On the hunt

By Chen Ximeng Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/2 16:23:39

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

The Fourth Career Fair for International Students in China was held at Peking University on October 28. Photo: Li Hao/GT

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.

Nikita Ermakov, a second year master student at Peking University. Photo: Courtesy of Nikita Ermakov

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 departments - 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 awareness. 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.

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. Photo: Li Hao/GT

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 Chinese-language 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 relations 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 lived 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.


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