On the hunt

Hop­ing their study at lo­cal uni­ver­si­ties pays off, for­eign grad­u­ates be­gin their job search in China

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - FRONT PAGE - By Chen Xi­meng

Nikita Er­makov, a 25-year-old Rus­sian, has re­cently been busy job hunt­ing since he will grad­u­ate from the Yench­ing Acad­emy of Pek­ing Uni­ver­sity (PKU) in July 2018. He came to Bei­jing in Septem­ber 2016 to study for

a mas­ter’s de­gree in Chi­nese stud­ies and eco­nom­ics, and now he wants to find a job in China.

On Oc­to­ber 28, wear­ing a black suit and armed with a brief­case, Er­makov went to the Fourth Ca­reer Fair for In­ter­na­tional Stu­dents in China held at PKU. He waited in long lines to talk with HR from sev­eral com­pa­nies.

“I want to find a job in China be­cause I want to live in China, ex­plore the coun­try and grow pro­fes­sion­ally. I also be­lieve that in the fu­ture there will be many op­por­tu­ni­ties to build my ca­reer,” said Er­makov.

The job fair, held by the Chi­nese Ser­vice Cen­ter for Schol­arly Ex­change (CSCSE), has at­tracted 30 Chi­nese com­pa­nies, pro­vid­ing over 500 jobs and in­tern­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties. Over 3,000 for­eign stu­dents, who are from coun­tries in­clud­ing the US, Great Bri­tain, Aus­tralia, Rus­sia and Kaza­khstan from 30 Chi­nese uni­ver­si­ties in­clud­ing Pek­ing Uni­ver­sity, Ts­inghua Uni­ver­sity and China Uni­ver­sity of Pe­tro­leum, at­tended the event.

“Since 2016 when the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment be­gan al­low­ing for­eign grad­u­ates to work in China, we launched a job fair es­pe­cially for them in April 2016 and have held it ev­ery six months. Over the last two years, we have seen more and more com­pa­nies and for­eign stu­dents com­ing to the fair,” said Cheng Ji­a­cai, vice di­rec­tor of CSCSE.

This Jan­uary, the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment re­leased a new pol­icy that al­lows ex­cel­lent in­ter­na­tional grad­u­ates with at least a mas­ter’s de­gree from Chi­nese or well-known for­eign uni­ver­si­ties to have a work per­mit with­out two years of work ex­pe­ri­ence.

“This job fair is the big­gest since the new pol­icy was is­sued, which has fur­ther eased the re­stric­tions on for­eign grad­u­ates work­ing here,” said Cheng.

In re­cent years, more and more for­eign stu­dents are com­ing to China to study. At­tracted by good ca­reer de­vel­op­ment and many op­por­tu­ni­ties, more choose to stay and work in China af­ter grad­u­a­tion. Also, with the de­vel­op­ment of the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive, some Chi­nese com­pa­nies also have a grow­ing need for for­eign grad­u­ates with ex­per­tise and Chi­nese flu­ency to help them ex­pand in in­ter­na­tional mar­kets.

A grow­ing need

Af­ter job hunt­ing for four months by sub­mit­ting re­sumes and go­ing on many in­ter­views, Er­makov re­ceived two job of­fers in mar­ket­ing with the HNA Group in two dif­fer­ent de­part- ments – hos­pi­tal­ity and fi­nan­cial ser­vices. He plans to start an in­tern­ship in one of the de­part­ments in the near fu­ture.

Be­fore com­ing to study in PKU, he ob­tained a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in eco­nom­ics at a uni­ver­sity in South Korea and worked in mar­ket­ing in Rus­sia for two years. He said that he wants to de­velop his ca­reer in China. “I be­lieve that China has a great fu­ture. It is be­com­ing a new Amer­ica, a new land of op­por­tu­ni­ties,” said Er­makov.

He thinks that the com­pany hired him be­cause of his knowl­edge of mar­ket­ing and his work ex­pe­ri­ence, as well as his abil­ity to speak four lan­guages in­clud­ing Chi­nese. He said that the ideal ca­reer path for him at HNA is to work as a mar­ket­ing spe­cial­ist, then a mar­ket­ing man­ager and even­tu­ally be trans­ferred to an over­seas brand­ing divi­sion to help with the over­seas op­er­a­tions.

Huang Ran, an HR staff of Power China Re­sources Lim­ited, who also at­tended the job fair, told Metropoli­tan that their com­pany is in great de­mand for for­eign grad­u­ates from Chi­nese uni­ver­si­ties and from the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive coun­tries who have a good knowl­edge of China and Chi­nese lan­guage. Their com­pany is in­volved in in­vest­ment and con­struc­tion of elec­tric power projects in South­east Asian and African coun­tries.

