ness and over­see­ing the in­te­rior design.

He ob­tained a pri­mary and mid­dle school teacher’s cer­tifi­cate last year, but he has taught more than 60 mid­dle school stu­dents part time dur­ing the past four years.

“I love im­part­ing knowl­edge to oth­ers in a fun way they can un­der­stand,” said Zhao, who de­signs cus­tom­ized teaching ap­proaches based on each stu­dent’s learn­ing style and pace.

As the pan­demic has slowed his ca­reer pro­gres­sion, Zhao has thought about ways to over­come the ob­sta­cles.

“I of­fered free on­line cour­ses to stu­dents to stay con­nected with them and thought over my ca­reer developmen­t calmly dur­ing the lock­down,” he said.

Now, dec­o­ra­tion of his teaching space is back on track and Zhao is work­ing hard to en­roll stu­dents.

“I am still con­fi­dent about my ca­reer, be­cause it’s what I love,” he said.

China will see 8.74 mil­lion col­lege grad­u­ates this year, a rise of 400,000 from last year, but the eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion has un­der­mined the abil­ity of many busi­nesses to em­ploy them.

In re­sponse, many grad­u­ates have found em­ploy­ment by ex­pand­ing their fu­ture op­tions with a high level of flex­i­bil­ity, based on in­ter­ests and ex­pe­ri­ence.

No one can stop you from liv­ing the way you want, so just be brave and chase your dream at any time.” Jin Tiantian,

New trends

Cao Shu­jing, direc­tor of the ca­reers center at SISU, has ob­served some new job op­tion trends among this year’s group of grad­u­ates.

As in­ter­net-re­lated work means there is lit­tle risk of cross-con­tam­i­na­tion, re­lated fields have be­come pop­u­lar among grad­u­ates.

“More on­line ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions have been con­tact­ing us to hire a larger num­ber of qual­i­fied grad­u­ates in mul­ti­ple lan­guages. More stu­dents are opt­ing to work in fields such as the in­ter­net, e-com­merce and new me­dia,” Cao said.

“Sur­pris­ingly, we have a grad­u­ate start­ing her ca­reer path at a hospi­tal, which has rarely been seen be­fore. Some hos­pi­tals are also look­ing for stu­dents who have mas­tered lan­guages like Spanish, which will help in com­mu­ni­ca­tions with medics in other coun­tries,” she added.

Jin Tiantian, who stud­ied jour­nal­ism as a post­grad­u­ate at SISU, is set­ting forth in the med­i­cal field.

She im­me­di­ately ap­plied for a job when she learned there was an open­ing in the com­mu­ni­ca­tions depart­ment at a lo­cal 3A grade hospi­tal — the high­est of China’s three­tier grad­ing sys­tem for pub­lic health — in Shang­hai last year.

Jin passed the in­ter­view and started work in Jan­uary. Not long after she started the job, she gained in­valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence thanks to the COVID-19 pan­demic.

“I am ex­cited to work in a new field where I have things to learn. I don’t want to miss any op­por­tu­ni­ties,” she said.

In Jan­uary, on Lu­nar New Year’s Eve, the hospi­tal dis­patched its first batch of doc­tors to as­sist in Wuhan, Hubei prov­ince.

One of the doc­tors wrote a daily di­ary to record front-line life, and Jin was re­spon­si­ble for edit­ing the en­tries on­line so peo­ple could ac­cess them via new me­dia plat­forms.

The 27-year-old felt hon­ored and was proud of her ca­reer choice.

“No one can stop you from liv­ing the way you want, so just be brave and chase your dream at any time,” Jin said.

That sen­ti­ment is shared by Li Zhen, who has been ded­i­cated to mu­sic ed­u­ca­tion since she was ad­mit­ted to the Shang­hai Con­ser­va­tory of Mu­sic in 2011 to study com­po­si­tion.

She loves mu­sic and im­part­ing her knowl­edge to oth­ers.

“I did part-time jobs to stay com­pet­i­tive and agile in the fu­ture em­ploy­ment mar­ket,” said the 27-year-old, who will soon fin­ish her post­grad­u­ate course.

Her en­deav­ors paid off in 2018 when she bought the fran­chise of a mu­sic train­ing class us­ing 150,000 yuan she had earned, along with an ad­di­tional 100,000 yuan in­vested by a friend.

Last year, the com­pany — which cur­rently has 15 teach­ers and 100 stu­dents — re­ceived fund­ing of 500,000 yuan from the Shang­hai Tech­nol­ogy En­trepreneur­ship Foun­da­tion for Grad­u­ates.

