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FAQ Table of Contents (Last Updated 4/18/2016)
Why consider interning in China?
Why not? The first thing is that, your time in China is guaranteed to be the adventure of a lifetime. It's fast-changing, it's historic, and the food is great. And the really cool part? It can do great things for your career, too! You'll find adventure + travel + some of the world's best food + career acceleration. To us, it's a no-brainer, but here are some more reasons for you:
- China is the world's most dynamic economy and has been growing at a rate of almost 10% per year for the past 3 decades. Now, as China's central government attempts to "put the brakes" on economic growth, it is likely to slow down to an annual growth rate of 8%. Think about that for a moment- "slow" for China is still more than 4 times the growth rate predicted by the most optimistic economists in almost every western economy.
- By 2023, student loan debt in the US will exceed median annual income for college grads. Millenials are more educated and more indebted (quite literally) than any generation in the history of the world, and are quite rightfully turning to the cost of their college education with increasingly critical eyes. What does this have to do with China? We believe that internships overseas are one of the best way for students to learn how to thrive in this flattened, global economy. Classroom experience and theory are important, yes, but traditional forms of education are not nearly as cost-effective as they once were.
- China has a low cost of living! While the Cheap China Era might be coming to an end, cities in China remain far more affordable than their counterparts in the west. Even those living in Shanghai and Beijing, China's two most expensive cities (excluding Hong Kong) can live well for under two thousand US dollars a month.
How does the Chinese workplace differ from the western workplace?
To be sure, the Chinese workplace is different than what you are probably used to back home, and it will take some getting used to. The workday usually begins at 9AM and goes until 6PM, with an hour lunch. In some offices, the lunch hour actually stretches into two, and the afternoon siesta is very much a part of the culture.
Chinese companies are more likely than western companies to have a silo structure (meaning less cross-department communication) and conflicts and communicated are often handled indirectly, not head on.
In a traditional Chinese workplace, as in traditional society, hierarchy is everything. However, many of our partner companies at SmartIntern are actually owned and operated by foreign managers or returning overseas Chinese, meaning that they are highly likely to follow a western style of management that relies more on collaboration than dictates from the top-down.
There is a plethora of startups sprouting up throughout Shanghai, many of which feature all of the amenities that you would expect of a Bay Area startup. This means everything from a fully serviced kitchen to a recreation room with fun games like ping pong (yup!), table tennis, and foosball that you can play. The Chinese love their table tennis!
Is China safe?
China is overall a very safe country to live and work in. The rate of violent crime is much lower than in the US and parts of Europe, and many people report feeling safer walking the streets of major Chinese cities at night than they do in their home countries.
The most common crime in Shanghai is petty theft, with levels comparable to those of major world cities. If you are aware of your environment and take some basic precautions you should have no issues.
Typically, the biggest concern people have about China is pollution. While Shanghai does have days with high levels of pollution, they are nowhere near as frequent as in Beijing.
If you are interested in learning more about safety in China, please read this assessment from the United States Department of State.
What is Shanghai like?
It depends where in the city you are!
If you are in the French Concession, you might find Shanghai to be downright charming. Busy, bustling, and yes, a little bit dirty, the French Concession is what makes Shanghai such a special place for the SmartIntern team.
If you appreciate contrast, all you need to do is take the metro from Puxi (the area of Shanghai west of the Huangpu River) to Pudong (just east of the Huangpu). Pudong is Shanghai's financial district and is home to some of the world's largest skyscrapers. Standing in the middle of Pudong's financial district is a surreal experience. This is especially true on the weekends, when the financial district will be close to deserted.
Shanghai is a city where you can find it all: rooms for $300 a month and rooms for $3,000 a month; meals for two dollars and meals for two hundred dollars; ostentatious wealth counterbalanced by millions of migrants who have come to Shanghai seeking a better life for themselves and their families.
What kind of people do well in China?
Those who succeed working overseas in China tend to be sociable, communicative, and flexible. If you are a self-starter who likes to take on new tasks and responsibilities, and who enjoys exploring new professional and cultural settings, we want you! We update our internship offerings on a regular basis and can help you find an internship in nearly 20 different industries.
How can I apply?
You can take the first step to Shanghai by Applying Now. If we can't place you in an internship, we will refund your payment in full, so what is there to lose? Apply today!
What is all this talk about "exportable skills"?
We believe that, in order to thrive in this new economy, students and young professionals must be able to distinguish themselves from the pack and build a set of transferable skills that they use to create results in the workplace. China, more than any other country in the world right now, affords tremendous opportunities to do just this.
