If you’re a Chinese student in the UK, currently in your second year for example, you could be one an estimated 0.66m “returners” to China in 2017. Together with the graduates from Chinese universities, you’ll be one of seven million prospective jobseekers. So how can you prepare for this crowded market, and make sure you stand out?
National Day Crowds,the Bund, Shanghai Austronesian Expeditions via Compfight

To find out some of the answers to these questions, I went along to an talk about the Chinese job market organised by the British Council and the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services.

The speakers were  Mr. He Qingrong from Highway, a Chinese recruitment agency specialising in the Chinese market, Mr. Deng Jianxiu (the HR Director of Tencent), Ms. Piao Junhong who spoke about venture capitalism in China, and the British Council were also available for questions. You can see these speakers’ presentations here.  There was a question and answer session too, which I’ve (roughly) translated below:

How can Chinese students prepare for the job market back home?

By undertaking work experience, placements, volunteering and internships: any are good, but even better if you can do them in China (in your summer holidays for example).  Employers value local work experience.  This will help you to compete with Chinese students graduating from Chinese universities who have easier access to these. That said, UK based work experience is still valued. If you’re a one year Masters student, you would benefit from work based projects rather than theory based dissertations. Ideally you should link these to the industry you want to work in.

When you’re preparing an application, putting together a cover letter or writing a CV, identify what is unique about you, and what it is you want. Of course, tailor everything to the position and sector. Contact the Careers Service if you’d like some advice about this. Make use of Alumni social networks in China before you graduate. (Here’s the University of Brighton Alumni Association’s group on LinkedIn.)

Is there a peak time for recruitment?

The peak recruitment time in China is August / September (this can be challenging for Masters level students who are still completing their course).  There is a Chinese Careers Fair in March that tours the main ‘Tier 1’ cities (ie Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzen, Guangzhan).

How important are transferable / employability skills in China? If they are important which ones in particular?

These are valued: qualities like being passionate, a quick learner, critical thinking, entrepreneurship, innovation, idealism, creativity, interpersonal skills, communication, and “delivery capacity” ie a willingness to work very hard. Organisation and time management are taken for granted. The speakers also mentioned: being a top student, a scholarship holder, leader amongst peers, key member of a project, winner of professional contest.

How important is entrepreneurial thinking?

There was a lot of discussion of entrepreneurship (a Chinese venture capitalist specialist was present) and setting up a business was promoted as a good career for Chinese students coming home  – as the traditional job market is competitive. There was much talk of the growing consumer market available to entrepreneurs. But angel investors  are looking for businesses who have tested the domestic (Chinese) market with their idea / product so prospective entrepreneurs would need to have explored this.

Where do vacancies advertised?

One of the speakers has set up a company called Highway which is a recruitment agency for Chinese companies specialising in recruiting from overseas (eg Chinese students who have studied in UK). There are other agencies and these can be a good route for students overseas.

Is a UK degree valued?

Yes a UK brand is valued  but not over the quality of the candidate. The languages skills and broader horizons of students who have studied overseas are much valued. Specific subjects mentioned were business, management, economics (but this could be because of the nature of the panel and will not be representive of all sectors).

How do employers recognise diversity eg adjustments for disability?

My impression was employers will support individuals with a disability on a case by case basis rather than having a general policy in place.

How mobile will graduates have to be?

This depends on where you will be based / what you are looking for but most of the opportunities are in the Tiers 1 & 2 cities. So mobility is important if you live outside the main cities.

Are there opportunities in China for non-Chinese graduates?

Unless you have Chinese language  skills it will be much harder to compete in the same market as Chinese speakers– however UK students can apply through the British Council for work experience which can be a good opportunity to pick up some language skills.