Parents applaud new Shanghai graduate employment report
Published: Feb 03, 2016 06:23 PM

Shanghai Fabu (the city administration's social media) recently published, in cooperation with higher education institutions in Shanghai, an employment report on university graduates.

The information they have released includes the total number of graduates, the ratio of male to female, the number of students who went on to work, the number of students who chose to continue their studies and which industry or major they pursued.

This unprecedented report will be useful for prospective students and their parents in trying to decide which schools to apply to and which majors to study. Many families, especially those from working class backgrounds or living in rural regions, may not always have enough access to information. Official figures will certainly help guide them through such an important life decision.

Of course, when it comes to government stats, there will always be skeptics. My colleague Huang Lanlan, who has written an opposing viewpoint in the next column, is one such cynic. Based on some comments written by netizens, Lanlan believes that the government is colluding with universities to release inflated figures so as to entice students to enroll in these schools.

The fact is that universities in Shanghai, which are ranked as among the best in all of China and Asia, needn't exaggerate the outstanding performance of their students, most who go on to respectable careers and earn quite comfortable livings. Nor do they need to falsify their numbers to lure more applicants, as most of these elite schools already receive too many applications.

The same goes for companies. As a manager in Shanghai whose role includes hiring, I can attest that most businesses large and small prefer sustainable, long-term talent over ambitious newcomers who are more likely to continue seeking better job offers elsewhere. In other words, many HR admins choose NOT to hire from the top of the class because those types of high-achievers tend to make our job more difficult.

A friend of mine who also works in human resources once told me that as her Fortune 500 company has a manufacturing plant located in a third-tier city, she on many occasions has rejected applications from graduates of prestigious universities like Tsinghua or Fudan because she knows they will be less satisfied there. As such, she prefers to give jobs to graduates with less-perfect scores, who don't necessarily have their hearts set on a luxurious lifestyle in a world-class city such as Shanghai.

As has been reported in multiple news agencies in recent years, Chinese university graduates have been facing an ever-rising unemployment rate. The bleak stats reflect China's rapidly growing number of university students as well as a slowdown in our economy. But it also reflects the overly high expectations new grads seem to have about their careers and salaries, with many literally choosing to remain unemployed rather than start at the bottom - like we used to do in the old days.

Meanwhile, graduates of less-prestigious universities and vocational schools seem to be doing just fine as far as finding work. Indeed, statistics released by Shanghai Institute of Technology, which claims a 99.27 percent employment rate for its graduates, reveals that 40 percent have gone on to grass-roots work units. It is a pragmatism that "tiger mothers" and their children could learn from.

Just as I do in HR, as a parent of a teen daughter I prefer to also take a "middle of the road" approach toward her life. Chinese students these days focus far too much on raw scores instead of actually learning something from what they study. Many students, coaxed by their overly ambitious parents, pursue majors that pay well but simply do not interest them, which ultimately leads to an unsatisfying life.

Therefore, rather than using this new report to just find the best schools and best-paying professions, we can use the information to help our children navigate AWAY from "the best" and find more average schools and majors that can ostensibly offer a student a less glamorous but more satisfying future.