Trying to find a job in Shanghai? It can be pretty tough to navigate the job market in any foreign country. Here we've rounded up our top tips for networking and finding a job in this town.
Before You Start...
We've asked Sarah Jones, head of operations for Antal International Asia, to offer us some insight on how to get a job in China. Check out her advice below.
Is a university degree important?
With the rapid development of the Chinese economy, finding a job shouldn't be too hard. However, it's important to be aware that with the influx of foreign job seekers in the past few years, the competition is becoming more intense. I've heard of some people who found a job in China without holding any degree. There are plenty of English teaching jobs available all over the country, most of them relatively well paid. If you are here for an experience abroad or to discover a new culture, then finding a job to make a living in China should not be a hard thing. But if you are looking for a career, Chinese and foreign recruiters in China attach a great deal of importance to degrees and often consider it as a proven record to be combined with work experience.
Do I need to speak Chinese?
Chinese is not the working language in the vast majority of foreign companies based in Shanghai. However, depending on the position you are seeking, it may be an important element. For example, if you are doing sales or marketing, speaking to Chinese customers and understanding the Chinese consumer market will be central to your work, and will require you to speak and understand a bit of Chinese. Learning some Chinese beforehand will not only be helpful for your everyday life in China, but will surely prove your interest and motivation about Chinese culture; this is an essential element to adapt and succeed in a country that remains very attached to its traditions and values. Chinese language on a CV is an important asset that most employers regard as a proof of commitment to China and a motivation to live in the country.
What kinds of jobs are in high demand in China?
The entire job market is booming. Antal Global Snapshot, a regular survey of hiring and firing trends in the world’s key markets (to see the latest survey results, please visit: www.snapshot.antal.com), reveals that China’s luxury goods industry is the strongest sector in terms of recruitment, with 91% of local companies hiring at the professional and managerial level. Other similarly active areas within China’s employment market at present are business services, accounting, consulting and the fashion industry. E-commerce and social media are also in high demand.
What industries are the hardest to get into?
There are no industries closed to foreign candidates. Hiring is booming in all industries and the latest edition of Antal Global Snapshot shows that 71% of companies in China are planning to recruit at professional and managerial levels over the next three months.
How about work visa issues for foreigners?
Many of the 20-somethings either have tourist or business-meeting visas that are good for a year, but require holders to leave the country every two or three months to be renewed—a requirement aimed at preventing visitors from settling down and taking jobs without the proper work visa. The recent implementation of the new Social Insurance law for foreigners in China (mandatory and costly for companies and employees), is an additional reason for employers to hire a local rather than a foreign employee. The best advice I would give to foreigners planning on coming to China to find a job would be to start job hunting way before their arrival, to get a maximum of interviews booked, or even to have a first round of interviews over Skype in your home country. Then, secure a job within the 30 days. Another good idea would be to enroll in a six month language course in one of the city's numerous universities, so you arrive with a long-stay visa, leaving you enough time to settle down and search for that perfect job.
Once you are in Shanghai, how can you find a job?
1. Expand your Network
What is networking? It is an event where a bunch of people gather together to make connections and mingle. In a city like Shanghai, networking events are a good way to build connections for business and career opportunities. Here are some of the best networking events in Shanghai.
Best for Serious Job Hunters:
Fortune Connection Club, a powerful global networking organization of nine years, is one of the best known names in Shanghai. It is also one of the most serious and high-level networking event with different industry specific gatherings held at different hotels every month. Usually you receive a coloured name tag sticker at the door indicating your professional background or interest. For example, orange indicates you are interested in business to make more business contacts, green indicates you are interested in making friends. They charge between RMB100-140 for members and RMB140-240 for non-members, which usually includes a drink and finger food.
Shanghai Connector, a marketing and communications company, also hosts weekly networking events at different bars and restaurants in Shanghai featuring a “young professionals series” with 30-200 guests at each event. Sometimes they invite guest speakers to the event. They charge from RMB50 to RMB120 as an entrance fee, which includes a drink and finger food.
Best for New Kids in Town:
OK, Deal! Club
OK, Deal! Club, another familiar name in Shanghai's networking scene, also organizes business mixers at different locations in Shanghai on a regular basis. Each event attracts around 100 Chinese and foreign young professionals. It's a more relaxed environment for networking. Usually they charge between RMB100-150, which includes a drink.
Shanghai Expat Mixer
Shanghai Expat Mixer, a weekly Wednesday night social event hosted by Shanghai Expat, has been in Shanghai for six years. It is a causal networking event for expats to get together and meet people. They change the venue every 4-5 months and manage to get good drink deals with the bar without charging any cover. That's also why it attracts 50-100 foreign and Chinese business professionals every week. The current venue is Soniksky.
Best for Entrepreneurs:
NextStep hosts entrepreneurial events that focus on helping business and industry leaders take that "next step." Every two or three weeks on a Tuesday, they bring speakers from all backgrounds to share their stories and knowledge. Presenters range from serial investors such as Marc van der Chijs to more local entrepreneurs who are just sprouting their businesses here in Shanghai. Each event attracts 75 to 125 professionals in their late 20s and 30s who are in the process of starting their own ventures or are thinking about doing so. They don't charge cover, nor do they offer special drinks. Usually people can just show up and network in an "un-networking" environment.
Best for Expatriate Professional Women:
The Expatriate Professional Women’s Society is a non-profit organization who helps create bridges between working women in Shanghai. Through weekly events featuring professional leaders, such as breakfasts, lunches, mixers or panels of discussion, they help business women share experiences and professional contacts. The events take place at different restaurants and cafes in Shanghai with a RMB150-200 entry fee, including canapés and drinks.
Best for Just Making Friends:
Launched in Shanghai in 2008, BEAN is a charity organization for young professionals. Their events combine charity work and meeting new people together. Their monthly networking night (free entry), featuring documentary films, usually attracts 50 people aged between 25 to 35 with half of them local and half foreigners. They usually rotate the venue so members get to try different drinks at new places.
Best for Creatives and Media:
Yolk Card Swap
Feeling intimidated by a room full of strangers? The Yolk Card Swapping event may be more suitable for you. This gathering arranges 40 to 60 people to stand in two long lines, facing each other and everyone is rotated to swap business cards and talk for one minute. This way, you don't need to make any effort to approach anyone, but you get to meet lots of people in a short amount of time. Some of the events are open to all industries and some are for certain industries such as creative and media industries. Yolk attracts a good mix of both local and international young professionals due to its friendly atmosphere and reasonable price. The monthly event usually takes place on a Tuesday night with RMB100 entry fee including a drink and appetizers. Since some preparation is required from organizers, it helps if you RSVP at email@example.com.
Best for your Fellow Expats:
Connecting with expats from your home country is another effective way of finding out about job opportunities in Shanghai. Most Chamber of Commerce organizations in Shanghai throw their own weekly mixers for members. Check out some of the more active groups below.
American Chamber of Commerce
Canadian Chamber of Commerce
French Chamber of Commerce
British Chamber of Commerce
German Chamber of Commerce
Spanish Chamber of Commerce
2. Know Where to Search Online
Besides networking and references from your connections, online websites are a more direct way for serious job hunters to find their new career. We've listed some good job websites below. While these websites offer comprehensive job listings, they also differ from each other in the types of jobs offered.
3. Have Your Job Find You
If you are not actively looking for a job but open for better career opportunities, getting in touch with recruitment companies might be a good choice, especially for management level jobs. Besides well-known social network websites such as LinkedIn, here are some good headhunting companies:
Best for Legal Talents:
Best for Management Talents:
Wang Li & Asia Resources
Best Positions at Multinational Companies: