So, you’ve decided to go and work in China.
If you’re open minded and ready to live a life that’s very different to the one you have in your own country, then you won’t regret the decision.
China is strange, infuriating, frustrating, amazing, eye-opening and delicious all at once (trust me – I’ve lived and worked there!).
You’ll make memories that will be the most precious ones you have and gain experiences that will keep you in beers at the bar for a lifetime.
But choosing to move to China for work isn’t always easy, which is why you probably need a little help getting your dream job in this country.
So here’s my guide on how to find a job in China.
(Note: If you’re currently outside China, you may not be able to get a work visa due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can check with your nearest consulate and/or foreign affairs department for entry and exit requirements.)
1. Use your networks
One of the most effective ways to find a job in China is by using your existing networks.
This will allow you to make a more personal connection with a company or person in China, which will make them more likely to hire you.
Start with the organization you work with back home. They may have a branch in China or do work with a similar company there. This is a good way to advance your career without getting too far off your chosen career path.
Staying with the same employer has big benefits like maintaining your existing entitlements, such as health insurance and annual leave. Some companies will cover all or part of your relocation expenses, or even help you find a place to live in.
If your workplace can’t help, then look through your personal network.
Have a think about your friends, their friends, old work acquaintances, people you play sport with, social media contacts, and so on. Don’t leave any stone unturned.
There’s a concept in China called ‘guanxi’. This refers to the idea that people do something for someone else with the expectation that the favor will be reciprocated one day.
So, do you have any Chinese friends you could tap into?
If you don’t have these connections yourself, you might know someone who does. Ask amongst your business and personal networks for anyone who has strong ties in China. It doesn’t have to be business ties – even family ties can get you very far in China.
Let your network know you’re wanting to find a job in China. You could even give out your resume to anyone who seems likely to have connections there.
They just might pass it on to someone who owes them and will hire you on the strength of that promise (and your ability, of course!).
2. Consider an internship
Exhausted your networks?
Internships are a good way to get started in China, make connections, and see if working there is everything you thought it would be.
However, because internships are all about getting your foot in the door, don’t expect to make money.
In fact, getting a legal F Visa for internships in China means that you won’t be paid a salary. But you will receive a stipend and other benefits like free housing.
Some programs will require you to cough up a large sum of money just to get into the program. So, it pays to do your research.
There are a huge range of great internships in China that you can try. Some leading providers include:
If you’re trying to narrow down your options, here’s what to look for and do:
Read them, but don’t make your decision based solely on them. Instead, look for key themes and issues that come up again and again because they will probably indicate challenges that you will have to deal with too.
You don’t want fine print or hidden fees attached to your internship. So, if you struggle to find the costs or program details, move onto the next choice.
The best internships guide you along the whole journey, from actually doing the work to using it to boost your resume. So, look for internships that offer a lot of resources where you can study about the most effective ways to get the most from your experience.
Many internships partner with other organizations. So, if you find an internship that’s partnered with well-respected companies or organizations, the internship will look good on your resume.
Lots of support
Moving to and working in another country, especially China, can be challenging. That’s why you’re considering an internship, right?
A good internship should offer plenty of support, so make sure you get it even when you’re in the information-gathering stage. If you email a provider asking for details and they don’t get back to you for a week, it could be a sign that you’ll probably have problems contacting them during crises as well.
Best-case scenario is that you find an internship that everyone wants to be part of. This means the internship is worthwhile and will impress future employers when they see it on your resume.
If you do decide to go with an internship, don’t waste the opportunity. Don’t fall into the trap of partying your way around the city or constantly traveling on the weekends.
Instead, look at the time as a chance to get ahead. Work hard and make connections. This is the best way to ensure that you’ll be able to get a full-time job at the end of it.
3. Use job boards
Perhaps you’re well into your career or the thought of working for free (i.e. an internship) makes your skin crawl.
If this sounds like you, then it’s time to start browsing online job boards. There are countless jobs available in China on the internet these days – you just need to know where to look.
English job sites that specialize in China
Try some of the following websites dedicated to China for great resources and hopefully your next job:
Job search engines
These generalist sites often aggregate (combine) jobs from other sites, saving you time:
Be mindful that some of these sites may require you to login via your Google or Facebook account. This means you’re granting them access to some aspects of your account.
And, don’t forget about LinkedIn! It’s one of the biggest professional networking sites in the world and has plenty of job vacancies in China.
If you’re a whiz at Mandarin, check out these leading Chinese job sites:
4. Get help from a specialist recruiter
If you want one-on-one support then reach out to a China recruiter directly.
They’re great because they have a direct line to employers, can help match you with the best jobs, and even recommend you for a job before it’s been advertised.
A China-based recruiter will know the kinds of benefits and salaries that are available to expats. Many can also help with the legal work visa (the Z visa) or at least point you in the right direction.
And, because they get a commission from the employer on a successful hire, if you’re an outstanding candidate they will really look after you throughout the entire process.
