How to find a job in China offline

how to find a job in china

How to find a job in China? Finding a job in China as a foreigner can sometimes be hard but as long as you have the right approach and attitude to finding a job, it will just be a matter of time before a good company snaps you up!

The most logical step to get started is to search through online job boards or connect with HR recruiters. But for those looking to bypass the competitive online job market- and especially for those with less experience to offer on their resume – this article looks at four inside tips to hack the China job market with an off-line approach.


1) On-the-ground

The basic pre-requisite for finding a job in China off-line is taking the initial step to base yourself in China. Unless you are physically on-the-ground in China, you naturally limit your job opportunities to the battlefield of competitive online job boards. Finding a good job in China however is not as simple as it was in the past. A major barrier these days is the difficult visa situation for foreigners. Foreigners must have a visa to visit China and traditionally holiday visas were your ticket to spending up to 90 days in China with in-country renewals. The situation has since changed as holiday visas now only cover 30 days with extensions on the Mainland and in Hong Kong difficult without a detailed travel itinerary. However, to find the right job and to develop a network of professional contacts that will convert into an employment outcome normally requires at least 5-10 weeks.

For this reason, I would strongly recommend looking at studying at a private language school; as these programs are flexible in terms of hours and can assist with visa support for 90-180 days depending on the school. I would also avert from enrolling in a university program as the universities tend to be based outside the downtown business centre of Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai. Instead, finding a small language program in the heart of the city will provide you with easy access to networking events and the business community. You will also find that many of your classmates at the private schools will be full-time professionals, travelling spouses, or interns, and therefore much more connected to the professional and business community than the student hive of Wudaokou.

Another option to ease yourself into China is a university or business school study tour which will help you to map out suitable companies operating in China, kick-start your professional network and gain feedback on the skills in demand or opportunities available in the market.


2) Smart Networking

Working for a Chamber of Commerce I have witnessed different approaches to networking in Beijing. While name-card swapping is often approached with the alacrity of a national sport by Chinese attendees, I always recommend foreign job seekers to opt for a more patient approach. There’s still no substitute for getting to know people.

However, the biggest mistake I see with zealous job seekers is that they take a very direct approach to networking. Take a law grad as an example. They will intuitively work the room until they find the right contact working for a top tier law firm. From there, they will work hard to impress the other person and drop less than subtle hints about their job aspirations. While this is certainly one method, this approach can sometimes put the other person on the back foot and there is no guarantee you will receive a follow-up email from your polite request to catch up for coffee the week after.

Instead, I advise job seekers to take on a more indirect approach to networking. Rather than waste time hunting out the right people in the room and risking rejection with a cold approach or an awkward conversation starter, instead start working the room for introductions. Create a situation where you are introduced personally to your potential employer by a third person.

First get to know the event host/s. At chamber events the most important people to build initial rapport with are the General Manager and Relationships Manager as they will know the room better than anyone else. Chatting with the host is usually straightforward as they are typically keen to assist, approachable and avid to introduce you to others as they too work the room. The host will also be able to point out the right people in the room or introduce you to attendees – or maybe even non-attendees – seeking to fill a position.

Personal introductions are highly effective for several reasons. Firstly, you avoid an uncomfortable cold approach, or awkwardly standing to the side waiting to break into a conversation. Secondly, a personal introduction provides a valuable endorsement from the third person introducing you. A quality introduction should also establish the fact that you are looking for employment opportunities and hopefully even highlight your suitability or personal strengths such as language skills. Finally, an introduction will compel the introduced contact to take an active interest in you; as a mark of respect to the introducer.

While the host will normally be your first choice for introductions, you can still work the room to manage introductions and endorsements from other guests. The key is to build rapport with someone first before asking for an introduction; this leads us on to the next tip.


3) Make Friends

Moving to China by yourself can be a daunting experience and networking events can easily turn into an expensive and demoralising pursuit without immediate outcomes. It’s therefore worthwhile complimenting your networking calendar by participating in social clubs, and joining sporting associations and other organisations. These groups also offer a valuable and more casual networking platform.

Finding genuine friends in China is vital not only as a support network but also professionally. One of the biggest recommendations I can make for those new to town and participating in clubs or attending networking events is to seek out people you genuinely get along well with and enjoy spending time with. Regardless of their occupation and its relevance to your career ambitions, finding a friend from a networking event or football match is not only going to help you integrate and enjoy your time in China, but will also open you up to a whole new network of relevant contacts. For example, if you are looking for a job with an engineering company and you meet a nice German guy playing in your football team and working in finance, chances are that he will be able to put you in touch with his clients or friends at Siemens, Volkswagen or other companies. Again, don’t underestimate the power of a personal endorsement.


4) Internships

Internships in China are the most common avenue for young people finding a good job in China. Many companies in China leverage an internship program as talent identification and are willing to overlook inexperience to hire proven talent.

Internships are generally much easier to secure than full-time employment but the most difficult barrier is again the visa hurdle. A holiday visa is technically not intended for internship purposes and Hong Kong is now cracking down on those making a visa run to extend their internship. In certain cases, interns in the Mainland flying to Hong Kong for a holiday visa multiple times are only receiving 7-14 day visas. Unfortunately, companies rarely sponsor foreign interns due to the leg-work and compliance issues involved. Therefore, your best bet is to again go through a private language school for a visa or if you are studying in China under a student visa at a university, use your summer holiday between semesters.

Finding an internship once you have adequate visa support is not difficult and foreign companies are in desperate need for competent young foreign talent. You can find internships in a variety of ways including networking events, friend referrals, online job sites and even a cold email. The key though is identifying the appropriate intern host. For example, while China Policy in Beijing offers an excellent and rewarding internship program, the overwhelming majority of their interns will not be offered a full-time position due to the modest size of the firm. A larger firm such as Weber Shandwick in Beijing though does have a proven track record in hiring interns and is a better long term choice.

You might also want to resist the temptation to intern for a renowned company downsizing their staff numbers. For example, Siemens in Beijing does run an internship program but the company is also restructuring, making it unlikely for internships to lead to full-time employment. You can normally gauge a company’s hiring demands by asking around, checking how often the company posts new positions on their website or hints from an actual interview with the company.

In addition, you should also look out for internship hosts who can act as multipliers. A chamber of commerce is an ideal multiplier because after a three month internship the chamber may be able to refer you on to a member company or a Board Director’s company. Government trade commissions are another good example. While government internships rarely lead on to full-time employment, your supervisor and colleagues should be well-placed to refer you on to other companies they work closely with in the private sector. The key of course is to work hard and assure your internship host that you are committed and willing to learn so that they can feel confident in referring you on to another employer.

Finally, internship experience in China significantly adds to your China resume and job prospects, and a reference letter from an employer in China will go a long way to helping you find your first break in China.


Finding employment in China is by no means straightforward – especially for recent graduates – but for those with the right attitude, approach and appropriate visa support there are endless opportunities from taking the offline approach. Personally, it was an introduction to my current employer at a networking event in Beijing that led to an initial internship opportunity and ultimately full-time employment. This is a common career trajectory for many young expats in China and certainly a solid option to consider for those keen on kick-starting their career in China.


Oliver Theobald works in Beijing with a Chamber of Commerce and is a Co-Founder of Asia Options, which helps students with free advice on study, scholarship, work, internship and leadership opportunities in Asia.
















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