“Pre­vi­ously we hired lo­cal Chi­nese and sent them to for­eign coun­tries to do man­age­ment. Now in order to save costs and re­al­ize lo­cal­iza­tion, we pre­fer for­eign grad­u­ates in China who are from our tar­geted coun­tries,” said Huang. “On one hand, they can speak the lo­cal lan­guage. At the same time, they know about China and have mas­tered the Chi­nese lan­guage. So they can bet­ter play as a bridge be­tween the lo­cal staff and the Chi­nese lead­ers in man­age­ment.”

Last year, they hired a Pak­istani grad­u­ate from a uni­ver­sity in Shang­hai and sent the stu­dent to Pak­istan. The stu­dent per­formed very well and be­came a back­bone for the com­pany. This led them to the de­ci­sion to hire more stu­dents like him this year.

“In order to re­tain ap­pro­pri­ate peo­ple, we can pro­vide com­pet­i­tive pay and many op­por­tu­ni­ties for ca­reer de­vel­op­ment in­clud­ing train­ing,” said Huang.

Cheng said that based on their re­search, many in­ter­na­tional stu­dents are keenly look­ing to work in China. They are most needed by Chi­nese com­pa­nies that have over­seas com­pa­nies or want to ex­pand abroad, es­pe­cially in the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive coun­tries, as in the case of Huang’s com­pany.

No mat­ter if they are work­ing abroad or in China, they have an edge in at least one ex­per­tise such as in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy or bio­engi­neer­ing and at least two flu­ent lan­guages (a for­eign lan­guage and Chi­nese), he said.

Not that easy

Al­though there is an in­creas­ing need for for­eign grad­u­ates, they still face some chal­lenges for land­ing an ideal job due to lan­guage and cul­ture bar­ri­ers, fierce com­pe­ti­tion and pol­icy is­sues.

In Er­makov’s ex­pe­ri­ence, look­ing for a job was time con­sum­ing, and lack­ing in Chi­nese also made it more dif­fi­cult. He has tried var­i­ous routes such as vis­it­ing job fairs in Bei­jing, per­sonal con­nec­tions, LinkedIn, head­hunter’s web­sites and com­pa­nies’ web­sites. In one or two weeks, he had two to three in­ter­views.

“It was a pretty stress­ful time. Af­ter four months, fi­nally, I found a job in one of the big­gest MNCs (multi­na­tional com­pa­nies),” he said.

Er­makov also ad­mit­ted that one has to face fierce com­pe­ti­tion. As for the two po­si­tions he ap­plied for at HNA, they are also open to Chi­nese can­di­dates. “I think China needs more in­ter­na­tional tal­ents; how­ever, there is huge com­pe­ti­tion with fresh, lo­cal grad­u­ates who have ad­van­tages of hav­ing Chi­nese as a na­tive lan­guage, the ex­pe­ri­ence of study­ing abroad, no visa dif­fi­cul­ties and bet­ter knowl­edge of the lo­cal mar­ket,” said Er­makov.

Jeff Frey, co-founder of In­tern­sInBei­jing.com, said that there are cer­tainly more grad­u­ates than open po­si­tions for for­eign­ers, so it is a highly com­pet­i­tive mar­ket and some­times it is not easy to get em­ployed by a com­pany. “Many Chi­nese com­pa­nies still hes­i­tate to em­ploy for­eign­ers be­cause of cul­tural dif­fer­ences. Their main dis­ad­van­tage is a lack of cul­tural aware- ness. The work­ing cul­ture in China is dif­fer­ent than in other coun­tries,” said Frey

He said that it is also not easy to find a com­pany will­ing to hire for­eign­ers af­ter grad­u­a­tion as you need to have good per­sonal re­la­tions. One ma­jor chal­lenge is to find com­pa­nies of­fer­ing po­si­tions in China. There are only a few web­sites that help the grad­u­ates find such po­si­tions. “The Chi­nese web­sites are not very pop­u­lar among for­eign­ers and some also fo­cus more on Chi­nese can­di­dates. Once they ap­ply, they are also com­pet­ing with all the Chi­nese can­di­dates who, as men­tioned above, might have bet­ter guanxi with the em­ployer,” he said.

This Jan­uary, the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has eased the re­quire­ments on hav­ing two years of work­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for some for­eign grad­u­ates in order to keep more for­eign tal­ents upon grad­u­a­tion.

