Work in China: Finding a New Industry

If you’re feeling a bit stuck in your 9-5 in Shanghai, whether it be an unpaid internship or just a place you don’t feel you are growing, then you’re in the perfect place to work your way out! If you can’t afford to start from scratch, Shanghai is filled with opportunity to try something new and get into industries you’ve always been curious about, without sacrificing everything else. Finding part-time work in China is incredibly easy to do, and can be your key to the next step up.

Why part-time? While I have taught English for the majority of my 3 years in Shanghai, I have recently realized my desire to learn more about the F&B industry. I know part-time work is going to require some sacrifice of my free time (read: party time), but I won’t be able to start in a new industry without it. Part-time work benefits you, because you don’t have to give up your current job or cash flow while trying something new. It benefits companies because they get work from you under the table and don’t have to worry about your visa situation. Many will also pay you in cash in exchange for a fapiao (发票, receipt) from your cabs and dinners, giving the company a small tax write-off as well.

Whether you’re looking to branch out from teaching, or trying to switch from retail to corporate, there are a number of ways to start breaking into new industries through part time jobs. While your first part-time job in a new industry may require accepting very low pay, it will be subsequently easier to move forward once it’s on your CV, whether you want to be a freelancer or continue building your career in that field.

Scour the Job Listings
This seems like an obvious one, but it still needs to be said! Subscribe to the Jobmail Newsletter, so you’re always up to date on new positions available. Check local job listings on sites like SmartShanghai and EnjoyShanghai, the latter of which updates frequently and has a lot of variation within its part time listings.

In my search to become a part of Shanghai’s F&B industry, the listings have led me to interviews for waitressing, hostessing, bartending, a club logistics assistant, and even a foreign clientele shmoozer (unofficial title). There are even listings for sous-chefs, floor managers, or managing chefs of popular restaurants. While I’m not qualified for those yet, I was shocked at how easy it was to find starting positions for what I wanted. Reading lots of listings also gives you an idea of what the need is, and what points you can sell yourself on if you…

Pitch Your Own Position
Just because a company doesn’t have any openings posted doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to take on bright, eager young people who are quick to learn. You may not think you have any relevant skills that will get you hired, but start by offering English editing skills on their website or through company communications, business proposals, keeping in touch with clients, etc. Though you may not know how to create a client pitch, offering an editing eye is valuable for the both of you, and you can ask to get more involved from there.

Pitching your own position can be more fun if you find entrepreneurs or startups to collaborate with. Often times their employees don’t have titled positions, but handle a broad number of tasks. Shanghai is full of startups, and they’re looking for any cheap work they can get. Interns or assistants can quickly gain large responsibility if they take the initiative and the risk!

Start with PR/Marketing
It doesn’t matter the what field, but everybody needs marketing. In Shanghai especially, it is extremely easy to get into because demand exceeds supply, and the basic skills you need are native English editing skills and experience with social media (as if you don’t know how to use Facebook or keep a blog). If you are interested in health, sports, or medical industries, all of Shanghai’s foreign clinics have an English marketing team, or need one! Want to learn more about those lucrative import/export companies people keep talking about? Offer English marketing, editing, and translation services for those companies as a way to get connected. If you’d like to manage an event company one day, you can even start to learn the ins-and-outs by doing promotion and marketing for one of Shanghai’s many party crews.

关系关系关系! (Guanxi Guanxi Guanxi!)
It’s been said before and you will never stop hearing about it. Never underestimate the importance of networking, no matter how casual. Guanxi is a fundamental facet of Chinese culture that we expats have embraced, and is the most efficient way to find new work. Just the other day, I was at drinks with two good friends, and their friend I was meeting for the first time, chatting about my newfound interest to be a waitress. Their friend first asked if I was crazy to want to get into the F&B industry, then told me he was the former owner of a well-known restaurant in Shanghai, and had a lot of connections with major hoteliers and their restaurants. At the cost of going to happy hour, I got my CV passed onto some invaluable connections.

There are countless anecdotes like this. Another time I was invited to be a "pretty foreigner" at a corporate Christmas party for a metal company (like, they export metal, not like they are super hardcore), but I left with an interview to be a freelancer on the marketing team. The best way to find work in a new industry is to know somebody who already works there, and can help you find a position and recommend you. Make sure everybody you know is aware you’re looking, and that they tell everyone they know.

With a bit of risk-taking, Shanghai can be an extremely rewarding, and equally challenging beast of a city. Go forward in your job hunt with realistic expectations, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t find your dream job right away. No matter what you land on, working in China is an experience all in itself, but hopefully we at SmartIntern give you the tools to build career experience on top of it all.


- Rebekah, SmartIntern Team Member


See Mike's take on how to break into a new industry in Shanghai:



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About the Author
The SmartIntern Team
Author: The SmartIntern Team

Launched in 2013, SmartIntern was co-founded by Brandon and Mike. SmartIntern believes that the key to millenials' success is international experience, and the team is dedicated to helping launch global careers.

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