Working in China allows you to work above your level. While getting a job or an internship in China isn't easy (that's what we're here for!), there is a huge demand for western-educated students and young professionals in cities in China. Once you demonstrate your value to a company, there is a very strong chance that you will be working in a capacity far above what you would be in your home country. China's major cities are populated with 20-something general managers and managing directors who would likely be several rungs down the proverbial corporate ladder back home. Whether at a Fortune 500 company or a small to medium-size enterprise (SME), working in China offers opportunities that, at the very least, are guaranteed to be interesting.
This is not to say this is easy, or that moving to China is all it takes to become GM of a company or to learn to speak Mandarin Chinese fluently. What we firmly believe is that, if you want to position yourself to maximize opportunities and career success, China in 2014 is the place to do so. That said, we at SmartIntern strive to represent working in this country in the most accurate light possible, and part of that means telling it like it is.
Part of telling it like it is means that we have a duty to inform you that, while working in China is a fascinating experience, it isn't always easy. And it can be seriously stressful. If you haven't lived in a city of 20 million before, well, get ready! Truly, Shanghai and Beijing never sleep, and while this is mostly a very good thing (street noodles at 3AM? Don't mind if I do!) it brings with it challenges as well. You will learn how to communicate with people from a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives, and how to manage the inevitable stress that comes from living in a big city. You may be offered an allowance during your internship, but it will likely not be enough to cover all your expenses. It will help though, as a few RMB can go a long way, and your experience interning in China will pay dividends later in your career
The truth is that experience in China can accelerate your acquisition of skills (which we believe is of the utmost importance) and build your resume, but China experience alone is not going to convince a potential employer to hire you. It is equally important that you explain the skills you gained during your China internship, and demonstrate very clearly how they add value to your potential employer's company. In order to help our job-seeking participants understand how to pitch their China experience to potential employers when they return home, and to help our entrepreneurial participants understand how they can use their China experience to build a company of great value, we developed our Build Your Brand seminar. Every Smart Intern goes through this seminar, where we teach them the tricks, tips, and hacks that we have spent more than 12 years acquiring as we have navigated China's job market. Upon leaving our seminar, students are better prepared to create opportunities in our global economy, articulate and sell their experience in China, and find meaningful work, whether in their home countries or in China.
What kind of internship opportunities are available in China?
China provides a number of exciting opportunities for the aspiring careerists. Our two most popular internships are finance and marketing. In finance, we make placements in investment banking, private equity, wealth management, and tax and accounting. Finance internships are highly competitive though, and we are limited in the amount of candidates who can source internships for. This is especially true of investment banking and private equity internships - if you have no prior work experience and can't speak Chinese, then finding an internships in PE or IB will be challenging. Wealth management and accounting internships are more abundant and less competitive.
Marketing internships are also highly popular with our clients. Brandon and Mike, the founders of SmartIntern, both worked in marketing in Shanghai and are well-equipped to source a great marketing internship for you no matter what subset of marketing you are hoping to work in. Following are a few of the areas in marketing you might expect to work in in China:
-Social Media Marketing: Social Media Marketing involves using foreign platforms like Facebook and Twitter and domestic Chinese platforms like Weibo and Ren Ren Wang to build a brand's image and help them to acquire new customers.
-Paid Traffic: Paid traffic involves ad buys and pay per click advertising to drive visitors to a website, where they are then directed to take a specific action (i.e. sign up for a newsletter or buy a course).
-Brand Management: Brand Management is a common marketing position in larger companies like Nike and Proctor Gamble. Brand Management is the analysis and planning of how a brand is received in a market.
-SEO: SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of improving a website's rankings in Google. There is increasing demand for this skill as Google becomes more sophisticated, and you can take the skills learned at your internship to launch your own guest posting service company.
While Finance and Marketing Internships are the most popular, we have made placements in literally dozens of sectors, from psychology to technology. After nearly two years in operation and over 10 combined years in Shanghai, SmartIntern can tell you exactly where the opportunities are and where they aren't. If we can't find the right fit for you in your target industry, we'll be straightforward and tell you this. If we can't make the placement, it is probably the case that nobody can!
Are Internships remunerated?
It depends! If you have not yet graduated from university and you can only dedicate a month or two to an internship in China, then probably not. If you have already graduated university or have an advanced degree, and can devote more than two months to an internship, then there is a good chance that some sort of remuneration or stipend will be provided.
Do I need to speak Chinese in order to do an internship in China?
No! Of course, Chinese helps and it will definitely open opportunities for you. That said, we have plenty of positions that do not require you to speak Chinese. Whether Chinese is required or not depends largely on the industry in which you are hoping to work. If you want to work for a luxury brand marketing to the Chinese market, then Chinese will be a requirement. Interested in running social media for a western startup? Chinese is probably non-essential.
If you want to discuss your specific needs and see whether we have the right fit for you, please send us a message using the form.