“Even with this new law, the com­pe­ti­tion re­mains fierce and also some com­pa­nies have not changed their re­quire­ments and still ask for the work ex­pe­ri­ence,” said Frey. “Be­sides, while the work ex­pe­ri­ence is not nec­es­sary any­more, other re­quire­ments came up such as the need for spe­cific cer­tifi­cates for dif­fer­ent jobs.”

Ravi Prasad, a Bri­ton who stud­ies pol­i­tics and in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions at Yench­ing Acad­emy of PKU with a fo­cus on the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive, is also con­sid­er­ing work­ing in China af­ter he grad­u­ates in 2018. Prasad did his un­der­grad­u­ate at Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity in eco­nom­ics and worked for Gold­man Sachs in Lon­don be­fore he came to China. He said that stu­dents’ be­ing waived of two years’ work ex­pe­ri­ence is a good pol­icy, al­though big­ger com­pa­nies with more ex­pe­ri­enced HR will have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the new pol­icy. He has also heard some com­pa­nies are still prac­tic­ing the old pol­icy.

Look­ing into the fu­ture

Li Tao, an HR man­ager of Te­bian Elec­tric Ap­pa­ra­tus (TBEA), a Chi­nese man­u­fac­turer of elec­tri­cal equip­ment that has over 70 di­vi­sions abroad, also came to the fair. At the last job fair, they re­ceived 150 re­sumes and em­ployed four grad­u­ates ma­jor­ing in en­gi­neer­ing.

“For them, job seek­ers’ com­pet­i­tive­ness, to some de­gree, is their Chi­ne­se­lan­guage level. No mat­ter whether they are sent to their home coun­try to work or work in China, they have to co­op­er­ate with a Chi­nese team, which re­quires the abil­ity to speak Chi­nese well. So Chi­nese lan­guage is the core of their com­pet­i­tive­ness,” said Li, who

has over 20 years’ work ex­pe­ri­ence in hu­man re­sources. Frey said that Chi­nese (at least HSK 4) is a must. Be­sides, most com­pa­nies ex­pect for­eign­ers to have work­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in their spe­cific field (also due to visa reg­u­la­tions). Also, hav­ing good per­sonal re­la­tion is im­por­tant. It’s im­por­tant to have a big net­work to bring ben­e­fits to the com­pany. Nowa­days, it is not only about bring­ing skills to a com­pany, but you need to bring your net­work to the com­pany as well. Chi­nese peo­ple who have lved in China their en­tire lives cer­tainly have a big­ger net­work than for­eign­ers who have only stud­ied in China for a few years,” he said. He added that in order to build such re­la­tions, one needs to ob­tain in­tern­ships and go to net­work­ing events while they are in school to strengthen their net­work, which will in­crease their chances of get­ting em­ployed. Last but not the least, they should start their job hunt early, as their visa will ex­pire soon af­ter grad­u­a­tion and they need to get em­ployed im­me­di­ately af­ter grad­u­at­ing, said Frey. "Some ad­vice that I would give to other stu­dents would be to de­velop spe­cial skills such as lan­guage, IT and know­ing a niche mar­ket. Cre­ate con­nec­tions, use cre­ativ­ity and learn mod­ern tech­nolo­gies, get many in­tern­ships and con­nec­tions and al­ways look for new op­por­tu­ni­ties,” said Er­makov. Er­makov’s Chi­nese level is around HSK 4. Al­though it is his fourth lan­guage af­ter Rus­sian, English and Korean, he wishes to put more ef­fort into learn­ing Chi­nese. "How­ever, speak­ing flu­ent Chi­nese with­out prac­ti­cal skills is not the very best op­tion. I be­lieve that a worker must bring a real value to a com­pany. Still, I am plan­ning to take more Chi­nese lan­guage classes on week­ends to im­prove my Chi­nese be­cause it is es­sen­tial in a Chi­nese work en­vi­ron­ment,” he said.

Photo: Li Hao/GT

Send your tips, in­sights or pho­tos to or call our Ad­dress: The Global Times English Edi­tion, 2 Jin­tai Xilu, Chaoyang District, Bei­jing 100026. The Fourth Ca­reer Fair for In­ter­na­tional Stu­dents in China was held at Pek­ing Uni­ver­sity on Oc­to­ber 28.

Pho­tos: Li Hao/GT, cour­tesy of Nikita Er­makov

Stake­hold­ers say there is a high de­mand for jobs among for­eign grad­u­ates, and Chi­nese com­pa­nies with a strat­egy of ex­pand­ing abroad are also in a grow­ing need of for­eign grad­u­ates in China. Left: Nikita Er­makov, a sec­ond year mas­ter stu­dent at Pek­ing Uni­ver­sity.

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