Foreign graduates struggling to land a job

Updated: 2016-08-01 14:39

By Song Jingyi(

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Néstor Matus, 26, one of numerous International students in China, just became an intern t a Beijing-based company. He feels very lucky; for foreigners, the language barrier makes applying for jobs an uphill task, and it’s worse if you don't have much experience.

“To find a job in Beijing is kind of hard, even though there are a lot of companies or International companies in Beijing, the company still prefer to hire local people.” said Néstor Matus, from Mexico, a foreign graduate from the Beijing Institute of Technology.

“My current boss interviewed me in person and tested my Chinese proficiency skills, then asked me about my working experience and family background.”

Matus’s experience is similar to that of many other foreign graduates currently looking for jobs in China. While previously their International status would put them at the top of the list of potential employees, nowadays, resting on country of origin gets them nowhere.

China’s global appeal

Tilak, an Indian graduate from Beijing, has been in China for two years, but still hasn’t found a decent job.

“China is the new superpower. So having any significant working experience here will always add to my long term career potentials,” Tialk recalled when asked why he still struggled to find work in China.

“In China, there are a lot of opportunities, because Chinese economy allows it. If I can get a job in China, it will be like having the whole package,” Néstor Matus said.

Michelle, from the US, has worked in marketing sales at a Beijing-based travel agency for four years. She attributes her interest in China to years of work experience in the country and a close observation of the world. “Comparative to the US, Beijing is much peaceful and changing all the time. People don’t push each other so hard,” Michelle said.

“Open to young people, more freedom and less stress, that’s why China males me stay here.” said Monica, who works in an English network after a six-month internship. She thinks highly of the China marketplace.

Staying is easier said than done

Monica, 27, from the US, just graduated from the Communication University of China with a masters degree in Journalism and Communication.

“There is not so much English media company recruitment information on the website, missing some good job opportunities. Each time, I email my CV and resume online directly but many times no response at all,” Monica said of her journey to find work.

“Another problem is that the policies make it really hard to get a job in China, that’ s something also restraint the companies to hire foreign people.” According to the Rules for the Administration of Employment of Foreigners in China, for a foreign graduate to get Z visa, two-year full-time related working experience is necessary, as well as a masters degree or higher degree.

“At the moment, it is impossible to get a job directly after graduation,” said Assem, from Kazakhstan, whose dream job is to teach foreigners Chinese. “This policy is unreasonable, we foreigners came to China for study, not for work, so how can we get the two-year working experience?”

She explained that to avoid this catch-22 trap, one needs to work for at least two years before arriving in China to pursue a degree.

Néstor Matus has the same dilemma. He thinks that if the visa policy was relaxed, a great many international students would opt to stay in China to work.

For Matus, this fact is a good enough reason for the Chinese authorities to raise the bar for foreigners. "Since there are too many Chinese. They have to protect the market and give Chinese students the chance to find good jobs after graduation first,” he said.

Despite the roadblocks, Monica thinks things are getting better for International students, albeit very slowly, and sees the series of new policies being released as an indication that the government is encouraging international students to stay.

How to stand out

“The first question my current boss asked me is “Do you have any certificate that proves you know Chinese,” Matus recalled.

“Chinese language proficiency is increasingly important in the job market, to the extent that it could be the difference between landing a job and being passed over for a somewhat less qualified,” said Eric Liu, a senior consultant at a Foreign HR company, which serves foreigners seeking work in China.

Matus also has the same feeling “In China it’s like if you don’t know Chinese, that’s no big problem. but if you know Chinese, it gives you a really big advantage,” he said.

Aside from language skills, having a connection or “guanxi” is important, Michelle told us, who found her current job in Beijing through a her Chinese friend’s contact. “It helps a lot to find a job and get things done in general. So you need do more kind of studies or internship in order to know where to look for your ideal job.”

Shang Weidong, a senior consultant at Jobsitechina, who has been seeking jobs for foreigners for more than eight years, said the perception that expats, particularly from western countries, could just walk into a job or career in China was now out of touch. Besides language skills and competence, the commitment to China was also crucial, that means willing to spend more than just one or two years in the country.

Fly my dream

“If a foreigner wants to stay in China, there must be some monetary incentive to stay,” said Matus. “Being like an English teacher in China, you can get by month like 10,000 RMB, just teaching English.”

When asked why he didn’t choose to be an English teacher, he bluntly said: “I’m not interested in that. I mean you see money, but I want to be looking career. That’s what I want.” Assem returned to Kazakhstan after going through the Chinese test held by the Confucius Institute. When asked if she would come back to China, she answered, firmly, “yes”.

“Since I am still young and single, I still spare a lot of time to travel, to study, to work abroad. I love China, I love teaching others Chinese, that’s my dream.”

Without two-year related working experience, it may be impossible for Néstor Matus to stay in China. For Matus, however, “that’s the end of the world, but I hope I can come back really fast, since I still have some businesses in China.”