Mayer Seidman (@mayerseidman), One of my readers, sent me this question:
“Do/Can Tech People From the US get a Job in China?”
( Twitter has become much more prominent Since I started sharing the content I read and not only the content I write )
I wrote about this subject almost a year ago here, but having lived in Beijing much longer now, I have better a perspective of how things work.
I do get requests from people looking for a job about once a month ,a while back I even created a jobs board trying to get the word out there, but it didn’t have the impact I was hoping for. In other words, it failed, I took it down.
I realized then, that the best job search is done on a word of mouth basis and personal introductions, also here in Beijing. No big news here I know, but it remains true.
Getting back to Mayers’ question: Yes, tech people from the US (or any foreign country for that matter) can get a job in China, the question is what position are you looking for.
I don’t know of a single foreign developer working for a Chinese company (Actually I knew only one such programmer, but he left the company by now), but I know a couple of freelancers in this field who work and build their business and reputation in China.
So, from my experience your chances of being hired as a developer are pretty small, unless you have a unique and required expertise. “Just” Knowing a programming language would probably not be enough. You are competing against many skilled Chinese developers who do excellent work and are playing in their home field. They will work better in a team with other Chinese and…well…speak Chinese.
If you are looking for other types of positions in a tech company there is room for foreigners to be hired. There are various openings for product managers, project managers, Business development and marketing people, (if the company is looking to sell to the international market).
It’s not easy though. It’s not that once you land in China, a headhunter says into his walkie-talkie: “We’ve just spotted a waiguoren (foreigner), let’s hire him!!”. It’s actually pretty hard. Everyone is thinking and talking about China today (guess why I started blogging about it….), as well as there being more competition from Ivy league returning Chinese students looking for a job who speak English and know both Western and Chinese culture.
My point is: open your mind for different kinds of jobs other than what you were initially looking for.
Another question I see a lot: Is it possible to be hired before you even get here?
This is exactly what I did before arriving to Beijing, I didn’t know anybody here. Networking from Israel and trying to be sent to China didn’t work (as all companies were looking for experience in China, which I didn’t have…). Networking took more than a year and then it took me a few more months to find a job in Beijing when still living in Israel.
I got a job that managed to pay the rent and basics. Not really the type of job you’d want to do your whole life, but a start.
So yes, finding a job from your home country is possible with two things to keep in mind:
1. It might take you longer than the alternative of coming to China jobless and then starting to network and search.
2. The type of jobs you can get will most likely not be the ones that pay a decent salary, but just a position to start with.
So, what you can do to network around Beijing?
1. Join a meetup – There are several meetups in Beijing around different subjects like: WordPress, developers, home brewers and many others. I invite you to join our entrepreneurs meetup group and introduce yourself at the Lean startup Beijing meetup.
2. Join the community – Beijing Commons are a great group of people doing community events around innovation and entrepreneurship. go to their quarterly Barcamp or TEDx. You can also join as a volunteer, that will speed up your network and help you to get to know more great people.
3. Join a workshop for the weekend. There are several events around the theme of “build your startup in a weekend”. Beijing Tech Hive is happening every 3 months and is good for building a team and even raise some seed fund if the right investor is around. There are other events every now and then, like: Lean startup Machine, 48hour startup, Startup weekend and 3 day startup. Follow those and look for the next event in Beijing.
4. I’m always looking to work with good people so if you are looking for an internship position while you are here, I’m more than willing to talk. So, get in touch on Facebook, Twitter or just contact me.
Also, if you have any more questions regarding entrepreneurship in general or entrepreneurship in China, ask your question over on Twitter, it might be beneficial to more people just like I was inspired to write this post because of Mayer Seidman‘s question (Thanks Mayer!)
Image credit by Kai Hendry