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shanghai-expressway

After my first year teaching in China I knew I did not want to be an English teacher for the rest of my life. But I liked the experiences I had in China and hoped they would be valuable towards finding a job in the US or in China. Unfortunately I knew nothing about what sorts of jobs I should be applying to and so did not have much success when I looked and applied for jobs online. I stayed in China for another two years applying for jobs every month or two when the urge would come for me to move on from teaching English. These extra two years were very beneficial because I learned a lot more about living and working in China and my Chinese got a lot better, which was one of the main reasons I got the job I have now at our company in China.

What Type of Company to Apply To

I was looking for a job in a corporate setting in China but through a US company that would send me to China so that I could have a larger income than I may otherwise have had if I applied directly to a position in China (Chinese company or foreign). One of my relatives works in Human Resources and was able to give me some good advice on how to market my skills. He told me I should be applying at US companies (I was in the US at the time after my third year teaching in China) that were already in China or seeking to enter China.

I did a search on LinkedIn for small companies that were in Minnesota (I had applied to Target which sources product from China several times but never heard anything back from them), where I’m from, and had offices in China. I typed into the company search: “Minnsota China Companies”. It brought up a list of a couple dozen establishments. Some of them did not have much to do with China and only had the word China in the name for some other reason (like “China Buffet”). I read through each of the company descriptions on LinkedIn and then checked their websites to see which companies were SMEs (small and medium enterprises) that had an office in China and the US, which were not, and which were China Buffets so I could go to them afterwards. The “Contact Us” page is a good one for finding locations and e-mail addresses.

I next read through each company website to get enough of an idea of what it is each did (most companies that are foreign companies with an office or factory in China are in manufacturing). For me this was always hard because I was a Math and Writing major in college with no business background, and had never worked in a corporate setting and so words like logistics, sourcing, procurement, and quality control meant nothing to me, let alone all the acronyms. But with the power of Wikipedia it was not that difficult to figure out what these words and acronyms meant. Most people probably already know, but I didn’t.

How to Contact the Right Companies and What to Say

Once I knew what each company did I was able to write a tailored e-mail to them about how I could help them. I didn’t just tell them what I could do, but instead told them how I could benefit their company. Researching the company online for an hour before sending the e-mail will help with this. I attached a resume not only for their reading pleasure, but also so that they could learn more about me and contact me if they felt I had the skills and background necessary for an opening the company had. I sent out five e-mails to five different companies that had offices in Minnesota and only heard back from one of them. But this one was enough. I got the job because the China and US offices were having trouble communicating and they needed someone who could be the cultural bridge between the two offices (and within our own China office).

Why Applying for Jobs Is Lame

The reason I didn’t bother with looking for a position posted online is because I had heard and read online that most jobs are never posted anywhere and so the best way is to network or cold call companies. I’ve also had terrible luck with applying for jobs online and usually don’t hear back from the company. I have, however, had some great luck with finding Math and English tutoring jobs on Craigslist. I now know my company would grant an interview to people with the right skills and background, even if they just walked in the front door with no notice, so I can attest that this method works if the right person in the company reads what you’ve wrote for them and if what you’ve written is right for them.

Finding Similar Positions

Many of the problems we have at our offices have to do with communication. My company initially hired me to teach English to the workers within the company and later on take on a project management role, as well as help in other facets. Since beginning work here I have helped with recruiting (finding the right people for the job is very difficult where we are located for certain positions), translating documents, interpreting in interviews, training, and providing feedback to the team about their communications. Why I haven’t heard of other people in the same role I DO NOT KNOW! Many companies in China have similar communication problems. If you are looking for this kind of job and have a background similar to mine my advice is to find these SMEs with communication problems, market yourself to them, and be a cross cultural communicator.

We have a lot of people in the company in China who speak English well but it often is not a language barrier problem and more of a culture gap problem. A person wise in the ways of dealing with the Chinese cultural aspect of saving face, someone patient, friendly, and sensitive is important in helping complete tasks when communicating with people whose English skills are low.

If you have any questions about this post or where those China Buffets are located, please send me an e-mail at nick_at_chinalifefiles.com and I will reply to you as soon as I can.

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6 comments… add one
  • Jacky July 11, 2012, 12:33 pm

    I think the culture gap is a big problem in foreign company in China.

    • admin July 11, 2012, 9:49 pm

      I agree, Jacky. Most of the problems I see come from communication issues. In my experience, when the work load gets heavy, communication is often the first task to be made a low priority.

  • Leslie August 9, 2012, 6:12 am

    Small world! I did almost exactly the same thing. I taught at Jiaxing University in 2006-2007 and ended up staying in China for four years. I had a lot of different jobs, in advertising, consulting, corporate social responsibility, energy, and more.

    This is the first time I’ve visited your site, but I like what you’re doing. Very useful! Keep up the good work.

    Leslie

    • admin August 10, 2012, 12:01 am

      Hi Leslie, happy to hear from you. Your words are very encouraging to me. Have you been back to “The Xing” as I affectionately call it since you stopped working here? I bet it has changed a lot. I have a few colleagues who attended Jiaxing University, maybe you taught them.

      I enjoyed looking at your website and your current job sounds very interesting.

  • Simon August 25, 2013, 6:46 am

    Very interesting! Good post.

    • admin September 3, 2013, 8:52 am

      Hi Simon,

      I am glad you like it, and thanks for stopping in to say hello.

      -Nick

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