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Finding work in China E-mail
City Life - Practical Tips
Written by David A. Dayton
I’ve had 4 people call me about working with SRI or information about new jobs elsewhere, two people talked with me about starting their own companies and a couple others talk with me about networking for other work options. I also met in the airport a new couple just moving over to SZ for new jobs. After the first couple of guys called, I realized that I should be collecting the ideas that I was sharing for a future post. Here is what I have been telling people about finding work here. First, if you want to work in China, you need to be in China.

I’ve heard that finding a new job is a full time job in and of itself.  I agree.  And how effective is working in China from the US or Europe?  Less effective, right.  So if you’re looking for work here you need to be here.

If you’re here you can talk with people that own companies, that are doing projects, that are employed by the companies you want to talk with—you see these people at church, at Starbucks, at the supermarkets, at the schools, at local pick-up ball games, etc.  You don’t’ meet these people at home in the US.

Plus, if you’re here you can start building your own network of factories and friends and resources for your own future business success.  I know more than one guy that had one small project from a neighbor or friend back home and work that first and then another little project and another and pretty soon was doing multiple jobs a month—“pretty soon” is certainly relative; I think it means “a year or so.”

Second, Do you want to be in Asia or be in “x” profession?

This is the question that I faced personally about 20 years ago.  I wanted to be in Asia more than I wanted to do any specific job.  I did grad work in Thailand and started working there in ‘97.  I lost my job in ’98 when the economy crashed and had to rethink what I wanted to do.  I still wanted to be in Asia, so I left translating/consulting for oil and telecom companies in BKK to teaching 4th graders English in Taiwan?  Why? Because I wanted to learn more Chinese and stay in Asia.  I spent two years doing that.  Then I moved back to Thailand and eventually China with SRI.  It was certainly a different career path than some, but in difficult economic times, it was what I could do to achieve my long-term goals of working in Asia.  I don’t’ regret it for a moment.

Third, what’s the goal of work?  Make money or be happy?

In my book, work is for money and the rest of my life is to be spent pursuing happiness.  This doesn’t mean that I want a bad job that physically hurts me or doesn’t give me any time off.  But it does mean that I’ll do jobs (like teaching kids English) that in the short term really kind of suck but pay the bills and, most importantly, teach me skills and give me opportunities.  More than half the battle of success, I think, if being in the right place with the right skills AND being willing to jump into the opportunities when they arise.

Take a less than ideal job, learn, network, and pay the bills while you actively search for something else.  Then leave for something better when you get the chance.

Fourth, network, network, network.

No secret here. Talk with everyone. I’m amazed at how many people I meet at the airport or on a vacation home or playing ball that need something from China or know someone working in China.  And if you’re here, and going to the right spots, you’re going to meet even more.  Don’t be afraid to ask for business cards, interviews (for advice, not jobs) or introductions.  The worst that can happen is they can say no.

Fifth, Jump, but have a parachute.

When I left a good paying job for the chance to start up my own company I jumped in with both feet.  From the perspective of the first couple of years, the landing was rough.  But from a much longer perspective, it’s getting better all the time.  So keep your end goal in mind, even when the chips are down.

My parachute was a partner that reigned in my enthusiasm.  We worked great together because I wanted to jump after every opportunity and he couldn’t seem to quite get over the edge on anything that had much risk.  The balance, the give and take, made it both safer and more profitable for both of us.

Maybe your parachute is your parent’s basement apartment if it all goes south in 6-8 months.  Maybe you’ve got a client already that you can subsist with while you get other things going—I know that I lived on a credit card an $150 a month for more than a year when we started up.  Maybe it’s going back to school if you’re attempt doesn’t work out.  Just make sure you have that option to either stick it through on a shoestring or get out without hurting yourself or you family.

Remember any landing you can walk away form is a good one.  In this case, that means that if you learn something, don’t die or get divorced it was probably a good decision.

Sixth, pieces are as good as a whole.

Maybe you still think that you’ll get a single job and it will be the career your father had—same industry, maybe only one company change in 30 years.  Don’t count on it.  When I graduated from college in ’95 I was told to expect to change INDUSTRIES 5 or more times before I retired.  I’m sure that recent grads are told to expect even more than that today.

So take small jobs on the side, if it’s OK with your employer, and do things that you like or that you think will improve your stock for the future.  Maybe you’ll be translating for one company, teaching for another and managing projects for folks you know back home all at the same time.  Eventually one of these part-time gigs will turn into the real deal or will give you the contacts you need for a better job.

Click here to read Part 2 of "Finding Work in China"

David A. Dayton is the CEO of Silk Road International (SRI), an U.S.-owned and managed international procurement agency based in China. Click here to visit SRI's Website.

Our valuable Editor David A. Dayton has been with us since Monday, 02 November 2009.

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