She ran up to me as I was waiting for the elevator to come, a woman desperate for a quick chat with me. She was sent over to catch my name, my card and have a quick chat with me by someone from the American Embassy, who knew me well enough to do so. The woman wanted to know how to find a job in China, how to get to work in this huge city, just like many others this past year whom I have met. And that moment was the tipping point for me: if even the American Embassy people are sending their trailing spouses over to me for a chat, why not make money with this for me?…
It’s an interesting phenomenon; there are more than 300.000 expats in China, (forgive me if I don’t have the exact number) and more and more the trailing spouse who comes along wants to keep up with their career as they arrive here in China: they are just as well-educated people as their spouse who had a job first, but the trailing spouse chose to take a risk and come along to find a job upon arrival: ten points to Griffindor just for the courage to go job seeking in a completely new Country!
The challenges are manifold: the level of Chinese needed for a local Chinese job will take you to study Chinese for more than 3 years full time, and then what do you have? The ability to speak and write in Chinese, something the 20 million just graduated Chinese Students every year have as well… so it’s not worth the trouble if you stay here 4 years to go full out on Chinese, the Chinese conversation skill is very important, but you will never win on the Language side. ..
It then comes down to the experience side of things, which can be a bit of a disappointment for people: the skills you have used in your home country cannot be used here because you cannot get a local job without that same Chinese, and so your skill set just isn’t useful… so you have to step out of your Comfort Zone of skills, and see what else you can be of use: and it is here that a lot of people lose their mind: they go around network events as job hunters, with their ten plus years of work experience, and then they face a fellow foreign twenty something year old, with a job and an expat package you don’t have, and it’s just…tough!
But still, I would like to argue: everyone who is willing to find a meaningful job in China will find one within 6 months IF they use effort and step out of their comfort zone. I would like to emphasize a meaningful job: this could be sensible and intelligent volunteer service as well, as marketing specialist, business trainer, Guest Lecturer University, Board Advisor, Communication Manager, Counselor, business representative, etc… it’s all possible, and many people who have taken the opportunity to come here as trailing spouse have found jobs that brought them quicker into managerial positions than they would have done in their home country, because they have stepped out of that comfort zone and taken risks…
I have a passion to help people here find a job that suits them because 1. I like helping people get the best out of themselves 2. I cannot imagine anyone to just wanting to be a consuming trailing spouse doing lunches, golfing and manicures in a Country with 100 million people living on and below the poverty line….really? If you have brains, a reasonably healthy body, and then you want to help no one, but yourself? (I am not talking about the awesome task of being very ‘productive’ in raising a couple of brats, I’ve been there myself and its a great project as well!- but they grow children, really, and then what are you going to do?)
But for those job seekers: if trailing spouses get meaningful jobs that help build up China, I am a happy person.