Some of the best recruitment agencies include:
- Foreign HR – full-service foreign talent recruitment and headhunting
- Spring Professional – specializes in mid to senior level recruitment
- Hays – one of the leading specialist recruitment companies in China.
You can find more China recruitment agencies here.
5. Use teaching as a stepping stone
Teaching English is one of the most popular options for foreigners looking for work in China. In particular, it’s one of the most popular jobs in China for Americans.
Why? There are literally thousands of schools in China all wanting English teachers.
They prefer native speakers than Chinese locals who can speak English. So, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a position that suits your needs.
Teaching in China is a good way to test out the environment and to earn some money while you’re on the ground and looking for other opportunities.
Or, you may find that you love the teaching lifestyle and you keep doing it.
If you do want to move on from teaching, just be aware that you’ll need to complete a one-year contract (but in reality can be as little as 10 months as you may not work during the holidays).
Some of the best sites to check out for teaching positions include:
- ESL Cafe – one of the most-well known teaching job boards
- Gold Star TEFL Recruitment – has lots of schools in their network
- Opportunity China – recruiter based in the UK
- Hello Teacher! – specializes in recruiting Australians and New Zealanders.
You can browse through an even longer list of China teacher recruitment agencies here.
6. Go to China
This one may not suit everyone as there is some risk involved.
But if you’re a go-getter and willing to risk a little bit of money on flights and accommodation, you could visit China on a tourist visa and then look for work.
I’m not suggesting you work on a tourist visa – that’s illegal. Instead, you simply go and visit some workplaces that interest you.
See also: Types of visas for China
Ideally, you would arrange some in-person meetings before you leave, and in between checking out some of China’s awesome sights, go and have a chat with them.
You’ll get a much better feel about your potential boss, the location, and even the work culture by visiting in person.
If you get offered a job and have already packed up things at home, all you need to do is leave mainland China, get your work visa sorted, and re-enter.
So, you could go to Hong Kong to do this as it isn’t counted as mainland China. Flights from most Chinese cities to Hong Kong are fairly cheap (you can check flight prices here).
Like I said, there is a bit of risk involved and it involves some organization and planning. But it could pay off tremendously, landing you the dream job in China you’ve always wanted.
Similarly, it could weed out bad employers and you’ll be thanking your lucky stars you didn’t accept the dodgy job while in your own country.
7. Get on the apps
The Chinese use WeChat for practically everything, and this includes work.
Chinese recruiters will give you their WeChat ID in a heartbeat. Having discussions about jobs over the app is perfectly normal.
Make sure your public feed is professional and there’s nothing there that could prevent you from getting to interview stage.
WeChat groups are another great way of building your job networks in China. You can even narrow it down to the province or city you want to work in.
See also: Popular apps in China
8. Put your best foot forward
You need more than just a place to find jobs in China.
You need to know how to apply and how to wow them at the interview. Luckily, the procedure for job applications is fairly similar to what you’ve probably been through in your own country.
It all starts with the application, which should take the following form:
- Short cover letter that highlights your experience and qualifications, and why you’re the ideal candidate for the job
- Two or three-page resume that lays out the facts and doesn’t contain exaggerations or bragging
- A copy of your degree and any other qualifications you have that may be relevant, keeping in mind that education is very important to Chinese employers.
If you’ve gone through this stage and received expressions of interest, the next stage will probably be a phone or video interview. Make sure you prepare as thoroughly for this as you would for an in-person interview.
Some of the questions and issues you should be prepared to answer are:
- Your motivation for applying for a job in China
- The skills and experience that make you the best candidate
- Why they should hire you rather than a local person
- How you’re preparing yourself for working in China
- If you have any Mandarin speaking skills
- Your experience living, traveling and working overseas.
Be honest but modest throughout your interview to ensure that you make a good impression.
And, always remember that there is a language barrier. Although the person you’re talking to may speak English quite well, some things can be missed over the phone.
It’s important to speak clearly and slowly (but still at a natural pace) for your best chance of success.
Chinese employment laws
Finally, while it’s not the purpose of this article, it’s worth noting that Chinese employment laws are different to the ones you might be used to.
For example, you may be unsuccessful in a job application for a reason that is unlawful in other countries, such as your background or skin color.
Chinese employers can be particularly selective when it comes to hiring foreigners of Chinese descent who can’t speak Mandarin.
Choose your job in China carefully
When you decide to move to China for work, you want a job that will benefit you in a number of ways.
You want it to stretch you as a person, to teach you about yourself and about your place in the world. You also want a job that will benefit the career you’ve chosen, and therefore your future.
Moving to China for work is a big move and you need to choose carefully. Hopefully the steps in this article help you make the right choices, and end up landing you that dream job.
If you have any of your own ideas, please share them in the comments below.
Liked my article on how to find a job in China? Then you might also like the one I wrote about what not to bring to China. It’s best to be prepared!
Main image credit: Igor Link on Pixabay.