EVENT RECAP: Building Your Career: Expats & Returnees in the China Job Market
Last Thursday, Project Pengyou and the Beijing Center held an internship showcase and panel with expat business leaders at the UIBE Campus.
On Thursday, July 19, Project Pengyou and The Beijing Center welcomed students and professionals for an enlightening evening on forging a global career in China. The showcase featured presentations by interns on their roles in various organizations, a question and answer session with distinguished industry experts, and plenty of opportunities to connect with the international community in Beijing, accompanied by tasty tacos from Palms LA. The panel discussion was led by the Executive Director of The Beijing Center, Dr. Simon Woo. Our distinguished guest speakers included:
- Maggie Fu– Leader of the Client Relations Management Team at Beijing United Family Hospital (BJU)
- James Lalonde– CEO of yoli, a WeChat-based language learning platform, and co-founder, investor and board member of Yodo1, a leading independent mobile phone gaming platform
- Demi Meng– Co-founder of iVReal Mixed Reality and Venture Partner in New Frontier Investments
- Peter Zysk– Co-leader of Brunswick Insight’s Asia practice, which provides opinion research and analytics for business-critical decisions
Whether you have your sights set on establishing roots in China or a career elsewhere, the insights gleaned from the panel are pertinent in today’s increasingly globalized job market. Some key highlights:
Differentiate Yourself Through Your Skillset
Amongst a pool of large, similarly qualified job applicants, it can be a struggle to stand out as a candidate. By taking initiative and diversifying your portfolio, you can create more career opportunities for yourself. This means being able to find skills that are applicable to your field no matter where you work. For example, knowledge of different languages and programming are skills that are widely relevant and in demand. While there is a general consensus that the job market is becoming more competitive due to the growing pool of graduates from both overseas and locally, there’s also room for creativity. James Lalonde asserts that you are no longer limited to ‘traditional’ professions like being an accountant or engineer, but are free to choose your own path.
Finding your niche in your field involves specializing in a skill, but also predicting future trends. For this reason, it is important to keep abreast of developments in your field that will remain relevant five years from now. According to Peter Zysk, applying this foresight in China means identifying the gaps in the market that need to be filled. This means looking for fields where the demand for labor outstrips supply- as is the case in the education, engineering, and finance sectors.
Capitalize on the unique learning experiences offered in China. Many expats have been able to market the skills they acquired here to firms and organizations in their home country. James recounts that an acquaintance transferred from working for WeChat in China to a successful career at Facebook upon his return to the United States. While many people have successfully leveraged their training overseas in the Chinese market, the converse is also occurring due to growing innovation in Chinese firms.
Communication Facilitates Building Relationships
With a new country comes new customs and practices that takes time to become accustomed to. Although overseas education or training is highly valued in China, book learning is no substitute for real world experience when it comes to learning the local language or culture. In particular, Chinese culture takes a different approach to socialization. For Demi, socializing in China emphasizes reciprocal relationships, and remembering “what you want to get” out of the connections you make with people. However, every company or organization will also have its own distinctive culture. Maggie Fu emphasizes the importance of being able to enjoy the culture of your workplace, as it is an essential determinant of your capability with the company.
Despite the differences in cultural conventions of behavior, the general principle for successful communication remains constant. Maggie states that her organization values candidates who convey positivity in their messaging. Making the other party feel at ease is pertinent to communication across all cultures. Finally, keeping a humble attitude enables you to learn from the real world experiences of others. As long as you’re daring to learn, you can gain plenty of insight from the successes and perhaps more importantly, the failures of others.
We’d like to thank our co-organizer, The Beijing Center, for making this event possible, our Project Pengyou team and volunteers for helping with setting up, our speakers for their personal insights in careers in China, and all of the guests who attended the internship showcase and panel. We hope to see you and new Pengyous at future events!
The Beijing Center (TBC) is a center of higher education in Mainland China committed to fostering mutual understanding between China and other cultures through cultural exchange, education and research. What makes us unique is our placement in a long and storied tradition of Jesuit education, one that teaches us that true cultural engagement starts first with friendship. TBC offers immersive semester, year-long and summer programs that bring on average 100 students to China per year, with over 1,500+ alumni. TBC brings another 300+ students per year to China through its short-term programs division ChinaContact. In addition, TBC maintains a research library with over 25,000 volumes in English, including rare books and maps, and hosts conferences, guest lectures and seminars. 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of The Beijing Center in China and we look forward to the next 20 years of TBC developing and continuing our mission of inter-cultural educational exchange and friendship in China.
Project Pengyou (“Pengyou” means friend in Mandarin Chinese) is a flagship initiative of the Golden Bridges Foundation that fosters U.S.-China youth leadership. Project Pengyou’s mission is to empower and mobilize a rising generation of U.S.-China bridgebuilders to bring about a world that embraces diverse cultures and shared humanity. Conceived in 2011 as a public-private partnership with the State Department to build a global community of Americans with firsthand China experience, Project Pengyou has since trained over 200 youth leaders and launched over 80 Project Pengyou campus chapters across the United States to empower young Americans and Chinese to serve as active U.S.-China bridge-builders. Backed by funding from the Ford Foundation, Project Pengyou chapters organize events and national U.S.-China youth campaigns, with a growing footprint in coastal and interior states, including New York, California, Kentucky, and Iowa. In addition, Project Pengyou maintains a dynamic online resource hub with over 7,000 members, and hundreds of China related jobs, events and exchange programs.