“Be­fore I started the busi­ness, I thought about whether I was ready to ac­cept the risk of fail­ure, not just the glory of suc­cess. And when everything started, I just kept mov­ing for­ward and solv­ing prob­lems along the way,” Li said.

Positive en­vi­ron­ment

The cen­tral govern­ment has stepped up to se­cure jobs and sta­bi­lize the em­ploy­ment mar­ket through a slew of mea­sures to cre­ate a fa­vor­able en­vi­ron­ment for grad­u­ates look­ing for work.

For ex­am­ple, to re­tain ex­ist­ing jobs, all mea­sures to boost em­ploy­ment will be backed by a large in­jec­tion of funds.

The funds can be used by pri­mary-level au­thor­i­ties to im­ple­ment tax and fee cuts, and to sub­si­dize rents or in­ter­est pay­ments to sup­port com­pa­nies.

The govern­ment is also help­ing to finance skills-train­ing ini­tia­tives by busi­nesses to sta­bi­lize em­ploy­ment.

In Shang­hai, small and medi­um­sized en­ter­prises and in­di­vid­ual busi­nesses were ex­empted from three kinds of so­cial in­surance — pen­sions, unem­ploy­ment and work in­jury — from Fe­bru­ary un­til the end of last month.

In ad­di­tion, com­pa­nies or in­di­vid­u­als af­fected by the pan­demic are per­mit­ted to pay so­cial in­surance fees they owe within three months of the conclusion of the pan­demic with­out in­cur­ring a penalty.

The city has also taken mea­sures to help grad­u­ates find jobs.

Ac­cord­ing to Ni Min­jing, deputy direc­tor of the Shang­hai Mu­nic­i­pal Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mis­sion, more than 10 on­line job fairs have been held for col­lege grad­u­ates since March, of­fer­ing more than 230,000 posts at 23,000 com­pa­nies.

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity has also stim­u­lated em­ploy­ment in the field of teaching by of­fer­ing 5,800 po­si­tions at kinder­gartens and pri­mary and sec­ondary schools, as well as 5,000 jobs for tal­ented peo­ple in the arts and sports sec­tors.

Uni­ver­si­ties are ex­plor­ing new types of job fairs, too.

Shang­hai Jiao Tong Uni­ver­sity joined hands with com­pa­nies to build an on­line re­cruit­ment plat­form, and it has com­piled files to of­fer guid­ance to stu­dents look­ing for jobs.

Tu­tors are also find­ing new ways to help stu­dents.

Liu Jian, a tu­tor at the School of Ger­manic Stud­ies at SISU, has re­leased short videos about job­hunt­ing strate­gies for stu­dents via his ac­counts on so­cial net­work­ing sites WeChat and Douyin.

“I hope to ease their anx­i­eties,” he said.

Given the ef­forts at all levels na­tion­wide, there’s a bright spot: Ni sug­gested grad­u­ates should have con­fi­dence in em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in the city and seek work proac­tively, not just wait or ob­serve.

Ni urged grad­u­ates to set re­al­is­tic job ex­pec­ta­tions. Sta­tis­tics from an on­line job fair sys­tem show that the num­ber of po­si­tions on of­fer at sev­eral on­line events ex­ceeded the num­ber of re­sumes re­ceived.

“I also en­cour­age grad­u­ates to ap­ply for front-line po­si­tions where they can con­trib­ute to com­mu­nity gover­nance, in­stead of sim­ply fo­cus­ing on man­age­ment po­si­tions,” he said.

Wei Shanchun, deputy direc­tor of the stu­dent ca­reers center at SJTU, said stu­dents ma­jor­ing in sub­jects that are es­sen­tial to the coun­try’s developmen­t, such as math­e­mat­ics and com­puter science, are in high de­mand.

How­ever, he ex­pressed con­cern about next year’s batch of grad­u­ates, who will face many un­cer­tain­ties in the job mar­ket.

“The im­pact of the COVID-19 out­break is lim­ited to the 2020 co­hort, who landed work dur­ing the job­seek­ing sea­son last au­tumn,” he said.

“Stu­dents set to grad­u­ate next year should en­sure they are fully pre­pared in ad­vance.”


Re­cent grad­u­ates look for em­ploy­ment at a job fair in Shang­hai last month.


From left: At a grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony in Wuhan, Hubei prov­ince, last month, se­niors pose for a photo with livestream­ed class­mates who were un­able to at­tend be­cause of the COVID-19 out­break. A col­lege grad­u­ate sells sil­ver jew­elry via a livestream in Jiangsu prov­ince in April. He started his on­line busi­ness to boost sales.


Li Meilin (left) ap­plies makeup on a girl dur­ing a train­ing course.

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